Former Barcelona striker Hristo Stoichkov says he is sure Cristiano Ronaldo is "jealous" of Lionel Messi, as the "morbo" stirring continues ahead of Sunday's La Liga clasico.
The combustible Stoichkov played in many memorable clasicos during his spells at the Camp Nou during the 1990s, scoring some fantastic winning goals, but also stamping on the foot of referee Urizar Azpitarte during a match against Madrid at the Camp Nou in 1990.
More recent duels between the La Liga rivals have seen Messi and Ronaldo compete for attention. The Blaugrana hero goes into this weekend's game in much better form, having received widespread acclaim for his performance in Wednesday's Champions League last-16 win over Manchester City, while fans and pundits are growing increasingly concerned over the Blancos' talisman's mental and physical readiness.
Asked in AS if it was now clear that Messi was now the better of the duo, the former Bulgaria international said there was no longer any doubts, and Ronaldo was finding it difficult to deal with this reality.
"Everyone knows it," Stoichkov said. "There is a reason for that. The problem is when you do not recognise it. And often your own ego kills you. I believe [Cristiano] is jealous. And you cannot compare a myth with a player nearing the end of his career."
With their side going into the game having won 16 of their last 17 games in all competitions, talk is growing louder among Barcelona fans and pundits of a possible treble of La Liga, Champions League and Copa del Rey this year. Stoichkov denied that overconfidence could be a problem among the Barca players.
"I see Barca more convinced and committed than overconfident," he said. "In commitment and fight this Barca is well above Madrid at the moment."
Meanwhile, former Madrid legend Santillana said in Marca that recent whistles for Ronaldo at the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu were unfair, but the 30 year old should "tone down" his "cocky" attitude.
"I do not like Cristiano's attitude too much," Santillana said, while attending a charity golf event featuring past stars from both teams. "Sometimes it seems he blames his teammates. That's his character, but he should think more before doing these things.
"You do not need to whistle him, because he has done incredible things for Real Madrid, but he should tone down this cocky attitude, it is not good for him or for the club."
Santillana, who scored 352 goals in 772 games for the Bernabeu club while winning nine La Liga titles and four Copas del Rey between 1971 and 1988, admitted that Messi's form probably made his side pregame favourites.
"Barcelona are playing at home, and Messi is fantastic, so it seems they are maybe a bit more favourites," he said.