Cristiano Ronaldo says he and Lionel Messi “changed the history of football” but their rivalry is now “gone”.
Widely regarded as all-time greats, they often faced each other in Spain’s La Liga with Real Madrid and Barcelona.
“We are respected all over the world, that’s the most important thing,” Ronaldo said.
Five-time Ballon d’Or winner Ronaldo has been left off the shortlist for the first time since 2003, while Messi could win it for the eighth time.
“He makes his way, I make mine. He’s done well, from what I’ve seen. It’s about continuing, the legacy continues,” added 38-year-old Ronaldo, who now plays in Saudi Arabia for Al-Nassr.
When asked if hatred was a feature of their rivalry, he said: “Those who like Cristiano Ronaldo don’t have to hate Messi. I don’t see the rivalry like that.
“The rivalry is gone. It was good, the spectators liked it. We shared the stage for 15 years and ended up being, I’m not saying friends, but we are professional colleagues and we respect each other.”
Between them the record-breaking pair have won many of the most prestigious pieces of silverware the game has to offer.
Ronaldo is Real Madrid’s all-time record goalscorer with 451 goals in 438 appearances, and won 16 trophies with the club including four Champions Leagues, two La Liga titles and two Copas del Rey in a nine-year spell at the Bernabeu.
Messi, who now plays for Inter Miami in the United States, holds Barcelona’s all-time records for goals and appearances, scoring 674 goals in 781 appearances.
The 36-year-old won 35 trophies with the club, including 10 La Liga titles, four Champions League trophies and the Copa del Rey seven times.
On the internation.al stage, Messi won the 2022 World Cup and a Copa America with Argentina, while Ronaldo has won a European Championship and a Nations League with Portugal.
The two have faced each other on the pitch 36 times – the last meeting was in January when Messi, then playing for Paris St-Germain, beat Ronaldo’s Riyadh Season XI 5-4 in a friendly.