Messi: I don't compete with Ronaldo
Barcelona star Lionel Messi has played down suggestions of a personal rift with Real Madrid rival Cristiano Ronaldo as the two prepare for another battle on the pitch this season.
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Barcelona host Real Sociedad and Real Madrid tackle Valencia as the Primera Division gets under way this weekend, with the Catalans out to recapture the crown they lost to Madrid last season after three straight titles.
The battle between Messi and Ronaldo to be named the best player on the planet continues as a long-running sideshow, but Messi insists there is nothing personal in it as far as he is concerned.
"I respect him, but I have no relationship with him, as I don't with a lot of other footballers," he told Marca.
"I have relationships with my Barcelona club-mates, and with the international squad, Argentinian players who I've got to know well over the years.
"There's never been any kind of anger toward Cristiano.
"It's all made up by the press who want to believe there's a constant duel between the two of us, but I don't compete with Cristiano, nor does he with me."
Barcelona begin life in the post-Pep Guardiola age with new manager Tito Vilanova taking charge of his first league game.
But there have been few other changes at the club, with Jordi Alba the only high profile signing.
On Sunday they will take on a Real Sociedad team who finished six points from relegation last season but were among several clubs to take a point off Barcelona in the early stages of the campaign - a run Guardiola's team never recovered from as they tried to catch Madrid.
Madrid kick off, also on Sunday, against a Valencia side who have done much rebuilding this summer, with their six new signings including two midfielders - Sergio Canales and Fernando Gago - who have arrived from the Bernabeu.
Valencia finished third last season, but were 30 points adrift of Barcelona.
The action begins on Saturday with a match between newly-promoted Celta Vigo and a Malaga team who finished fourth last season but are now downgrading expectations after the scaling back of Sheikh Al Thani's spending and the departure of Santi Cazorla to Arsenal.
Sevilla tackle Getafe and Real Mallorca host Espanyol in Saturday's other matches.
Copa del Rey holders Athletic Bilbao face Real Betis on Sunday before two Europa League-bound teams, Levante and Atletico Madrid, face off.
The two other promoted teams, Deportivo La Coruna and Valladolid, must wait until Monday to get their campaigns started.
Deportivo host Osasuna while Valladolid travel to Real Zaragoza.
Rayo Vallecano host Granada, also on Monday.