Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, two names synonymous with footballing greatness, have left an indelible mark on the beautiful game.
Their fierce rivalry, once a defining feature of football discourse, has now mellowed into a mutual respect, as they reflect on their remarkable journeys.
In a recent interview, Ronaldo acknowledged that they had “changed the history of football,” emphasizing the importance of respect and the evolution of their relationship.
“We are respected all over the world, that’s the most important thing,” Ronaldo said.
The history of their rivalry is the stuff of legend. For years, they competed at the highest level, representing two of Spain’s most storied clubs, Real Madrid and Barcelona.
These clashes were not merely matches; they were monumental showdowns, watched by millions around the world.
Ronaldo, a five-time Ballon d’Or winner, has seen his name etched in the annals of football history.
However, for the first time since 2003, he finds himself absent from the prestigious award’s shortlist.
Meanwhile, Messi, who could secure his eighth Ballon d’Or, continues to dazzle with his performances.
Despite the different paths their careers have taken, Ronaldo remains magnanimous, acknowledging Messi’s accomplishments.
He commented, “He makes his way, I make mine. He’s done well, from what I’ve seen. It’s about continuing; the legacy continues.”
When asked about the bitterness or hatred that often accompanies intense football rivalries, Ronaldo was quick to dispel such notions. He stated, “Those who like Cristiano Ronaldo don’t have to hate Messi. I don’t see the rivalry like that.”
In his view, the intense rivalry of the past has transformed into mutual respect. They may not be close friends, but they are professional colleagues who respect each other’s incredible talents.
Ronaldo and Messi have accumulated an astonishing array of silverware throughout their careers.
Ronaldo is Real Madrid’s all-time leading goalscorer, with a staggering 451 goals in 438 appearances and 16 trophies, including four UEFA Champions League titles and two La Liga titles during his nine-year spell at the Bernabeu.
On the other hand, Messi holds numerous records for Barcelona, scoring 674 goals in 781 appearances and securing 35 trophies, including ten La Liga titles and four Champions League trophies.
Their achievements extend to the international stage. Messi led Argentina to victory in the 2022 World Cup and claimed the Copa America, while Ronaldo lifted the European Championship and the Nations League with Portugal.
Their impact on the global stage further solidifies their status as legends of the sport.
Their head-to-head clashes on the pitch, spanning 36 meetings, provided some of football’s most memorable moments.
Their final face-off occurred in January when Messi, then playing for Paris St-Germain, defeated Ronaldo’s Riyadh Season XI 5-4 in a friendly match.
It was a fitting conclusion to a rivalry that had enthralled fans for over a decade.