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Real Madrid star Cristiano Ronaldo sees Barcelona’s Lionel Messi as ‘motivation’

FIFA Ballon d’Or nominees Lionel Messi, left, and Cristiano Ronaldo smile during awards gala on Jan. 12. (Philipp Schmidli/Getty Images)
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Real Madrid striker Cristiano Ronaldo and Barcelona forward Lionel Messi make up one of the best rivalries in soccer today, which is a good thing, according to the former. Ronaldo told the French soccer magazine France Football that he looks at Messi as “motivation” in his “strive for perfection.” And he’s pretty sure it goes the other way around, too.

“I’m sure that the competition between us is a motivating factor for him, too,” Ronaldo said (via Spain’s “It’s good for me, for him and for other players who are keen to grow. Messi has four Ballon d’Or awards; I have three. This is all good for the world of soccer.”

This is the second time Ronaldo, 29, has praised his 27-year-old rival in just as many weeks. Last week, backstage video of Ronaldo coming across Messi at the Ballon d’Or awards ceremony leaked to the Web. It showed Ronaldo’s 4-year-old son greeting Messi as a fan.

“(My son’s) always watching Internet videos of us and speaking about you,” Ronaldo can be heard saying to Messi, who also has a son.

While Messi’s been on the receiving end of most of the compliments exchanged between the two superstars lately, Messi has expressed his respect for his La Liga opponent in the past, as well.

“(Ronaldo) is always there scoring goals in all the games and taking part in his club and national side,” Messi told Spain’s Marca (via The Guardian) in 2013. “He has been doing that for many years and whether he is at his peak or a bit below it makes no difference.”

The two will come face-to-face on the pitch again on March 22, when Real Madrid will travel to Camp Nou to meet Barcelona on March 22.