Madrid: Real Madrid have paid tribute to Lionel Messi's record five-goal performance in the Champions League, with striker Cristiano Ronaldo uncertain he can match the Barcelona star's feat.
Messi's goals came in last week's 7-1 victory over Bayer Leverkusen, the Argentina forward becoming the first player to score five times in a single game in the competition since its format change from the European Cup in 1992.
Though the rivalry between the two Spanish giants has been marked by ill-tempered matches that have descended into brawls since the arrival of Jose Mourinho at Madrid, the Portuguese coach and Ronaldo were both fulsome in their praise for Messi.
"I'm happy for Messi, I'm happy for football," Ronaldo said Tuesday on the eve of Madrid's return leg at home in the last 16 of the Champions League against CSKA Moscow.
Usually brimming with confidence, Ronaldo was uncharacteristically tentative when asked if he would ever replicate Messi's mark.
"I'm not sure if I'm capable of one day scoring five goals. I hope I can," said Ronaldo, who won the FIFA World Player of the Year in 2008 but has since finished behind three-time winner Messi.
Mourinho was also gracious about Messi, who is now only five goals away from matching Cesar Rodriguez's club record of 235.
"To score five goals is never easy," Mourinho said. "It was a nice night for him."
Messi has scored 16 goals in his past six matches for Barcelona and Argentina. The forward had 53 goals in 55 matches for his club last season. He already has 50 in 43 matches so far in this campaign.
But Ronaldo has also been in fine form, scoring in six straight matches to take his season tally to 40 goals and career total with Madrid to 125 in 127 games.
"I don't know if I'm more respected here now, but that's not what matters to me. I'm still the same person, with all my defects and virtues," Ronaldo said. "I only worry about myself and my team. Goals don't mean anything to me. To score or not doesn't mean anything to me."
Madrid could be drawn against Barcelona if they advance to the quarterfinals. If not, the teams meet in the league next month.