Barcelona forward Lionel Messi has said he misses his rivalry with Cristiano Ronaldo and would have liked his fellow five-time Ballon d’Or winner to have continued in La Liga.
Ronaldo left Real Madrid as the club’s all-time top scorer to join Juventus in a €100 million transfer in the summer of 2018.
Since his departure to Turin, the two superstars have not faced each other.
“Yes, I would have liked for Cristiano to continue in the Spanish league, at Madrid,” Messi said in an interview with Catalan radio RAC 1. “I think it gave an extra impetus to our rivalry, to the Clasico and to La Liga overall.
“I remember I said earlier this year that Madrid would notice Cristiano’s departure, just as any other team would, but even so, they have enough players to be at the top and fighting for everything. It’s Madrid and they have a lot of history.”
Messi and Ronaldo have always contended for major individual honours, however the Argentina forward said this has never been his priority.
“I’ve never thought about finishing my career with more Ballon d’Or awards than Cristiano,” he said.
Messi also said he considered leaving Barcelona and moving overseas during the years he was investigated by the Spanish tax authorities. In the summer of 2016, the Argentina captain and his father were found guilty of defrauding the tax authorities of €4.1m between 2007 and 2009.
“I’ve had several [difficult] periods, especially in 2013 and 2014 when I started having a problem with the Spanish tax authority and everything that came out,” Messi added. “It was difficult for me and for my family.
“I think I was the first one [to be investigated by the tax authorities] and that is why everything was so hard. From then on, they showed they were going all out with me and proved that they would target all sports and footballers.
“During that time, I considered leaving Barca. Not because I wanted to leave Barca but because I wanted to leave Spain. I felt I was being mistreated and I didn’t want to spend much time there.
“I think I had the door open to many teams although I have never had an official offer because everyone knew of my wish and eagerness to continue at Barca. That, however, was beyond any situation that I felt for this home, this club, it was what I felt at a personal level. The only positive was that my children were young and didn’t notice it but we had a hard time.”
Messi, 32, has said he intends to retire at Barca even though he has a clause in his contract which allows him to leave at the end of each season.
“If they want me, I would obviously be delighted to remain at Barca,” he said. “I reiterate that my aim has always been to stay here.
“Nothing has changed; it is as it has always been. Each time it becomes clearer that my aim and that of my family is to finish [my career] here. First because of how I am at the club, how I feel at the club, and secondly, for my family. We are very settled in this city. Of course, anything can happen but the idea is to continue living here.”
Messi has extended his contract eight times since 2005 but has yet to be offered a new deal and his contract expires in June 2021.
“I don’t think there is anything yet from what I know from my father [Messi’s agent],” the Barca captain said. “I have always stayed out of all negotiations.
“I have not spoken to the Barca president [Josep Maria Bartomeu] since our Champions League elimination against Liverpool. But I have no problem with the president. I have never had any problems trying to sort out things with the club. On the contrary, it has been easy. Probably once it’s done [the renewal], there will be no problems and it will be done in no time.”