Lionel Messi has been praised by his Ballon d’Or rival Cristiano Ronaldo for helping him to become a better player.
Debate has gone on for over a decade about which of the two stars is greater, with some choosing the Argentine and some the Portuguese.
Regardless, both players have taken football statistics to a whole new level in recent years, redefining the numbers.
In 15 years at Barcelona, Messi has netted a staggering 603 goals in 687 games in all competitions, while Ronaldo has scored 601 goals in 806 games for four different clubs.
Both players have won multiple Champions League and domestic league titles, while Ronaldo has won the European Championships with Portugal.
And both stars have won five Ballon d’Or awards each, a record, and until last year when Luka Modric won it, they had shared the award every year for the previous decade.
The two players, now well into their thirties, continue to amaze the world of football and they are not finished yet.
But despite continuing debate over who is the greatest, Ronaldo has admitted they would not be the same players without each other.
Speaking to TV1, Ronaldo said: “I have no doubt that Messi has made me a better player and vice-versa.
“When I am winning trophies it must sting him and it’s the same for me when he wins.”
Ronaldo has won league titles in England, Spain, and new Italy after he won Serie A in his first season at Juventus since joining from Real Madrid.
And the Portugal international insists he was grateful for the clashes with Messi while the pair played in La Liga.
“I really admire the career he [Messi] has had and from his side, he has already talked of the disappointment when I left Spain because it was a rivalry that he appreciated.” Ronaldo said.
“It’s a good rivalry but it’s not unique – Michael Jordan had rivalries in basketball, there was Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost in Formula 1. The thing they all had in common is that they were healthy rivalries.”
While the 32-year-old Messi shows no signs of hanging up his boots just yet, Ronaldo hinted that he could do just that sooner rather than later.
The 34-year-old said he hoped he had a few years left in him still but claimed he could potentially retire next year.
“I don’t think about that. Maybe I can leave my career next year… but I can also play up to 40 or 41,” he added.
“I don’t know. What I always say is to enjoy the moment. The gift is excellent and I have to continue to enjoy it.”
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