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‘They probably won’t admit it’ – Xavi reveals inside story on Lionel Messi’s iconic rivalry with Cristiano Ronaldo

LIONEL MESSI and Cristiano Ronaldo drove themselves to become iconic stars – because of their intense rivalry.

That is the opinion of former Barcelona midfielder Xavi, who was present when ex-teammate Messi tried to outdo Ronaldo, then of Real Madrid, across 30 El Clasico meetings.

Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo met 30 times in the El Clasico
Xavi believes the pair drove themselves to become icons due to their rivalry

The pair have NINE Champions League titles between them and collected 12 Ballon d’Or awards, an accolade that recognises the best players on the planet.

Speaking in a new BBC documentary about Messi’s career, current Barcelona boss Xavi said: “Cristiano and Leo probably won’t admit it.

“But Cristiano even gave him an extra push, an extra push to become a better player.

“I am convinced they used to keep an eye on each other.

“If you’re competitive you want to be the best, that’s human nature.”

Tomorrow night the BBC will broadcast a new doc called MESSI which pays tribute to the Argentine genius ahead of next month’s World Cup in Qatar.

It carries contributions from Rio Ferdinand, Henrik Larsson and Cesc Fabregas, who either played with or against the 35-year-old superstar.

Xavi, now the Barcelona boss, added: “Messi is a 10. This guy is a 9.2. This one is an 8.5. But a 10, this kid has set the bar. There’s nothing above that, that’s the highest.”

In three separate summers between 2014 and 2016, Argentina lost to Germany in the World Cup Final in Brazil and then were beaten in TWO Copa America finals by Chile.

Messi – long compared to World Cup winner Diego Maradona – finally won a major title for his country when Argentina beat Brazil in the 2021 Copa America Final in Rio.

And Aston Villa goalkeeper Emiliano Martínez reveals the inspirational team talk that captain Messi gave before he broke his international trophy drought.

Martínez, 30, said: “It was like our victory was meant to be. We were supposed to play in Argentina but it was changed last minute to Brazil.

“We had been 40 days away from our families and he said something about me, which I will never forget.

“He said: ‘Emi saw his daughter born on FaceTime. He couldn’t even give her a cuddle. So let’s do it for him.’

“I had butterflies in my tummy when he said that. He nearly made me cry just before the game had started.

“At the end, I hugged him so hard. I said: ‘We did it.’ I was crying. I am a very emotional guy. I did grab him in the air like my boy. I love Messi.”

MESSI will be available on BBC iPlayer at 6am tomorrow and then broadcast on BBC One on Saturday November 19.

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