Rivals Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo set for dinner after losing Player of the Year award

Aug. 30 (UPI) — Portuguese soccer star Cristiano Ronaldo invited longtime rival Lionel Messi to dinner while the two sat next to each other at the UEFA Champions League draw.

The superstars missed out on winning the UEFA Player of the Year award, which was won by Liverpool’s Virgil van Dijk at the ceremony Thursday in Monaco. Ronaldo and Messi played against each other for years while competing in La Liga, with Ronaldo starring for Real Madrid and Messi with Barcelona. Each scored more than 300 goals for their respective clubs during the stretch, before Ronaldo signed with Juventus last season.

Last year was the first time in a decade that neither Messi nor Ronaldo won the Ballon d’Or, the annual honor given to the world’s best player.

“We shared the stage for 15 years, I don’t know if that has ever happened in football,” Ronaldo said at the ceremony. “The same two guys on the stage all the time. It’s not easy, as you know.

“Of course we have a good relationship. We have not had dinner together yet, but I hope in the future. Of course I miss playing in Spain. We had that battle the last 15 years, which was good. He pushed me and I pushed him as well. It’s good to be part of the history of football. I’m there and he’s there as well.”

Messi said it was “nice to have Cristiano in La Liga.”

Messi beat Ronaldo for the Forward of the Year award. Ronaldo won the award in 2008, 2017 and 2018. Lyon’s Lucy Bronze won the women’s Player of the Year award. Liverpool’s Alisson Bekker won Goalkeeper of the Year honors. Van Dijk also won Defender of the Year. Barcelona’s Frenkie de Jong won Midfielder of the Year.

Barcelona will play in Group E in the Champions League, battling Borussia Dortmund, Inter Milan and Slavia Prague. Ronaldo and Juventus are in Group D with Atletico Madrid, Bayer Leverkusen and Lokomotiv Moscow.

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