Cristiano Ronaldo's “small rivalry” with Lionel Messi has made him a better player, claims Iker Casillas, with the Juventus superstar being backed to remain at the top “for a very long time”.
The Portugal international missed out on the latest FIFA Best prize to Bayern Munich striker Robert Lewandowski, but he has collected that award on two previous occasions and has five Ballons d’Or to his name.
Only Barcelona icon Messi can claim to have bettered that return, with the mercurial Argentine another of those to have sent records tumbling over the course of a remarkable career.
Ronaldo has matched the South American stride for stride, re-writing the history books himself on a regular basis, with two all-time greats using the exploits of one another as added motivation when raising their own individual bars.
Real Madrid icon Casillas admits as much, with the World Cup winner telling The National of his former Blancos team-mate Ronaldo and why the 35-year-old has starred for so long: “Obviously he’s a good professional, he looks after himself, eats well, gives the necessary importance to rest also.
“So this is just a result of being what a footballer is. Other than that, he’s also a great athlete. The reason is he’s always hungry and always wanting to improve and better himself.
“Perhaps also his small rivalry with [Lionel] Messi has helped him better himself. But it’s basically down to his professionalism and ambition; that has taken him to the top of the footballing world.”
Ronaldo has been showing no sign of slowing down during his time in Italy, with 79 goals recorded through 101 appearances for Juve.
He has also reached 102 efforts for his country, as he looks to become international football’s all-time leading marksman, and appears to have plenty left in the tank.
Casillas cannot see the Portuguese hanging up his boots any time soon, adding on how much longer a modern-day phenomenon can go on for: “I hope he can continue to play for a very long time. But, of course, football and its nature is what it is.
“We all know that everything must come to an end and time does go by for everyone. Hopefully we will be able to still enjoy his football for a long time, but it’s difficult to say.”
Ronaldo is tied to a contract in Turin through to the summer of 2022 and has stated in the past that he intends to play on beyond his 40th birthday.