Lionel Messi praises Cristiano Ronaldo: ‘He is a phenomenal player’

Lionel Messi has paid tribute to his “phenomenal” Real Madrid counterpart Cristiano Ronaldo, saying he doesn’t get tired of the constant comparisons between the pair.

Arguably two of the greatest football players of all time, the Barcelona man and his La Liga rival have shared the past nine Ballon d’Ors between them — and Champions League winner Ronaldo almost certainly will make that a perfect 10 come December.

But when asked about his rival during Argentina’s latest stopover in China, Messi said they are both “armed” by the brilliance of the other and that the rest of the talk around them is just noise.

“No, I have always said it — and [Ronaldo] from his part — that he is armed with the presence of us both,” Messi told Tencent. “We try to achieve the best every year for our team, and what is said outside of that I don’t think is very important. He is a phenomenal player with a lot of quality. All the world knows, and that is why he is one of the best of the world.”

Barcelona relinquished the La Liga title to Ronaldo’s Real Madrid this season, but Messi, who turns 30 later this month, reiterated his desire to stay with the Catalan giants and push for more silverware for many years to come.

“Whenever a new season starts, it [has] to be better than the last,” Messi said. “We play to achieve more, we play to get more titles, to be in the finals of [the] Champions [League], to win La Liga.

“It didn’t happen this year. We tried, but it didn’t happen. We ended it with La Copa. We hope that the year to come is better in the aspect of titles.”

Reports surfaced Wednesday that Messi had agreed to a new deal that will tie him to the Nou Camp until 2021. Quizzed about his future and whether he would ever consider a move to China, the Argentine said he intends to finish his career with Barcelona.

“Today, I [only] think of my day today, in Barcelona, where I am at,” Messi said. “To strive to achieve and get the most titles that we can, because in football, we don’t know what could happen in the year to come. So I like to take it calm and little by little.

“[Staying with Barca] is what I have always wanted, what I have always dreamt of. I said that I would like to end my career in Barcelona, and we will see if it ends that way.”

Former Barcelona president Joan Laporta believes Lionel Messi is the best of all time and has more natural talent than Cristiano Ronaldo.

Messi, however, did acknowledge the rising stature of the Chinese Super League — having heard all about it from close friend and Argentina teammate Ezequiel Lavezzi.

“We talk a lot of the change [of lifestyle] and football in China,” Messi said. “A lot of us have commented on the change and how he has been living and what has it been like playing in the Chinese league.

“I think that the Chinese league has grown very much and has made an impact on football worldwide. It shows the importance of it. I have been here many times, and the times that I have been here, I have only been here for a few days. We would come to play and train and it didn’t give us a chance to get to know the area, but the little that I have seen, the country has impressed me.”

Argentina were stopping in China on their way to Australia, where La Albiceleste will take on Brazil in a friendly at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on Friday night.

ESPN

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