BUENOS AIRES – Lionel Messi admitted on Friday that he misses playing against former Real Madrid star Cristiano Ronaldo, who left the Spanish La Liga last year to play for Italian champions Juventus.
He added that the league was worse off since the departure of Ronaldo, whom he said he did not know personally but had always shared “a good vibe” whenever their paths crossed during a match or at an awards ceremony.
During an interview with Fox Sports Radio in Argentina, the Barcelona star was asked about his relationship with Ronaldo and whether his absence was felt in La Liga after the Portuguese forward switched clubs.
“Yes, it was nice (when he was there); it made Madrid more important, stronger. I said at the start of the season, obviously Madrid was going to feel Cristiano’s absence,” said the player from Rosario.
“A player like Cristiano would be missed by any team; a player that scores 50 goals a season for you,” he added, stressing that Ronaldo was missed in “the whole league” as it made the competition more relevant.
In the same vein, he revealed that his rivalry with the Portuguese for their respective teams helped both players to continue improving and wanting to push their boundaries.
He also said he shared a very good relationship with former Barcelona teammate, Brazilian player Neymar, and that the two of them and Uruguay’s Luis Suarez had a WhatsApp group.
Of his former teammates at Barcelona, he admitted to missing Andres Iniesta and Xavi Hernandez, and “everyone from that period.”
“The style of play that we had, how we approached every match... we would go knowing we were going to win,” he said.
However, he said that to repeat the achievements of that period, a lot of things would be required to put in place, and credited his then-coach Pep Guardiola, who managed the Catalan club between 2007-2012.
“An amazing coach who had the right players for that idea, that philosophy. Pep continued doing the same, one continues to see what Pep’s teams are like, but he never matched what we did in Barcelona with equally amazing players; because he was at Bayern, now at City (Manchester), but they never became what we were,” he underlined.
“Because we had amazing players: Xavi, Iniesta, Busquets, a midfield that had 90 percent of the ball (possession),” he added.
About the current state of affairs, and with the Copa America in Brazil on the horizon (starting June 14), Messi said that there was a very good environment in the Argentine team and that he wanted to end his career having won something with the national squad, of which he is the captain.
When asked about the next World Cup in Qatar in 2022, the Argentine forward said he was not sure if he would be a part of it.
“Today I feel spectacular, physically very good and all, but I’m 32 and I don’t know if I’m going to continue. A lot can happen between now until the World Cup. I hope not, that I don’t have any serious injury and I feel good physically and can continue,” he said.
When asked about his retirement plans, Messi confessed he hoped to prolong his career as much as possible.
“I am a little fearful of what will happen after that. I don’t know what I am going to do. I have nothing in mind. I love this, since I was a kid I loved it, I love playing football. I’ve always had a life related to football. To be at home and not know what to do... that is tough,” he added.