Lionel Messi, star Barcelona forward, has revealed he misses his on-field rivalry with Cristiano Ronaldo after the Real Madrid forward left to join Juventus in a €100 million transfer deal. During his time at Madrid, Ronaldo became the club’s all-time leading goal-scorer and since his departure in the summer of 2018, the two superstars are yet to come face to face with each other on the ground.

“Yes, I would have liked for Cristiano to continue in the Spanish league, at Madrid,” Messi said in an interview with Catalan radio RAC 1. “I think it gave an extra impetus to our rivalry, to the Clasico and to La Liga overall.

“I remember I said earlier this year that Madrid would notice Cristiano’s departure, just as any other team would, but even so, they have enough players to be at the top and fighting for everything. It’s Madrid and they have a lot of history.”

The two superstars are billed the best of this era, with both players often playing down comparisons as to who is the better between them. Ronaldo had famously said “if he doesn’t consider himself the best in his mind, no one else will”, while Messi has mostly retracted from making any volatile statements. Both footballers have won five Ballon d’or.

“I’ve never thought about finishing my career with more Ballon d’Or awards than Cristiano,” he said.

Messi admitted that like Ronaldo, he too had considered leaving La Liga, when in 2016, the 32-year-old and his father found themselves in a tax scandal.

“I’ve had several [difficult] periods, especially in 2013 and 2014 when I started having a problem with the Spanish tax authority and everything that came out,” Messi added. “It was difficult for me and for my family. I think I was the first one [to be investigated by the tax authorities] and that is why everything was so hard. From then on, they showed they were going all out with me and proved that they would target all sports and footballers.

“During that time, I considered leaving Barca. Not because I wanted to leave Barca but because I wanted to leave Spain. I felt I was being mistreated and I didn’t want to spend much time there.

“I think I had the door open to many teams although I have never had an official offer because everyone knew of my wish and eagerness to continue at Barca. That, however, was beyond any situation that I felt for this home, this club, it was what I felt at a personal level. The only positive was that my children were young and didn’t notice it but we had a hard time.”

Despite a clause in his contract, which allows him to leave at the end of each season, Messi said he intends on retiring at Barcelona. Since joining the club in 2005, Barca have extended Messi’s contract eight times. His contract expires in June of 2021.

“If they want me, I would obviously be delighted to remain at Barca,” he said. “I reiterate that my aim has always been to stay here. Nothing has changed; it is as it has always been. Each time it becomes clearer that my aim and that of my family is to finish [my career] here. First because of how I am at the club, how I feel at the club, and secondly, for my family. We are very settled in this city. Of course, anything can happen but the idea is to continue living here.

“I don’t think there is anything yet from what I know from my father [Messi’s agent]. I have always stayed out of all negotiations.

“I have not spoken to the Barca president [Josep Maria Bartomeu] since our Champions League elimination against Liverpool. But I have no problem with the president. I have never had any problems trying to sort out things with the club. On the contrary, it has been easy. Probably once it’s done [the renewal], there will be no problems and it will be done in no time.”