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."

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    Paris Saint-Germain superstar Lionel Messi clinched a seventh Ballon d'Or, extending his record as the player to have won the individual accolade on the most occasions.

    The 34-year-old enjoyed a fruitful year at club level, scoring 32 times in 40 appearances across all competitions for PSG and Barcelona, but it was his exploits with Argentina that were most impressive, claiming the first major international trophy of his career by winning the Copa America. 

    Bayern Munich's prolific striker Robert Lewandowski came second to Messi, but became the first winner of the Striker of the Year award after outscoring every player in Europe's top five leagues, netting 53 times in 42 appearances across all competitions so far in 2021, averaging a goal every 67 minutes.

    Messi's PSG team-mate Gianluigi Donnarumma claimed the Yashin Trophy, awarded to the best goalkeeper, and was named 10th in the Ballon d'Or voting.

    Donnarumma starred for Italy as they won Euro 2020, making a number of crucial saves in the shoot-out victory over England in the final.

    Barcelona and Spain youngster Pedri won the Kopa Trophy after featuring heavily for club and country despite only turning 19 on November 25, also being shortlisted for the Ballon d'Or and finishing 24th.

    Another Barca midfielder, Alexia Putellas, picked up the women's top prize, having helped the Catalan giants' women's team to Champions League and domestic glory in 2020-21.

    Finally, Chelsea had 11 players nominated across all categories, making them the inaugural Club of the Year winners.

    Award winners in full:

    Men's Ballon d'Or – Lionel Messi (PSG and Argentina)
    Kopa Trophy – Pedri (Barcelona and Spain)
    Yashin Trophy – Gianluigi Donnarumma (PSG and Italy)
    Club of the Year – Chelsea (England)
    Striker of the Year – Robert Lewandowski (Bayern Munich and Poland)
    Women's Ballon d'Or – Alexia Putellas (Barcelona and Spain)

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  • Ballon d'Or: Messi wants to see Lewandowski rewarded for 2020 exploits Ballon d'Or: Messi wants to see Lewandowski rewarded for 2020 exploits

    Ballon d'Or 2021 winner Lionel Messi has said that runner-up Robert Lewandowski deserved a Ballon d'Or of his own for his exploits last year.

    Messi claimed the coveted award for a record-extending seventh time on Monday, while Bayern Munich forward Lewandowski won the inaugural Striker of the Year award and finished second in the Ballon d'Or voting.

    The Paris Saint-Germain superstar has enjoyed a superb but bittersweet calendar year, highlighted by finally leading Argentina to success on the international stage with a Copa America victory in which he was both the tournament's top scorer and top assister.

    He then returned to Barcelona expecting to sign a new deal, but the club's financial situation made it impossible.

    In 40 club appearances this year between both Barca and PSG, Messi has managed an impressive 32 goals and 12 assists and was handed the gong by former team-mate Luis Suarez.

    Lewandowski, meanwhile, continued the magnificent form he had displayed across 2020, when he led Bayern to a treble only for last year's edition of the award to be cancelled amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

    The 33-year-old scored 41 Bundesliga goals to break Gerd Muller's 49-year-old record while, so far in 2021, Lewandowski has netted 53 times in 42 appearances, the most of any player in Europe's top five leagues across all competitions. 

    Erling Haaland, his nearest challenger, is 15 back on 38. Lewandowski has averaged a goal every 67 minutes. Among those with 10 goals or more, club-mate Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting is the next most regular scorer, netting every 84 minutes.

    "[Lewandowski], you deserve your Ballon d'Or," Messi said upon receiving the award. "Last year, everyone was in agreement to say that you were the big winner.

    "Hopefully [France Football] give you the Ballon d’Or 2020."

    Lewandowski sent his congratulations to the Ballon d'Or winners and nominees on social media, while thanking his teammates and fans for their support in helping him claim the Striker of the Year award.

    "Congratulations Leo Messi and [Women's Ballon d'Or winner] Alexia Putellas, winners of the Ballon d'Or 2021, congratulations also to all nominated players," Lewandowski wrote on social media.

    "I won [the] 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."

    Messi indicated in his acceptance speech a desire to keep playing, with retirement not on the 34-year-old's agenda in the near future.

    "I don't know how many years I have left, but I hope there will still be many because I am having enormous fun," Messi added.

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