BARCELONA (Agencies): Lionel Messi has admitted he was surprised by Cristiano Ronaldo’s decision to leave Real Madrid and join Juventus.
Messi also believes the transfer will leave Madrid worse off and says Juve are now among the clear favourites to win this season’s Champions League.
Ronaldo swapped Spain for Italy in a deal worth €100 million in July, after securing a third consecutive European crown, and his fourth in five years with Real.
But Messi, who missed out on a three-man shortlist for FIFA’s world player of the year award on Monday, feels the balance may have shifted following the 33-year-old’s exit.
“I was surprised, I didn’t imagine him leaving Madrid or that he would go to Juve because there was talk of many clubs (interested). The truth is I was very surprised but Juve are also a very good team,” Messi told Catalunya Radio.
“Real Madrid are one of the best teams in the world and they have a great squad but it’s obvious the departure of Ronaldo makes them less strong while Juve have become a clear favourite for the Champions League. They already had a good team and now they also have Cristiano Ronaldo,” he added.
Madrid’s dominance in Europe has made failure even harder to swallow for Barcelona, whose shock defeat by Roma in April meant crashing out in the quarter-finals for a third consecutive season.
Even winning both La Liga and the Copa del Rey last term for a domestic double was not enough to extinguish the disappointment.
Ronaldo’s move was the latest example of increasingly lavish spending by Europe’s biggest clubs, with Neymar, Kylian Mbappe, Philippe Coutinho and Paul Pogba all snapped up for more than €100 million over the past two years.
Messi believes the lure of Barcelona and Real Madrid is now being neutralised by the mouth-watering sums on offer.