Rivaldo Exclusive: Ballon D'Or snub will drive Messi on to greater heights

Lionel Messi
Lionel Messi will be determined to get back in the Ballon D'or running, says Rivaldo
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Betfair Ambassador Rivaldo assesses strong opening performances from Barcelona and Real Madrid in the Champions League and wildly contrasting fortunes for Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo...

"Lionel Messi has hit form right from the start of the season and starting with a hat-trick was important for him after being outside the top three nominees for the Ballon d'Or for the first time in ten years. This season he will prove that still deserves to be in contention for that prestigious award."

Messi determined to excel again

I said in my preview on Monday, Barcelona should win comfortably against PSV - a big Dutch side but one without Champions League pedigree - and that's what happened. Barca are eager to lift Champions League trophy this season and a 4-0 win was a great start.

Lionel Messi has hit form right from the start of the season and starting with a hat-trick was important for him after being outside the top three nominees for the Ballon D'Or for the first time in ten years. This season he will prove that still deserves to be in contention for that prestigious award and his Champions League debut was perfect.

Ronaldo red was wrong - but I still don't want VAR

While Messi had a bright start on Tuesday, Cristiano Ronaldo was unfortunate to be sent-off in his debut for Juventus at Champions League. He had a small conflict with a Valencia defender, but he didn't deserve a red card, it was a yellow at most.

But even though VAR may have helped here, it cannot solve all situations as we saw at the World Cup. Football should continue without VAR as this is a human sport that generates plenty of debates all over the world and that's what makes it so special.

Sometimes you may feel frustrated about wrong decisions from referees or players simulating fouls but that's what we all like to debate after the game and I think it should continue that way.

Messi could now take advantage of Ronaldo's absence in the race to be Champions League top scorer, but that won't be important to him. His focus will be on helping Barcelona win the trophy.

A change of approach for Real Madrid post Ronaldo

Real Madrid opened their campaign with a good win against Roma, a team that made it to the semi-finals last season, beating Barca along the way. If Madrid can manage to keep playing like this, they should go to the latter stages once again.

They are playing as a group - no-one is trying to be the centre of attention - and playing a good brand of football. When the most decisive matches arrive, we'll see if this is going to work or whether they will need a player to step-up as Ronaldo used to do. We must wait for the latter stages to get an answer about their real strength, but so far so good.

This collective approach from Lopetegui's team should result in a distribution of goals between their attacking players instead of all going through Ronaldo.

A mixed opening for the big teams

The traditional big guns - Real Madrid, Barcelona and Bayern - started the competition in good style, while Atletico Madrid and Liverpool started with great wins against strong French opponents and they must be considered serious contenders this season.

Manchester City were stunned by Lyon at home, but they have good players and an excellent manager and they should be able to turn things around in this group phase.

If I must pick one team to win Champions League right now, it would be Barcelona. They have an extra motivation to end Madrid's recent domination and that should make them give everything they got to end this nightmare for Barcelona fans in the Champions League.

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