Messi hails Ronaldo, talks Argentina aims

Lionel Messi praised Cristiano Ronaldo's scoring prowess in an interview published on Thursday. A day after picking up a Golden Boot award for scoring 46 league goals last season – more than any other player in Europe – the 26-year-old Barcelona player paid respect to his Real Madrid rival.

"I don't know if Cristiano Ronaldo is at his peak, but he is always there scoring goals in all the games and taking part in his club and national side," Messi told Spanish sports daily Marca and other European sports journalists. "He has been doing that for many years, and whether he is at his peak or a bit below it makes no difference."

Ronaldo netted a hat-trick on Tuesday as Portugal qualified for their fourth straight FIFA World Cup, and he tops La Liga's scoring chart this season with 16 goals in 13 matches.

Injuries and future
Messi has 11 goals from eight games in the league this campaign, but has been sidelined for up to eight weeks with a muscle tear in his left hamstring muscle, his third leg injury this season. The Argentinian brushed off comments in the media about his injuries, following some criticism that he should have paced himself better.

"What they say about the injury did not worry me and does not worry me because I am used to people talking and saying many things not only about the injury but about pretty much everything," he said.

I am grateful if there are people interested. It makes you proud. But my life is with Barcelona.
Lionel Messi

"I am sorry I cannot help my team-mates now, but it is an injury that heals normally and I will be back next year keen to get started."

Messi said there was no chance of his leaving Barcelona despite suggestions that some clubs would be ready to write a blank cheque to sign him.

"My intention is to stay with Barcelona for good," he insisted. "I am grateful if what they say is true and there are people interested. It makes you proud that they say such things. But my life is with Barcelona."

Brazil, Germany and Spain concern Messi
Despite picking up four FIFA Ballon d'Ors and a hosts of titles with Barcelona, Messi expressed his desire to lift the World with Argentina.

"I have had the fortune of winning all the individual and club awards," he said. "Winning the World Cup would be a dream for me, for my team-mates and for a whole country that has not won in a long time. We aim to arrive in top form to win the World Cup, which is the dream for the whole of Argentina.

Asked about Argentina's biggest rivals, Messi said Brazil, Germany and Spain were widely seen as World Cup favourites, "and then there is always a surprise team that appears".

For the UEFA Champions League, Messi said he saw Real Madrid and Bayern Munich as Barcelona's most serious challengers.