Sergio Ramos has revealed he holds Barcelona counterpart Lionel Messi in high regard and, despite the rivalry between the Catalans and Real Madrid, he still considers him to be one of the best players ever.
Six-time Ballon d’Or winner Messi is having another hugely impressive season, with his numbers in 2019-20 seeing him score 23 goals in 29 appearances in all competitions for Barca, while he also has 16 assists.
Madrid host Barca in Sunday’s eagerly-anticipated Clasico clash, with Ramos and Messi set to go head-to-head once again, and the Spain international admits to having the utmost respect for his Argentine rival.
“I have huge respect for him,” he told La Liga. “I think he’s one of the greatest players in history and I have huge respect for him. I hope Sunday isn’t his day, that would mean we’ve done our job, and if on top of that we can get a good result even better.
“I wish him all the best as a fellow professional but only as long as it doesn’t affect us negatively! It’s hard, but he has my maximum respect, I think he’s one of the best.”
Sunday’s Clasico clash represents an opportunity for Madrid to leapfrog their rivals at the top of the table, with Zinedine Zidane’s side having suffered a surprise 1-0 defeat to Levante in their last league match.
Los Blancos are also coming off the back of a humbling 2-1 loss at home to Manchester City in the last 16 of the Champions League, although Ramos is confident Madrid know how to get the better of Barca.
When asked how his side can cause the Catalans problems, Ramos said: “We’ve played them many times, so we know how to trouble them. Barcelona are a team who keep possession a lot. They’re most uncomfortable when you try to take it from them. Everyone knows that, not just Real Madrid.
“Putting pressure on them high up is risky but it causes them problems. Before it didn’t happen so much, maybe because teams gave them too much respect and they would play the ball out from the back really well. But I think that’s the key: pressure high up the pitch and try to steal the ball from them, that’s when they’re most uncomfortable.
“There’s always the risk that up top they’ve got very dangerous players who can be decisive in El Clasico. Hopefully it doesn’t come to that, that we maintain our concentration from the first minute until the last and that things turn out as we want them to.”
With three points potentially being crucial in the race for the Liga title, with just 13 matches remaining in the 2019-20 season, it’s not lost on Ramos as to how important a victory would be at the Bernabeu.
He added: “It will be very tight. The points difference between both sides is minimal and the result could be decisive this season.
“But there’s still a long way to go, there are still a lot of points up for grabs and anything can happen. But a win would be huge for us, playing at home in front of our fans. That gives us extra motivation and satisfaction; together with them we’re stronger.
“Our rivals have to feel that, and so do we when we’re out there on the pitch. Hopefully we can make a statement with a win at home.”