Lionel Messi was surprised by Cristiano Ronaldo’s decision to leave Real Madrid for Juventus and says the European champions won’t be as strong a team after losing the Portuguese forward.
Ronaldo, 33, joined Juve in July for €100 million after spending the best part of the last nine years competing with Barcelona’s Messi for collective and individual glory in Spain.
Without Ronaldo, Madrid lost the European Super Cup to Atletico Madrid although they have made a strong start to the new league season, winning their first three games comfortably under new coach Julen Lopetegui.
However, Messi believes they’re a poorer side without Ronaldo and expects Juve to greatly benefit from the deal in Europe this season.
“Real Madrid are one of the best teams in the world and they have a great squad [but] it’s evident that the absence of Ronaldo makes them less good and makes Juventus [one of the] clear favourites to win the Champions League,” Messi told Catalunya Radio.
“It surprised me [when he left]. I didn’t imagine him leaving Madrid or joining Juventus. There were a lot of teams that wanted him. It surprised me, but he has gone to a very good team.”
Ronaldo has won the Champions League in four of the last five years as a Madrid player, but Messi hopes his run comes to an end in Italy after making European success Barca’s top priority this season.
“It’s time [to win it again],” added Messi, who has won the competition four times with Barca, but not since 2015.
“We have been knocked out in the quarterfinals in the last three seasons. Last season’s result in Rome hurt especially, but we have a spectacular squad and we can fight for it [this season].”