Lionel Messi beat Cristiano Ronaldo to the FIFA Best award for 2019 and admits neither he nor an eternal rival “like losing”, but the Argentine insists their ongoing battle remains purely professional.
Barcelona’s talismanic skipper saw his efforts across the last 12 months recognised with another prestigious prize at a glitzy gala in Milan.
He was on hand to collect more silverware, with Ronaldo opting to stay away as he works to shake off a minor knock which has sidelined him at Juventus.
The Portuguese’s absence meant there was to be no reunion between two all-time greats, who last met at the UEFA awards in August, and Messi was left to take on questions about their relationship all by himself.
He maintains that there has never been any off-field rivalry between the two, with it merely their insatiable desire to be the best on the pitch which has driven them into direct conflict on a regular basis for well over a decade now.
Quizzed by FIFA on why people are surprised to find that the pair get along so well, Messi said: “Because of the big sporting rivalry that’s developed between us over the last few years, because one of us played for Barcelona and the other for [Real] Madrid, and because we won individual awards.
“People perhaps think the rivalry goes beyond football, but it doesn’t.
“We both want what’s best for our teams and neither of us like losing. It’s something we don’t accept. That’s why there’s that competitiveness between us. The important thing is that it stays there, out on the pitch.”
That is where Messi and Ronaldo continue to do their best work.
The former has been hampered by an unfortunate injury so far this season, but has returned to competitive action and is determined to help his club side to more major honours.
Messi also has another shot at Copa America glory with Argentina to look forward to next summer, with the 32-year admitting that he wants domestic, continental and international success in 2020.
He added on his targets for the current campaign: “It’s been four years since we’ve won the Champions League and we really want to win it again.
“We know, though, that if we don’t do the job day in day out, then we won’t make it.
“And as for the Copa America, I’m really looking forward to having the opportunity to go for it yet again. I’m really excited about this year’s Copa.”