"I have no doubt that he [Messi] makes me a better player and that I make him a better player,” Ronaldo said in an interview with TVI, a Portuguese television channel. “The rivalries are healthy.

"I greatly admire the career he has had, and he has said publicly, for example, when I left the Spanish league, he was very sorry, in quotes, because it was a rivalry that he felt,” Ronaldo went on, adding that the rivalry between their respective teams, Real Madrid and Barcelona, added to the challenge.

Ronaldo, who is also captain of Portugal’s national team, the reigning European Champions, cited as an example that Messi had acknowledged that the last three Champions League titles that Real Madrid won - before Ronaldo was transferred to Juventus for €100 million in 2018 - left him "somewhat disturbed".

That, Ronaldo said, is "normal" given that "I also perhaps [was a little disturbed] with other things that he won with Barcelona and that I also would have liked to have won.

“But that's the good rivalry that exists in football,” he mused. “I have an excellent relationship with him, a professional one, and it’s been 15 years sharing" successes, he said.

Asked about whether he had ever dined with Messi, Ronaldo said no, but left the possibility open: "Why not? I don't see any problem. He is an Argentinian; my girlfriend is, too, so I don’t see any problem."

Ronaldo and Messi have each five times won the Ballon d’Or – the trophy that is awarded annually to the world’s best footballer – the only two ever to have done so.