Barcelona captain Lionel Messi believes that arch-rivals Real Madrid are weaker without Cristiano Ronaldo despite their strong start to the season.
Los Blancos have made the perfect start to the new La Liga campaign, picking up successive wins against Getafe, Girona and Leganes. Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema, in particular, have stood out for their performances and seem to have found a new lease of life after Ronaldo’s departure to Juventus this summer.
Real Madrid’s all-time record goalscorer opted to pursue a new challenge by joining the Italian champions in the transfer window, which has allowed some of the club’s other stars to take centre stage in the early stages of the new season, but only time will tell whether or not they can be the same unstoppable force in European football without him.
According to Eurosport, Barcelona talisman Messi believes that the European champions will not be as strong without the 5-time Balon d’Or winner, whilst also suggesting that Juventus should now be considered as one of the favourites for the Champions League.
He told reporters on Monday: “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. 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.”
Ronaldo and Messi have often been painted as enemies in the media given their constant tussle for supremacy and the right to be considered the best player in the world over the last decade.
The two men have shared the Balon d’Or equally over the last ten years whilst wowing supporters and experts alike with their incredible talent consistently to lead their respective clubs to unprecedented success, but rarely have they ever praised each other.
The Argentine’s comments are indicative of the underlying respect that he has for the Portuguese striker and he could well end up being proved right in the long run this season if Ronaldo can have the same impact in Turin as he had at the Santiago Bernabeu.