The midfielder angered Cristiano with some comments last month, but has now admitted his former Clasico adversary is the one to beat.
Cristiano Ronaldo may have the edge in this year’s Ballon d’Or race given the trophies he has won, according to former Barcelona star Xavi.
The Real Madrid forward is expected to be at least among the final three nominees to defend the trophy he last won in 2014, having fired his side to Champions League glory before captaining Portugal to a shock triumph at Euro 2016.
Xavi claimed last month that “anybody who likes football” would consider Lionel Messi to be better than Ronaldo, prompting an angry response from the 31-year-old, in which he scorned the former Spain international for having never won a Ballon d’Or.
But the 36-year-old has now admitted that Ronaldo could be the favourite to claim football’s top individual prize for a fourth time – although he warned that he will face stern competition.
“Cristiano has the numbers to win this year’s Ballon d’Or, having won the Champions League and the Euros,” he said at the Aspire4Sports event in Amsterdam.
“But I also think that it’ll be very competitive, because Messi will be there, of course.”
Barca suffered a shock 4-3 defeat to Celta Vigo on Sunday, a result that leaves them two points behind Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid in the table, but Xavi sees no reason to panic over their form.
“I wasn’t able to watch the game, but it looks like there were a lot of individual mistakes,” he said. “But Barca are on another level and that’s something you see most of all when you leave the club.
“The idea is a good one: to be dominant and to have the ball. They also have the best in every position and I’m proud to watch them play.
“With Luis Enrique, they’re working very well, but sometimes the result is misleading based on what you see on the pitch.”