MADRID: The Spanish league kicks-off today with Barcelona star Lionel Messi insisting it is not just a battle between himself and Cristiano Ronaldo.
The two players were neck-and-neck in the scoring charts last season, with the Argentine hitting 50 in the league compared to Ronaldo’s 46, with an incredible 73 in all competitions for Messi and 60 for the Madrid star. Madrid finished the season nine points clear of a Barca side that still managed to lift four titles in what was to be Pep Guardiola’s last season of a hugely successful time for the Catalans.
“With Cristiano I have absolutely no problem,” said Messi. “All that is said about us is to do with the press who want us to have our own personal battle but I have never competed with him or fought him.”
The two giants kick-off their new campaign at home tomorrow against Valencia and Real Sociedad, with one eye on their two-legged Spanish Super Cup encounter over the next two weeks. Barca begin a new era under Tito Vilanova, Pep Guardiola’s assistant for four seasons, with virtually the same squad as last term. Meanwhile, Madrid have also changed very little a team that brought to an end Guardiola’s three consecutive titles with a record 100 points and 121 goals.
Ronaldo will be backed once again by Karim Benzema and Gonzalo Higuain to provide the firepower for Jose Mourinho’s team. Valencia, meanwhile, ended last season third for the third successive year and will provide a severe test in Madrid’s opening defence of the title.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 18th, 2012.