Atletico Madrid full back Filipe Luis has admitted that he remains flummoxed by Lionel Messi's snubbing at the 2018 Ballon d'Or ceremony, despite his club and national team rivalry with the Argentine.
Save for a year's spell with Chelsea in the title winning season of 2014/15, Luis has been a domestic rival of Messi's since joining Deportivo La Coruna in 2006, initially on loan. In 2010, he joined Atletico for around £11m, where his rivalry with the forward began in earnest.
Since making his debut for Brazil in 2009, he has played four times in the South American El Clasico, losing just once, though only two of those games included the number 10 himself (one of them being, naturally, the loss.)
Speaking to Globo Esporte, the Brazilian once again reiterated his undying respect for Messi, despite their rivalry. He explained: "I enter the field to not let any opponent do anything. Be Messi or any other.
"But, after so many years, you see a guy who reinvents himself, played in the lead, now plays in the middle. And suddenly, I hear he did not deserve to win the Golden Ball because he had a bad season in 2018.
"He won La Liga, the Copa del Rey, he was the player who scored the most goals in Europe and gave a lot of assists. Anyone who says that is not seeing what I see or do not know anything about football.
"He is the best player in Barcelona, he makes goals, when he does not he makes assists or starts the plays of the goals. This in all parties in the last ten years. My rivalry with him is infinite within the field, but outside my admiration is also infinite. He is Argentine, plays in a rival, I do not win anything by speaking well of him. But I am sincere."
Atleti currently sit five points behind Barcelona in the table, and the two look set to fight it out for this year's title. They will square up against each other on April 7th, in a clash that may well decide where the trophy resides.