Ronaldo plays down Messi rivalry as Ballon d'Or looms

Real Madrid star says there is 'big mutual respect' between the players - even if they don't vote for each other

(Image credit: FRANCISCO LEONG/AFP/Getty Images)

He's favourite to steal the Ballon d'Or award from Barcelona's Lionel Messi this year, but Cristiano Ronaldo has played down the pair's rivalry.

In an interview with Coach magazine, the Real Madrid star dismissed talk of a feud and said the two players have "big mutual respect" for each other.

"The media like to make out like we have this big rivalry, but we don't," he said. "It is not like we are good friends, but there is a mutual respect on both sides."

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Rumours of bad blood between them have also been fuelled by the "obvious rivalry between Madrid and Barcelona", says the Daily Mirror. The two men have "gone toe-to-toe for league and cup titles over the years as well as individual prizes".

Between them, Messi and Ronaldo have eight World Player of the Year titles and have been in the top two in voting every year since 2008.

However, they do not voted for each other, a fact revealed last year when they were asked to name their top three players in the world.

Ronaldo also told Coach about his toughest opponent, unexpectedly naming former Arsenal and Chelsea full-back Ashley Cole.

"He was such a tenacious player, quick, tough in the tackle," said the Portugal international.

And he spoke glowingly about two Manchester United bosses , describing Sir Alex Ferguson, who signed him as a 17-year-old from Benfica, as his "father figure".

He was just a "boy" when he arrived at United, said Ronaldo: "All of a sudden you are at one of the biggest clubs in the world and at that time I needed somebody like Sir Alex".

Current Old Trafford boss Jose Mourinho is singled out as the "deepest thinker" about the game Ronaldo has encountered. The two Portuguese stars were at Real Madrid together and the player was struck by how the manager "went into everything in great detail".

However, when asked about his influences and his inspiration, Ronaldo looked no further than himself.

He grew up idolising the likes of Luis Figo and Rui Costa, he said, but had no desire to emulate them. "My biggest inspiration has always been myself," he said. "Nobody puts bigger demands on me than me."

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