Lionel Messi has said he does not see himself as in direct competition with Cristiano Ronaldo, and any talk of a personal duel between the two is just media speculation.
Messi, speaking to Argentine newspaper Ole from Frankfurt ahead of his national side's friendly against Germany on Wednesday, explained that as far as he was concerned Ronaldo was just another opposition player.
"I respect (Ronaldo), but I have no relationship with him, just as I have no relationship with many other players," Messi said. "We just see each other on the pitch. I am close to my team-mates for club and country, and with Argentine players who I have met over the years."
Many observers feel that rivalry between the two superstars drives each to ever greater heights - Ronaldo hit 38 La Liga goals for Real Madrid in 2010-11 only for Messi to reach 50 last season for Barcelona - but the Argentine was keen to stress that any supposed personal battle was just a media invention.
"But, look, with Cristiano there is no row or anything like that," said Messi. "Anything that happens comes from the media, the papers, who want a duel between us, but I have never competed with Cristiano nor fought against him. I try and do my work, so that things go well, and to try and win trophies with the national team and with Barcelona."
When asked about opposition fans who try to unsettle Ronaldo by chanting 'Messi, Messi', the Argentine was reportedly "uncomfortable" and said it was nothing to do with him.
"I am happy with how fans treat me in every stadium," he said. "I am not the one who organises that nor can I do anything against it."
The three-time Ballon D'Or winner was on happier ground when suggesting that one his illustrious colleagues at club level could take the FIFA award for 2012.
"I would be delighted if it was one of my Barcelona team-mates, Xavi Hernandez or (Andres) Iniesta, who are winning important thing like the World Cup and European Championships at international level," Messi said. "There is also Ronaldo, who is a great player, and (Iker) Casillas is being talked about. But, for friendship, personally I would like it to be Xavi or Iniesta."
Messi, who himself has not always carried his club form onto the international level, said that the albiceleste needed time to gel under newish coach Alejandro Sabella.
"There are players to make up a very strong national team, in attack and defence," he said. "But it is the time to work, to find the players that the coach wants and to be able to give them continuity and confidence. I believe the only way the team will become 'well-oiled' is to play many games together with the same players so we get to know each other well. It takes work and nothing more."