Xavi explains how Ronaldo made Messi ‘a better player’ during rivalry that delivered 12 Ballons d’Or

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Cristiano Ronaldo Lionel Messi 2022-23
Competing with Cristiano Ronaldo made Lionel Messi “a better player”, says Xavi, with two fierce rivals fully aware of what the other was doing.
  • History made by all-time greats
  • Boast countless records between them
  • Helped to push each other to greater heights

WHAT HAPPENED? Neither would like to admit that they monitored the exploits of the other - with their focus locked on doing their best for Manchester United, Barcelona, Real Madrid or Juventus – but there was never any escaping the comparisons made between their respective efforts. Records have tumbled around Messi and Ronaldo on a regular basis, with history made by two men with 12 Ballons d’Or between them, and Xavi believes that a long-running battle for global supremacy helped to raise the levels of the all-time greats.

WHAT THEY SAID: Current Barcelona boss Xavi, who spent many successful years playing alongside Messi at Camp Nou, has told the BBC documentary ‘Messi: The Enigma’ about his insight into one of the greatest rivalries in sport: “Cristiano gave him an extra push to become a better player. Cristiano and Leo probably won't admit it. I am convinced they used to keep an eye on each other. If you're competitive, you want to be the best.”

THE BIGGER PICTURE: The Messi vs Ronaldo debate appears set to rumble on for some time yet, with there no sign that either is preparing to hang up their boots anytime soon, and both will hope that they have more major honours left in them – although the Portuguese is enduring a tough time back at Manchester United while his Argentine adversary thrives at Paris Saint-Germain.

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Cristiano Ronaldo Lionel Messi

WHAT NEXT? Messi: The Enigma will be available to stream on BBC iPlayer from October 22, with a number of notable figures from the South American’s past and present giving their take on what makes the 35-year-old special.