Cristiano Ronaldo has downplayed the significance of his rivalry with Lionel Messi and stressed that there is a mutual respect between them, even though the two are not friends.
The Real Madrid star and his Barcelona counterpart have dominated the Ballon d’Or election over the past eight years and they are widely regarded as the two best players in the game.
There is an ongoing debate about who is the better of the pair, but Ronaldo is adamant there is no bitterness between the two.
“There is a big mutual respect between myself and Messi,” the 31-year-old told Coach Magazine. “The media like to make out like we have this big rivalry, but we don’t.
“It is not like we are good friends, but there is a mutual respect on both sides.”
Ronaldo has faced plenty of high-profile defenders since making his professional debut at Sporting CP, but there is one opponent who stands out for the prolific attacker.
“Over the years I had some great battles with Ashley Cole, he does not give you a second to breathe,” Ronaldo added.
“He was such a tenacious player when he was at his peak, quick, tough in the tackle. You knew it would never be an easy game.”
A defender who has mainly been battling alongside Ronaldo is Pepe and the forward has nothing but praise for his team-mate.
“Pepe is the team-mate I would want next to me in a war,” he continued. “Not only is he a fantastic defender, but he leaves nothing on the field. He gives everything.”