Real Madrid and Portugal star Cristiano Ronaldo insisted he was "better than Messi" in an interview with American news channel CNN on Friday, before appearing to retract his claim.
"You cannot compare a Ferrari with a Porsche because they have different engines," tempered Ronaldo, 27, after initially insisting he was superior to the man who has won the Ballon d'Or for the world's best player in each of the last three years.
"He does his very best for Barcelona and I do my best for Real Madrid."
Few would doubt that the two men are the stand-out players in world football today, with Ronaldo scoring 46 goals as Real Madrid won La Liga, while Messi broke the Spanish league record by notching a remarkable 50 goals for Barca.
Meanwhile, Ronaldo was in little doubt about which of the two clubs had enjoyed a better campaign.
"The table speaks for itself -- nine points separate Real Madrid from Barcelona and that is huge in Spain," he said.
"We have played better than Barca this season, of that I am convinced. I recall the moment, a month ago, when we beat them 2-1 at their place, something no other team managed to do (the defeat was Barcelona's only home loss all season).
"We are better than them at the moment, but we must still respect them because they are a great team."
The former Manchester United player also reflected on Madrid's Champions League semi-final exit at the hands of Bayern Munich, when he was among the players who missed from the spot in a penalty shoot-out after the second leg at the Santiago Bernabeu.
"It is always hard to lose, and especially when you do so on penalties," admitted the 2008 Ballon d'Or winner.
"I am not too worried because I still scored that day (twice, in regulation time) but it is true that it was one of the worst days of my career."