Lionel Messi insists outdoing supposed rival Cristiano Ronaldo has never been a source of extra motivation after the Argentinian won a record-extending seventh Ballon d’Or crown.
Paris Saint-Germain forward Messi finished ahead of serious challenger Robert Lewandowski on Monday to cement his status as the world’s best player.
The Argentina international has now won the award two times more than Manchester United striker Ronaldo, who finished outside of the top three for the first time since 2010.
Between them, the pair have won the Ballon d’Or – widely considered to be the most prestigious individual accolade in football – in 12 of the last 13 years it has been awarded.
They also battled it out for team honours during their time in LaLiga with Barcelona and Real Madrid, but Messi says he has only ever been focused on himself rather than others.
“I always wanted to surpass myself and not look at what others were doing,” he told France Football. “With Cristiano, we kept our battle going within the same league for years.
“It has been wonderful and has helped us both to grow in our careers, but without looking at each other. I just wanted to surpass myself, to be the best I could be, and not better than any other.”
HERE IS THE WINNER!
— Ballon d’Or #ballondor (@francefootball) November 29, 2021
Messi had previously been criticised for failing to match the international achievements of Diego Maradona, but he finally guided Argentina to a first major trophy in 28 years back in July, as La Celeste won the Copa America.
The 34-year-old admits comparisons with Maradona “have sometimes bothered me in the past”, and he also does not feel comfortable with being a role model himself.
“I don’t like giving advice,” he said. “I fought for my dreams. At first it was to be a professional player, then I tried to surpass myself and achieve new goals every year.
“In the midst of it all, there is also an element of luck. It also depends on God, and I believe he chose to have all of this happen to me.”
The former Barcelona man added: “I’ve been Messi for 34 years, so I’m starting to get used to it. I’m happy with everything that’s happened.
“But sometimes, I have to admit, I’d quite like to go unnoticed, to enjoy being with my family without people recognising me.
“I’m not complaining, though, on the contrary. It’s always nice to receive a compliment, a smile or someone asking for a photo with me. I’m used to it and for me it has become normal.”
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