Lionel Messi says he misses facing rival Cristiano Ronaldo as the former Real Madrid star gave “prestige” to La Liga.
After helping Madrid win a fourth Champions League trophy in five years, Ronaldo left the Real Madrid to join Serie A giants Juventus in July.
Ronaldo has continued to save his best for Europe’s elite club competition, with a hat-trick against Atletico Madrid firing Juventus into the quarter-finals of this year’s Champions League.
The draw subsequently meant Messi and Ronaldo cannot meet unless both teams advance to the final, which will be played at Atletico’s Wanda Metropolitano home.
Madrid are lagging 12 points behind Liga leaders Barcelona and Messi claimed he misses the competition provided by Ronaldo.
“I miss Cristiano,” Messi told FM Club 947 in Argentina. “Although it was a bit difficult to see him win trophies, he gave La Liga prestige.
“Juventus are a great candidate to win the Champions League since the arrival of Cristiano, and the match against Atleti must have given them a lot of confidence.”
Lionel Messi and Ronaldo are widely considered to be two of the greatest players to have ever played football.
But the Barcelona captain feels team-mate Luis Suarez should also be considered among the best of the rest.
“I don’t want to forget anyone, but I think that Neymar, [Kylian] Mbappe, [Eden] Hazard, Luis Suarez and [Sergio] Aguero are the best,” Messi added.
“I didn’t mention Cristiano because I put him aside from the list with me.”
Aguero was a surprise omission from the latest Argentina team as Messi made his return after a nine-month absence after the World Cup.
Manchester City’s all-time leading goalscorer has scored 18 Premier League goals this season and Messi suggested he feels the forward should be a more regular international selection.
Messi continued: “Kun [Aguero] has told me on many occasions, ‘I’m Leo’s friend and am a substitute’. If it was up to me, Kun would always be a starter.
“I turn up to games and always endeavour to do my best irrespective of the comments that are made behind my back.
“At times it can be difficult to enjoy all that goes on with the national team set-up. I just try and focus on playing well.”