XtraTime Web Desk: Might be they are the biggest rivals of world football these days, but Lionel Messi lauds Cristiano Ronaldo’s impact in Real Madrid.
Lionel Messi is convinced Cristiano Ronaldo’s exit makes Real Madrid a “less good” team and immediately transforms Juventus into one of the favourites for the Champions League.
Ronaldo shocked the football world when leaving Madrid for Juve in July, securing a €112million move to the Serie A champion.
It brought Ronaldo’s nine-year Madrid stay to an end, having won four Champions League titles with it and as many Ballons d’Or.
Madrid has started LaLiga’s new season well without Ronaldo, winning its first three matches, but Messi – who was surprised by his rival’s departure – is adamant it is not what it was with the Portugal talisman.
Speaking to Catalunya Radio, Messi said: “Real Madrid are one of the best teams in the world and they have a great squad.
“[But] it’s evident that the absence of Ronaldo makes them less good and makes Juventus [one of the] clear favourites to win the Champions League.
“It surprised me [when he left]. I didn’t imagine him leaving Madrid or joining Juventus.
“There were a lot of teams that wanted him. It surprised me, but he has gone to a very good team.”
One criticism levelled at Real Madrid in pre-season was that it failed to adequately strengthen its squad, though the same cannot be said of Barca, which brought in Clement Lenglet, Malcom, Arturo Vidal and Arthur.
And Messi is particularly impressed by the latter pairing, who both offer plenty to Barca’s midfield.
“I didn’t know much about Arthur before [he joined], but he’s really similar to Xavi,” he said.
“He’s really safe and reliable [in possession]. He has the style of a player who has come through La Masia.
“He plays well over short distances, he doesn’t lose the ball. He’s got to grips really quickly with the team’s dynamic.
“Barca fans always want players with good feet. We defend with the ball. Players like Arturo Vidal are necessary.
“He’s the type of player who does everything well, with the ball and also with the muscle that he has.”