Cristiano Ronaldo's need to show bravado in front of his Real Madrid team-mates has prompted him to use the crude nickname 'motherf****r' when referring to great rival Lionel Messi, despite there being little genuine animosity between the two.
That is according to Spanish journalist Guillem Balague, who reveals in his book Messi that the Barcelona superstar is the butt of some far from subtle jokes in the Bernabeu dressing room on a consistent basis.
Balague's latest work is currently being serialised in the Telegraph, with the much-hyped clash of the titans between Ronaldo and Messi discussed in-depth.
Media-driven agenda doesn't tell the true story
Over the last three years in particular the debate over whether Messi or Ronaldo is truly the greatest player of their generation has become contentious to say the least, but Balague believes there is almost no genuine animosity between two men at the peak of their powers.
Instead Balague is adamant that a grudging respect is the overriding emotion when Ronaldo and Messi do cross paths, but the atmosphere at Madrid means the Portuguese forward feels the need to put on something of a front to maintain his status as top dog in the Spanish capital.
- Ronaldo stopped Man United completing another blockbuster transfer
- £40m 'new Ronaldo' attracting serious Premier League interest
- Ballon d'Or: Top 5 contenders
Inside sources at Real Madrid spill the beans
Balague doesn't divulge who exactly decided to let him on Madrid's dressing room secrets, but believes that jokes about Messi are commonplace and can be pretty sinister.
An extract from the paperback release of MESSI claims: "According to some Real Madrid players, CR7 has a nickname for him: motherf----r’; and if he sees someone from the club speaking to Leo, he also ends up being baptised ‘motherf----r’.
"In that environment, Ronaldo usually compares their relationship with that between the Republic of Ireland and the United Kingdom.
"And the Madrid players, with their less than subtle dressing-room sense of humour, have a long list of jokes that include Messi as Ronaldo’s dog or puppet, or kept in a designer handbag belonging to the Portuguese player. And much worse."
Ronaldo's on record as stating that the two behemoths of world football are as different as Ferrari and Porsche, but that won't stop the simmering rivalry being splashed on plenty more back pages for years to come.