LISBON • Cristiano Ronaldo admitted on Wednesday that his long-time rivalry with Lionel Messi has made him a "better player" and that he enjoys a healthy competition with the Argentinian great.
However, the Juventus star, whose influence at Real Madrid mirrored that of Messi at Barcelona before the Portuguese left for Italy last year, admitted that the pair have never socialised together.
"I really admire the career he has had and from his side, he has already talked of the disappointment when I left Spain because it was a rivalry that he appreciated," the 34-year-old told TVI in Portugal.
"It's a good rivalry but it's not unique - Michael Jordan had rivalries in basketball, there was Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost in Formula One.
"The thing they all had in common is that they were healthy rivalries."
Ronaldo and Messi, 32, have won the coveted Ballon d'Or five times each, a factor that helps each player flourish.
"I have no doubt that Messi has made me a better player and vice versa. When I am winning trophies, it must sting him and it's the same for me when he wins," said the Portuguese. "I have an excellent professional relationship (with Messi) because we have been sharing the same moments for 15 years.
"We've never had dinner together but I don't see why we can't in the future. I don't see a problem with that."
We've never had dinner together but I don't see why we can't in the future. I don't see a problem with that.
CRISTIANO RONALDO, Juventus forward, on Barcelona's Lionel Messi.
The Juventus forward also said that the rape allegation against him was an attack on his honour and led to one of the worst years of his life.
He was accused or raping a woman in Las Vegas more than 10 years ago but would not face criminal charges after it was determined the investigation failed to show the claim could be proven beyond a reasonable doubt at trial.
He told TVI that "2018 was probably my worst year ever, personally speaking". He added: "When people question your honour, it hurts, it hurts a lot."
He did not speak directly about the 2009 accusation brought on by Kathryn Mayorga, an American who, in a separate lawsuit, says she was pressured to sign an agreement to keep quiet in exchange for US$375,000 (S$520,000). Ronaldo said he was not comfortable speaking about the case, but was thankful his innocence was proven.
Meanwhile, Juventus chief revenue officer Giorgio Ricci said that Serie A should consider having earlier kick-offs to help grow the Asian audience and boost clubs' finances.
The Italian champions toured Singapore, China and South Korea in the pre-season. On Wednesday, they also announced the opening of a new branch in Hong Kong to expand into the Asia-Pacific region.
"We have to find the right balance between domestic and global audiences," Ricci told BBC Sport ahead of Juve's league opener at Parma tomorrow. "It is not just about the broadcasting times, it is also about the rights distribution and who is showing the games. In that sense, the difference between the Premier League and Serie A is huge."
ASSOCIATED PRESS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS