Messi 'very surprised' by Cristiano move

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Barcelona's Lionel Messi (L) vies for the ball during the UEFA Champions League group F football match against Paris Saint-Germain in Barcelona, Spain, on Dec. 10, 2014. Barcelona won 3-1. [Photo: Xinhua/Pau Barrena]

Lionel Messi said on Monday he was surprised by Cristiano Ronaldo's decision to leave Real Madrid for Juventus.

Messi also believes the transfer will leave Madrid worse off and says Juve is now among the clear favorites to win this season's Champions League.

Ronaldo swapped Spain for Italy in a deal worth $117 million in July, after securing a third consecutive European crown, and his fourth in five years with Real.

But Barcelona's Messi, who missed out on the three-man shortlist for FIFA's world player of the year award on Monday, feels the balance might have shifted following the 33-year-old's exit.

"I was surprised, I didn't imagine him leaving Madrid or that he would go to Juve because there was talk of many clubs (interested).

"The truth is I was very surprised but Juve is also a very good team," Messi told Catalunya Radio.

"Real Madrid is one of the best teams in the world and has a great squad, but it's obvious the departure of Ronaldo makes them less strong while Juve has become a clear favorite for the Champions League.

"They already had a good team and now they also have Cristiano Ronaldo."

Madrid's dominance in Europe has made failure even harder to swallow for Barca, whose stunning loss to Roma in April meant crashing out in the quarterfinals for a third consecutive season.

Even winning both La Liga and the Copa del Rey last term for a domestic double was not enough to extinguish the disappointment.

"It's time to win the Champions League," Messi said. "We've been knocked out in the quarterfinals three seasons in a row and maybe the last one was the worst of all because of the result and how the match was played.

"I think we have to aim for that, as a club, as a team and as a collective. We have a spectacular squad and we can do it."

Ronaldo's move was the latest example of increasingly lavish spending by Europe's biggest clubs, with Neymar, Kylian Mbappe, Philippe Coutinho and Paul Pogba all snapped up for over $100 million over the past two years.

Messi said the lure of Barcelona and Real Madrid is now being neutralized by the astronomical sums being offered by others.

"There are clubs now with a lot of money and players move for that reason," he said.

"Wherever the most money is, that's where they end up going. Things have changed and now the owners of clubs are multi-millionaires.

"Before, everyone wanted to play for Barca or Madrid, who were the best, but now everything's tighter and there's not much of a difference between the teams in Manchester, PSG, Madrid, us, Bayern (Munich) and the Italian (teams)."

Barcelona signed four players this summer, with Arthur Melo, Clement Lenglet, Arturo Vidal and Malcom all arriving at Camp Nou.

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