Juventus’ 3-0 away victory over Barcelona at the Nou Camp this morning may have seen the curtain close on what has been an absolutely epic duel between two of the greatest to ever kick a ball – Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.
It’s one of those endless debates that people either get excited about discussing or bored out of their brains because the topic never seems to go away.
How can it possibly go away, though? To witness not only one, but two of the best to play our game at the very same time, at the very same peak of their powers is pretty damn special and all football lovers should respect and admire these legends, whether you are a fan of them or not.
They’ve constantly pushed each other to limits I don’t even think they thought were possible. It’s hard not to think that they’re saying to themselves, “if you can score a hattrick, then I can do the exact same tomorrow”, because they are both great professionals and want to be the best, no matter what. It’s an extra motivation factor to lead them onto greatness. Just fascinating to watch.
Some insane stats from two of the best footballers of all time
- Ronaldo has scored 134 Champions League goals compared to Messi’s 118. Equal third are Robert Lewandowski and Raul on 71. Messi edges in front with six FIFA Ballon d’Or awards compared to Ronaldo’s five. Johan Cruyff, Michel Platini and Marco van Basten sit on three each in third. Ronaldo trails Messi by four titles with 20 compared to the Argentine’s 24.
I could go on and on with that list of stats, but words just can’t describe how dominant and forceful they have been to the rest of their competitors, both individually and as a team for about 15 years now. To be able to consistently put up 30-60+ goals per season for that duration of time, year in, year out, is simply astonishing.
In 36 head-to-head matches played, Messi leads with 22 goals scored to Ronaldo’s 19 and is on top in the win count by 16-10-10. The willingness to outshine each other whenever they meet would most certainly be applauded by all football fans.
On the international stage, I can agree that they have both underperformed. Messi has been heavily criticised by failing to carry Argentina to a World Cup or Copa America at the final hurdle, losing multiple finals. Ronaldo at least played a massive role in winning Euro 2016 with Portugal, but at the same time, it can be argued that he should’ve done more in the four World Cups he’s represented his country in.
The only other rivalry across sport that I can make a case to compete against the Messi versus Ronaldo duel would have to be tennis champions Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. Tennis is an individual sport, so for them to accomplish so much in their respective careers having to problem solve on their own and not have any teammates to help them in the key moments of a match must be recognised for sure.
To have 40 grand slams between them split 20 each is incomprehensible. Roger and Rafa also push one another to become the greatest and strive towards winning as much silverware as possible which makes their head to head clashes so thrilling to watch.
However, I just can’t put any other rivalry above the one between Messi and Ronaldo. For the number of records they have broken, the amount of ridiculously high-quality goals scored, whether it be Messi’s run from halfway against Getafe in 2007 or Ronaldo’s famous bicycle kick goal against Juventus in 2018 and along with the highlights they have blessed us with to watch over and over again… nothing compares to it and it helps the argument on whether football is the most technically difficult sport to play.
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Comparing them individually to decide who is greater is a separate debate that can be saved for when they both retire.
They possess two different styles of play, which are both obviously very effective and help their respective club and national teams in different ways, whether it be the passing and dribbling ability of Messi, or the sheer power and finishing of Ronaldo.
Let’s pray that this morning’s clash between Juve and Barcelona was not the last time two legends of the world game face off. It may well have been, though.
All we can do is enjoy the rivalry while it lasts.