Lionel Messi believes Inter and AC Milan must return to the Champions League in the near future to help Italian football rediscover its damaged reputation across the continent.
The San Siro giants have lifted the famous trophy on 10 occasions between them - the most recent instance coming in 2010 when Jose Mourinho's Inter completed the treble, having ousted Messi's Barcelona in the semi-finals.
However, both clubs have struggled to keep pace domestically and abroad, Milan last featuring in the Champions League in 2013-14 while Inter's most recent appearance came two years prior.
The failure of the national team to reach next year's World Cup was a hammer blow to the Italian game, and Messi believes the two Milan rivals returning to European football's top table would go some way to repairing the damage.
"Italian football in recent years is no longer the same. And I believe that this has to do not only with the non-qualification to the World Cup," Messi said, in quotes reported by La Gazzetta dello Sport.
"For example, two greats in Serie A, Milan and Inter, are no longer those that were about 10 years ago and no longer play in the Champions League, and this affects all Italian football.
"They are basically trying to get back, especially the two Milanese clubs must return to be competitive at European level."
Messi was speaking after picking up the Golden Shoe award for finishing 2016-17 as Europe's top scorer. Friday's ceremony marked the fourth time the Argentinian has claimed the prize, equalling Cristiano Ronaldo's tally.
The pair have long been held up as two great individual rivals among a team sport and, although Ronaldo suggested recently they could become good friends in the future, Messi is unsure if that can ever be the case for two men who only meet on the field or at prize-giving galas.
"I do not know if we will be. Friendship is something that is built through spending time together and getting to know each other," he told Marca.
"We have no relationship, but mostly because we only see each other in the awards ceremonies and it is the only time we speak. At that moment everything is fine, but then we do not meet again."
17 de octubre 2018
|Tsonga back in business, Dzumhur dumped out in Moscow|
16 de octubre 2018
|Germany suffer six defeats in a year for first time|
|Many clubs have asked about Piatek - agent|
|Bartomeu: Barca open to defensive reinforcements after Vermaelen injury|
|Bonn spoil PAOK´s landmark European game|
|Konta conquers Mertens in Moscow|
|Republic of Ireland 0 Wales 1: Wilson stunner moves Giggs´ side top|
|France 2 Germany 1: Griezmann delivers Low blow as Les Bleus reign in Paris|
|Belgium 1 Netherlands 1: Groeneveld cancels out Mertens strike|
|Argentina 0 Brazil 1: Miranda heads late winner after rivalry fails to ignite|
|Messi would struggle in this Manchester United team – Scholes|
|Falcons place Devonta Freeman on injured reserve|
|Westbrook ruled out of Thunder opener|
|Wilder´s team open to Joshua talks|
|Brentford appoint Thomas Frank as new head coach|
|England´s perfect performance sets the standard - Trippier|
|Odell Beckham Jr. needs to create headlines on the field, says Giants owner|
|Robshaw joins list of England absentees|
|Chile need goals from Sanchez despite United form - Rueda|
|Modric reveals Ronaldo respect, ´will never play with´ Messi|
|Osaka can be one of the greats, says coach Sascha Bajin|
|Liverpool´s Naby Keita carried off injured in Guinea match|
|Duminy to miss Australia tour for shoulder surgery|
|F1 Raceweek: Ferrari ready to ´challenge the impossible´ as Hamilton nears title|
|Umesh replaces injured Thakur in ODI squad|
|IAAF delay implementation of testosterone ruling amid Semenya challenge|
|Fakhar and Sarfraz lead Pakistan recovery after Lyon blitz|
|Japan see off Uruguay in seven-goal thriller|
|Arda Turan given huge fine by Istanbul Basaksehir after alleged brawl with singer|
|Busquets no better or worse than Dier – does Opta data back up Allardyce claim?|
|United boss Mourinho charged for alleged post-match comments by FA|
|Halep withdraws from Kremlin Cup ahead of WTA Finals|
|Renato Sanches eager for further Bayern Munich minutes|
|Nations League standings: Promotion, relegation and race for finals|
|Windies coach Law banned for ´inappropriate comments´ in India Test|
|Carrick denies Manchester United stars are ´not trying´|
|Ferrari struggling under pressure of chasing Mercedes, says Massa|
|Australia desperately need Smith and Warner back - Warne|
|Draxler warns Germany: Mbappe has 300 hp!|
|Draymond Green says Warriors will have to ´bring it´ every night in the West|
|England´s ´wonderful bravery´ leaves Southgate excited for the future|
|Jayasuriya: I always conduct myself with integrity and transparency|
|Northern Ireland stars hurt by lack of club football, says O´Neill|
|Rodgers inspires late Packers comeback|
|Brewers blank Dodgers to take 2-1 NLCS lead|
|Cavaliers, Nance agree to four-year extension|
|Ramos wants Spain to believe in Luis Enrique´s team|
|De Laurentiis: I´ve spoken to Genoa and agent about Piatek|
|Kaka tips bright future for Paqueta after Milan agreement|
|Suns star Booker set to return for season opener|
|Warriors coach Kerr not expecting fast start from NBA champs|
|Fultz to start for 76ers as Brown eyes NBA Finals|
|Maltese champions Valletta want Usain Bolt|
|It would have been normal to kill them! Luis Enrique slams abysmal Spain|
|Seahawks, Trail Blazers owner Paul Allen dies aged 65|
|Red Sox ace Sale released from hospital, still set for game five|
|Beer-throwing fan banned by Patriots|
|Southgate lauds ´tremendous´ attackers after famous Spain win|
|Djokovic closing in on summit as he scales new heights|
|Monaco the natural move for Henry - Martinez|
|Ending England drought a ´beautiful feeling´ – Sterling|
15 de octubre 2018
|Halep to face Pavlyuchenkova in Moscow comeback|
|NBA 2018-19: Five non-LeBron James storylines to follow|
|Spain 2 England 3: Kane inspires Three Lions as Sterling ends drought in style|
|Bosnia-Herzegovina 2 Northern Ireland 0: Dzeko double leaves O´Neill´s side on the brink|
|Mannarino stops the rot in Moscow|
|Neymar pleased Brazil will not face Messi in Argentina clash|
|Buccaneers fire defensive coordinator Mike Smith after loss to Falcons|
|´Surprised´ Deschamps accepts he could´ve made more effort with Koscielny|
|Kuwait 0 Australia 4: Socceroos deliver win for new coach Arnold|