Ronaldo has tested positive coronavirus again today and it seems likely he will now miss the highly-anticipated Champions League clash between Juventus and Barcelona on Wednesday, seriously disappointing fans. Yet one Barca player who wants to see the epic showdown is Leo Messi himself.
Interviewed by DAZN ahead of Saturday's El Clasico, Messi spoke warmly about the player who is often seen as his eternal counterpart.
"The one with Cristiano Ronaldo was and is a special duel, which will remain forever," he said, reflecting on their time together in La Liga. "It lasted many years and it is not easy to maintain certain levels for a long time.
"Our teams were also very demanding: Real Madrid and Barcelona, the two strongest clubs in the world. Competing as equals for so many years is something that will remain forever. The duel between me and Cristiano Ronaldo was very good on a personal level and I think people enjoyed it."
Asked about the pair possibly sharing a pitch together once more the Argentine said: "Obviously when Cristiano played for Real Madrid the games were special, against them they always are, but with Cristiano on the pitch they had a particular meaning. It is now the past, now we look forward to today's challenges.
"Wednesday there could be this challenge. We hope that Cristiano can be there and will soon recover from Covid."
It's rich praise from the 33-year-old as he admits even a game as big as Barcelona vs Real Madrid had an extra meaning when the Portuguese attacker was involved.
It also points to a warming of the relationship between the two. While never outright hostile in the past, it was obviously hard for the pair to be on friendly terms when they played for such fierce rivals in Spain and both wanted to beat the other's team so badly.
Yet since Ronaldo's departure to Serie A, both have spoken more fondly of each other. Ronaldo even went so far as to invite Messi over for dinner live during a Champions League draw.
"We have not had dinner together yet, but I hope so in the future."- Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball) August 29, 2019
"It's great to be a part of the history of football. I am there, and of course, he is as well."
Cristiano Ronaldo speaks on his relationship with Lionel Messi :pray: pic.twitter.com/HbicSaS6NW
They might not have tucked into a takeaway in front of the the TV together just yet, but it's clear Messi feels similarly well-inclined to his fellow all-time great.
It seems Ronaldo's coronavirus test result may deny us a rematch between the pair in Turin. But there is always the second Champions League group game in Barcelona to look forward to.
Whatever the occasion, football fans will be treasuring every time these two GOATs share a football pitch together in the future. And by the sounds of it, Messi is looking forward to it as much as anybody.
All imagery: PA Sport
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