It has been almost 15 years since the inception of the biggest rivalry in sporting history, never have we ever seen something of this stature divide people and opinions like this has and it seems like there is no end to it, yes we are talking about two extraterrestrial players who have kept us on the edge of our seats every single matchday since they set foot in the footballing world, two of the biggest names, the biggest brands and the most followed athletes in the world, Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi.
Many describe their Era as the most prestigious one in the history of the sport, some people look forward to enjoying both these players weave their magic on the field before they retire, while both their fanbases tussle over who is the better player? and Which one of them is the greatest player to set foot on the pitch.
Eventually, these arguments are never-ending and will go on even after they both hang up their boots, but today we take a deeper look into this debate and focus on points that are left ignored by many.
Early Days and style of play
Messi and Ronaldo both started their careers as aesthetically pleasing players. While one played more intricate and beautiful football with short passes and movements, followed by dribbling with the ball glued to his feet, the other one was more reliant on blistering pace, fast feet, and a supernatural physique with a clever brain.
Cristiano Ronaldo started his journey at Manchester United, where Sir Alex Ferguson recognized his potential from a very young age, the Portuguese went through various stages of growth during that period, he started as a player who was pleasing to watch but had little output, but by the time he left the red devils, he had already broken all the possible record in the premier league, he was the best player in the world and possibly the best goal-scoring winger the world ever saw.
Lionel Messi on the other hand broke into a team full of stars such as Deco and Ronaldinho, the Argentine was so naturally gifted that it was almost impossible to put him on the bench, he started his career as a center forward for the Catalan giants, this allowed him to rack up the numbers and break the charts, adding to his long list of achievements.
In 2009, after Real Madrid completed a record-breaking signing for Cristiano Ronaldo, we got to witness the finest Era in the history of the sport, as both these legends went head-to-head in the same league as direct rivals.
Media’s lovechild vs The Media villain
Cristiano Ronaldo endured difficult treatment by the media and journalists once he joined the Los Blancos, his arrogance and attitude were not well received by some of the biggest media houses in the world of football.
To add to this, Lionel Messi was always seen as a humble kid from Argentina, who was now ruling the world of football after being sent here by the footballing gods.
While Ronaldo struggled to make a rebuilding Real Madrid side great again, Lionel Messi reaped the benefits of his talent and his relationship with Pep Guardiola as Barcelona Became the most feared side across Europe.
Lionel Messi won the Ballon d or four times in a row, leaving Cristiano Ronaldo way behind as he broke the record for most goals in the calendar year, the media houses started giving him the GOAT shouts, while CR7 was nowhere in the picture.
Messi posing with his Ballon d’ors.
It seemed like Ronaldo’s decision to leave a well-structured Manchester united team had backfired for him, almost as if his dream of playing for real Madrid came at a huge cost as he was announced as the eternal second best player behind Messi, almost as if there was no coming back from it.
Life is full of surprises, isn’t it? The year was 2013, it almost seemed like Lionel Messi winning the Ballon d’Or was inevitable now, But Cristiano Ronaldo had another trick up his sleeve, the Portuguese produced his best year ever, he notched up 69 goals in the calendar year while primarily playing as a winger in the La Liga and at last the streak was broken. Cristiano Ronaldo had won the Ballon d’Or for the second time, still, two behind Messi but people were aware that this is just a sign of things to come.
Ronaldo after winning the 2013 golden ball.
As I write this article today, Cristiano Ronaldo has effectively forced himself into the GOAT conversation, since 2013 he has won the golden ball 3 more times, the champions league 4 times, and tasted international glory with Portugal in the EUROs. These achievements put him on the same pedestal as Messi, while for some, even above the Argentine.
In fact, according to recent studies, Cristiano Ronaldo has outperformed Lionel Messi more times in a calendar year, but the brilliance of the Argentine cannot be ignored as he leads the race for the Ballon d’Or is one above his arch-rival. Some may wonder why is that the case, well that’s food for thought, has Ronaldo’s image in the media harmed his career while aiding Lionel Messi? we shall leave that to our readers as they form their own opinions.
Things as they stand now.
Ever since joining Juventus, Cristiano Ronaldo has added trophies from Italy into his cabinet while scoring more than 100 goals for his club side despite having a bleak midfield, Lionel Messi on the other hand clinched the 2019 Ballon d’Or despite Barcelona’s darkest phase over the past decades.
Both the players have failed to win the champions league over the past 3 seasons, with both being victims of mediocrity around them in their respective teams. However, the fascinating fact remains that while Messi has won the Ballon d’Or despite not winning the UCL, while Ronaldo has been a victim of his standards, as his impressive stats and numbers have been largely neglected because of the shortcomings for Juventus in their Champions League campaigns.
As things stand, Messi is the front runner for the Ballon d’Or once again alongside Robert Lewandowski, while Ronaldo is caught in a tough spot despite being the top scorer of his league at the age of 36.
There’s a good chance that the Argentine will rack up another golden ball, taking him two clear of CR7, but this rivalry is far from over and nobody would want to make the mistake of writing off the Portuguese legend once again. The best would be to enjoy these legends as they enter the final stages of their careers.