Messi plays down rivalry with Ronaldo

April 23, 2008

Barcelona striker Lionel Messi has dismissed talk of a duel between himself and fellow superstar Cristiano Ronaldo when Manchester United arrive at the Nou Camp.

The sides clash in the first leg of their Champions League semi-final with Barca looking to claim European glory after falling 10 points behind Real Madrid in La Liga's title race.

Argentina forward Messi will be vital to the Catalan side's chances of success, but he said: 'More than a duel between me and Ronaldo, this is a game between two big teams and will be a very interesting match.

'I try to do the best I can for my team, but who is better (he or Ronaldo) is something for the people who watch football to decide.'

Messi also admitted he was looking forward to playing against international team-mate Carlos Tevez.

'It is always great to play against another team-mate and a friend. With the quality he has, he is very important for his team,' he said.

Messi, who missed Barcelona's Champions League success in 2006 through injury, insists his team can beat United.

'We believe in ourselves, we only ask for the people to come along and support us. They are a great team with great players, but we want to keep the ball,' he said.

'We have great players too and we are doing everything we possibly can to get to the final and win the trophy.'

Barcelona coach Frank Rijkaard revealed his admiration for his Manchester United counterpart Sir Alex Ferguson ahead of their Champions League encounter.

Speaking in the pre-match press conference, the Dutch coach described Ferguson as 'one of the best managers around'.

'I don't like to speak about the best or compare people, but he (Ferguson) is one of the best and influential managers around. I congratulate him for that and I have a lot of respect for him. He embodies football,' Rijkaard said.