Messi impressed by Ronaldo at Man Utd as he hails 'beautiful' rivalry

By Sports Desk November 23, 2021

Lionel Messi has been impressed by Cristiano Ronaldo's start to life back at Manchester United and retains fond memories of their "beautiful" rivalry in LaLiga.

Portugal international Ronaldo has scored nine times in 13 appearances for United since making a sensational return to the club at the end of August.

That is a goal tally bettered by only six other players from clubs in Europe's top five leagues over the same period, with Bayern Munich's Robert Lewandowski (17) leading the way.

Despite Ronaldo's form and ability to bail out his side with late goals, United have endured a poor campaign and sacked manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer on Sunday.

But with less than half of the campaign played, Messi does not believe a Ronaldo-inspired United can be entirely ruled out of the Premier League title race.

"They're a very strong team with great players," he told Marca. "Cristiano already knew the club, but that was in another stage and now he has adapted in an impressive way. 

"From the beginning he has scored goals as always and had no problems adapting. In the Premier League, United have not been as good as we all thought.

"But it is a very difficult and even competition in which things take a lot of turns. After December it changes a lot and anything can happen."

 

Messi and Ronaldo have won 11 of the last 12 Ballons d'Or between them – the exception being Luka Modric's triumph in 2018 – in a period that has been dominated by the pair.

Not only have the superstar forwards fought for individual honours, they also battled it out for domestic and European team honours during nine years together in LaLiga.

While Ronaldo has long since departed Real Madrid and Messi is no longer at Barcelona, the latter believes their rivalry will live long in football folklore.

"It's been a long time since we stopped competing in the same league," Messi said. "We competed individually and as a team for the same goals. 

"It was a very beautiful period for us and also for the fans because they enjoyed it very much. It is a beautiful memory that will remain in the history of football."

With Messi aged 34 and Ronaldo approaching his 37th birthday, the likes of Kylian Mbappe and Erling Haaland are now considered the next big talents in world football.

Mbappe is a contender for this year's Ballon d'Or after scoring and assisting a combined 50 goals in 46 appearances for Paris Saint-Germain in all competitions in 2021.

Only Lewandowski (58) has been directly involved in more goals this year, but PSG risk losing Mbappe to Madrid next year when his contract expires.

Messi, now a team-mate of Mbappe's following his shock free transfer from Barca in August, is unsure whether the France forward will still a PSG player next season.

"The truth is I do not know," he said. "Only he knows what he has in his head and what he is going to do. I can only say that I am happy that he has stayed here this year.

"He is a very important player for us and to fight for the objectives we have. He is fully focused on our goals. And then he will decide what he will do when the season is over."

Related items

  • 'Some joy, some smiles, some hugs' - Jokic return a perfect remedy for ailing Nuggets 'Some joy, some smiles, some hugs' - Jokic return a perfect remedy for ailing Nuggets

    Nikola Jokic bounced back to Denver Nuggets duty as though he had never been away as the win at Miami Heat was described by coach Michael Malone as "a great pain reliever".

    The superstar Serbian, MVP in the NBA last season, had missed four successive games because of a wrist injury amid Denver's six-game slide.

    That was their worst such stretch since 2014-15 and saw them fall away after making a 9-4 start to the season, but prospects for Malone's men are looking up now that Jokic is fit.

    After sinking the Heat 120-111 in Miami, there was a warm mix of emotion and relief in the Nuggets' locker room.

    Jokic posted 24 points, 15 rebounds and seven assists, and seemingly that effort had changed everything.

    Bones Hyland, the 21-year-old Nuggets point guard, shot a career-high 19 points including five three-pointers, and said: "It felt good going back into the locker room.

    "I felt as though the guys were trying to win so bad just because Nikola was out. We know what he provides, and we were trying to fill his shoes and those are big shoes to fill.

    "Him being back, everybody's a team now, playing through him, and it felt good for sure."

    Malone had to search for the correct terminology to describe the post-game emotion.

    "I don't know if relief is the right word, but there was definitely some joy, some smiles, some hugs," said the coach.

    "As corny as that sounds, man, winning is a great pain reliever. We've all been down in the dumps and to get this win tonight kind of just stops all of that and allows us to get back to feeling good about ourselves."

    He said playing without Jokic had been "a little bit different" to losing any other player.

    Quoted on NBA.com, Malone struck an upbeat tone, saying: "I love the guys in the locker room. I'll go to war with them. Obviously, tonight was just one win. But after losing six in a row, by no means have we said, 'We're gonna change our goals now'. There's 62 games left, so much basketball to be played. So, you move on and play another day."

    Jokic was not given an easy ride by the Miami crowd, facing boos every time he touched the ball due to the dust-up he and the Heat's Markieff Morris had in a November 8 game. Morris has missed 11 consecutive games since the incident.

    He is big enough to handle such hostility though, saying afterwards: "I played in Serbia, so I wish you guys could feel that."

    The 26-year-old Jokic is averaging 26.2 points, 13.7 rebounds and 6.4 assists this season, so ostensibly this was a par performance. How the Nuggets had missed him at his most routine though.

    Jokic felt there was a collective improvement in the team, adding: "Everybody played well. We had seven players in double figures. So, everybody shared the ball. Everybody touched it."

  • New Man Utd boss Rangnick looks set to miss Arsenal game with work permit still processing New Man Utd boss Rangnick looks set to miss Arsenal game with work permit still processing

    Manchester United have confirmed new interim manager Ralf Rangnick's work permit is still processing, meaning he is likely to be absent for Thursday's match against Arsenal.

    Following much speculation, United announced on Monday an agreement had been reached with Rangnick over a relationship that is set to span two and a half years.

    Initially, Rangnick will take charge until the end of the season before moving into a consultancy role.

    Rangnick has previously shaped German clubs such as Hoffenheim and RB Leipzig from top to bottom, with his future advisory position at Old Trafford suggesting United are planning an overhaul of their football operations, which have long appeared outdated compared to their rivals.

    Since Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's dismissal, his former assistant Michael Carrick has been in charge and presided over a 2-0 Champions League win at Villarreal and a 1-1 draw away to Premier League leaders Chelsea.

    United are next in action at home to Arsenal on Thursday, though it seems Rangnick will not be present.

    An update posted to United's website read: "[It] will be the first game since Ralf Rangnick was appointed interim manager, even though the new man is still waiting for his work visa to be processed."

    To further complicate matters, people travelling to the United Kingdom are required to take a coronavirus test within two days of entering the country, and individuals must quarantine until their result has been returned.

    As such, even if Rangnick received his visa on Wednesday, the likelihood of him taking a coronavirus test and getting the result in time to attend Thursday's match is remote.

    United are at home again on Sunday when they host Crystal Palace, seemingly a more realistic target for Rangnick's first game.

  • Ballon d'Or: Matthaus 'doesn't understand the world anymore' after Lewandowski misses out to Messi Ballon d'Or: Matthaus 'doesn't understand the world anymore' after Lewandowski misses out to Messi

    Bayern Munich great Lothar Matthaus "does not understand the world anymore" after Robert Lewandowski missed out to Lionel Messi for the 2021 Ballon d'Or award.

    Poland international Lewandowski was considered the favourite to come out on top at Monday's ceremony in Paris following another impressive 12 months for Bayern.

    The 33-year-old has scored 53 times in 42 appearances this calendar year so far – 15 more than any other player in Europe's top five leagues across all competitions.

    He has averaged a goal every 67 minutes and also made history earlier this year by breaking Gerd Muller's 49-year-old record for the most goals in a Bundesliga season with 41.

    Despite his impressive achievements in front of goal, Lewandowski finished second in the voting to Lionel Messi, who claimed a record-extending seventh Ballon d'Or.

    Matthaus, who won the coveted trophy in 1990, was among those to question the final standings, which saw Jorginho finish third, Karim Benzema fourth and N'Golo Kante in fifth.

    "To be honest, after this vote, I don't understand the world anymore," he told Sky Sport. 

    "With all due respect to Messi and the other great nominated players, nobody deserves it like Lewandowski."

    Lewandowski, who also missed out on the 2020 award after it was scrapped due to the COVID-19 pandemic, instead had to settle for the inaugural Striker of the Year award.

    Bayern director Oliver Kahn was also surprised to see Messi pip Lewandowski to football's top individual prize.

    "Lewandowski deserved the Ballon d'Or just as much as his top scorer trophy because he has performed at the highest level for years," Kahn said.

    "But congratulations nonetheless to Lionel Messi. 

    "Even without the Ballon d'Or, Lewy has long since arrived as one of the Olympus of football greats. He will still be a Ballon d'Or contender in the years to come."

    While Messi had a rather more mixed campaign at club level compared to Lewandowski, the Paris Saint-Germain forward did inspire Argentina to Copa America glory in July.

    Messi scored 28 goals in 29 games in the first half of 2021 with Barcelona before completing a shock transfer to PSG, for whom he has scored four goals in his first 11 games.

    Lewandowski took to social media on Monday to congratulate the superstar forward on his latest triumph, which takes him two clear of five-time winner Cristiano Ronaldo.

    "Congratulations Leo Messi and Alexia Putellas, winners of the #BallonDor2021, congratulations also to all nominated players," he tweeted.

    "I won Striker of the Year Award and no player can win an individual award without the strongest team and loyal fans behind him. Thank you for your support."

© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.