Early years of football rivalryEl ClasicoThe denouement of football rivalrySkills comparison


Early years of football rivalry


The monumental clash began in 2008 when Ronaldo claimed his very first Ballon d’Or award while still a striker for the Premier League club Manchester United. However, the ember that really sparked the competition was Ronaldo’s critical move to the Santiago Bernabeu, which sealed his fate at the club that would eventually change his life forever. 


Ronaldo’s move to Real Madrid meant that he would become the direct opponent of Barcelona’s fiercest warrior, Messi. From that standpoint, a true football rivalry began when both athletes faced off on the Spanish La Liga pitch. 


Eventually, Pep Guardiola became the coach of Barcelona and helped the team clinch two Champions League titles, one in 2009 and one in 2011. Guardiola helped Barca become the best XI in European football and forged Messi into the footballing demigod that he is now. 


El Clasico


Barcelona dominated the Spanish La Liga for years while the Los Blancos stayed in the shadows. However, the tides turned when Jose Mourinho was hailed as Real Madrid’s new manager in 2010. In 2012, he became instrumental in leading the Los Blancos to win their first La Liga title since 2008. 


El Clasico is nothing without Messi and Ronaldo.


Ronaldo gained leverage over his Argentine opponent when he led the Los Blancos to European glory in 2013 under the tutelage of Mourinho. Barca slowly diminished in the shadows, and the clash ended when Guardiola ultimately left Barcelona. 


From 2014 to 2018, the football rivalry was revived, with both players locked in a dance of one-upping each other with a series of domestic and international achievements. Real Madrid eventually won the Champions League four times, while Barcelona won just one in 2015. 


The denouement of football rivalry


As of 2019, Ronaldo was awarded several Ballon d’Or trophies for his work in the 2013, 2014, 2016, and 2017 seasons, with Messi only claiming 2015. 


The major factor contributing to the gradual decline of the ultimate competition of the century was each player’s transfer to their respective clubs outside of La Liga. Ronaldo went to the Italian club Juventus, while Messi signed on to the French club Paris Saint-Germain, where he was reunited with his former Barca teammate, Neymar Jr. 


A new 💎 in Paris !


— Paris Saint-Germain (@PSG_inside) August 10, 2021


The football rivalry ultimately ended when each of our heroes transferred to a domestic league outside Europe. Ronaldo moved to Saudi Arabian League club Al Nassr in December 2022, while Messi went to American Major League Soccer club Inter Miami in July 2023. 


Messi won his first FIFA World Cup title in the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. Meanwhile, his archnemesis, Ronaldo, continues to be the top goalscorer in the world. 


Skills comparison


Ronaldo and Messi have equal achievements in both the domestic and international realms of football. However, there was a clear contrast between the two GOATs in terms of playing style. 


Both Messi and Ronaldo have a fair share of Ballon d’Or awards.


Among the two, Messi was considered to possess pure talent in football. Despite being diminutive in size, his flexibility on the pitch allowed him to change the trajectory of the ball to whatever direction he wanted to. Additionally, his dribbling ability is unmatchable, and he has an innate capability to analyze the field to devise the right strategy. 


On the other hand, Ronaldo is known for his brute force on the football field. He is a fast learner and studied the technical requirements needed in playmaking. All of his goals are based on hard work and learning. Ultimately, he is a powerful striker and able to make accurate shots with dramatic effects.


Combined with what we learned, we can conclude that Messi is a genius and Ronaldo is a warrior. Aside from the Maradona-Pele era, the Messi-Ronaldo football rivalry will forever be etched in the minds of sports enthusiasts. Seeing those two face off on the pitch is a marvel; now that the clash is over, it is time for younger talents to emerge. 

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