At the mention of the names of Christiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, the world of football must surely stand at an attention. Unarguably, these duo have recorded amazing feats and records that will take years and exceptional talents to replicate or surpass. Both are two of the most decorated footballers ever, with a total of 69 combined trophies to their credit (Messi- 35, Ronaldo-34). It was also a norm for them to break the 50-goal barrier in a season and are amongst the eight players who have scored over 700 goals for club and country.

However, one of the most popular and controversial issues in football today is the discourse on these two contemporaries, whose records and success goes toe-to-toe. You are either a ‘Messi’ fan or Ronaldo’s, as if they are an entire football club all by themselves. The rivalry goes on and on, as we witness loud and bitter arguments each time an occasion demands such; whether during club league matches, the nations’ cup or the world cup. Worse still, it might just pop up as a random and protracted argument.

Ronaldo has been eulogised for his physical attributes, goalscoring ability, leadership qualities and performance under pressure while Messi is praised for his combination of dribbling, playmaking, passing and goalscoring. Ronaldo has also been described as sometimes haughty and temperamental while Messi is considered to be the exact opposite.

A chunk of fans loyal to Ronaldo are adjudged to be mostly Manchester United’s fans, owing to the fact that the Portuguese once played (although now back) for the club and was a huge success, to the point of him clinching the ballon d’or prize for the first time as a player in the club before leaving for Real Madrid in 2009. It is also believed that a large number of Real Madrid fans are his loyal followers.

On the other hand, Messi draws supporters mainly from the Barcelona team, where he started his major career and spent 21 years before leaving for the french side, Paris saint Germain in 2021.

Ironically, just as the talents and skills of these footballers have made them a delight of many, it has equally made them the bitter enemies of the respective rivals. A good instance was when Messi sank Manchester United’s dream of winning the Champions league in 2009 and 2011 in Rome and Wembley respectively. It is widely believed that the Reds still harbour some grudges with the Argentine till date and are always on the lookout for any avenue to troll him for any mistake or unpleasant situation.

Recently, the rivalry had deepened among the fans, owing to the lead that Messi now has over Ronaldo in terms of trophies and awards. Messi has seven Ballon d’ors as against Ronaldo’s five, six FIFA World’s Best Player awards to Ronaldo’s five, and six European Golden Shoes to Ronaldo’s four. This had made many Ronaldo fans to question the credibility of these awards while also arguing that it has been favouring the Argentine recently.

As expected, the way both have crashed out of the UEFA champions league this year has again raised some dust. This is happening for the second consecutive time with the pundits and media asking if it is the end of an era. But whether it is the end of an era or not, the rivalry seems not to have subsided, even when both players now play in different leagues, as opposed to when they were still in the Spanish La liga and the extraordinary nights of El-Clasico brings the height of rivalry to the screens.

Last week, when Messi’s PSG were shown the way out by the ruthless Real Madrid, the rivals had course to rejoice and voiced out their distaste for the player. Some of them even boasted that Ronaldo always scores an hattrick against Atletico Madrid and yesterday’s match won’t be an exemption. However, when Ronaldo’s Manchester United were handed their own fair share of the ordeal, it became the turn of the rivals to troll and provoke his supporters via inflammatory comments and posts, just like they(Ronaldo’s fans) did last week. It was indeed a balanced act of fate.

This then begs the question, when will this rivalry end? Ronaldo clocked 37 this year and Messi is 35 and both have not even hinted on their retirement from football. It was even believed in some quarters that Ronaldo’s aim is to retire with more laurels than Messi. With this, I think we’ve not even neared the last days of this rivalry. Even when they both retire from active football and each then decides to take on the coaching job, which is very likely, the rivalry might persist in some form. Therefore, as long as the duo still have some business to do with the pitch, whether as player or anything else, there is no foreseeable end to their rivalry!

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