The duopoly between Ronaldo and Lionel Messi is far from over but in the end, there will only be one winner.
At the moment, it looks more than likely that the prospective victor in the ongoing battle will be no other than Cristiano Ronaldo. Some gurus and experts in the sport depict him as a fine wine that tastes better as it jaunts through ages.
Others also see a spirited and ever-hungry perfectionist who settles for nothing but glory. This trait—which some often mistake for selfishness and arrogance—has bred consistent splendorous performances for more than a decade.
In much candor, the man we see doing the unimaginable for Portugal on the international stage and Real Madrid week-in-week-out would have probably fell off the rails had it not been for the emergence of Lionel Messi.
Nothing motivates a person to do more outside his comfort zone than the existence of a healthy competition. And that is exactly the tale with regards to Cristiano Ronaldo and his Argentine antagonist.
Ballon d’Or: (from 1-4 to 4-5)
Having won his first Ballon d’Or for his incredible achievements with Manchester United in 2008, Cristiano Ronaldo endured a four-year drought without touching the accolade. An ordinary conservative would have clutched and cuddled the shiny ball of gold in bed every morning and night without being aware of the conspicuous stench of mediocrity harbored in his room.
After all, one is enough, right? Well, try telling that to Cristiano Ronaldo! If anything could have hindered his melioration, it was Lionel Messi winning the award for a record-four time in succession from 2009 to 2012.
Nonetheless, aside the vague propaganda to paint him as the villain between himself and his competitor, Ronaldo has remarkably prevailed against odds to ingeminate his dominance in recent years.
Aside 2015 where Messi won the Ballon d’Or as a result of his side’s triumph in the UEFA Champions League, the Portuguese forward has never put a foot wrong as far as winning the prize is concerned.
What was a 1-4 lead in favor of Lionel Messi prior to 2013 will soon be a 5-5 tie, with Cristiano Ronaldo being the prospective winner for the 2017 edition of the award. Furthermore, the iconic forward looks set to add a second Best FIFA Men’s Player of the Year Award to his collection; a feat yet to be tasted by Lionel Messi.
That withstanding, here are 10 more scenarios in which Cristiano Ronaldo has made his Argentine competitor look inferior.
1. UCL Topscorer (from 45-58 to 105-94)
“I ALWAYS BELIEVED I WOULD BE THE FIRST PLAYER IN CHAMPIONS LEAGUE HISTORY TO SCORE 100 GOALS.”
The statement above was voiced by Cristiano Ronaldo to UEFA.com after his unprecedented feat in April 2017. The hypothesis from the case study back in 2013 was that his arch-nemesis Lionel Messi would possibly be the first player to score a century of goals in the European competition. Four years on, it is a different story inscribed in the history books.
In fairness, it was not due to the lack of goals as Messi managed to score a considerable number and even became the first to break the top scorer’s landmark of 71 goals set in the competition by former Galactico, Raul Gonzalez, as a result.
It was more or less down to who wanted it the most and, obviously, Ronaldo did. From 45 goals before 2013 to 105 at the end of the 2016/2017 UEFA Champions League season is certainly incredible. What makes it even sweeter is the fact that the man initially tipped to set the bar higher is still six goals short.
Borrowing the anecdote coined by Albert Einstein, history is indeed full of bad jokes!
2. UCL Top-goalscorer by season (from 1-4 to 6-5)
Another caption, another ‘L’ for Lionel! One might ask what happened. Well, it’s pretty much simple—Ronaldo did! Prior to the year 2013, the Portuguese striker had won the UEFA Champions League Topscorer award on just one occasion in his head-to-head combat with Messi.
It’s been a purple patch ever since as the 32-year-old talisman has dominated that category by winning the laurel five times. Lionel Messi’s only win from 2013 to 2017 was a tie between himself, Ronaldo and Neymar, as they all finished with 10 goals apiece
3. Golden Shoe (from 2-3 to 4-4)
The Golden Shoe is an award presented each season to the top-goalscorer of the domestic top-flight leagues across Europe. Since Cristiano Ronaldo won the prize as a Manchester United player in 2008, the spoils have been merited by a player based in La Liga.
The ex-Red Devil’s overall wins before 2013 were two, trailing Barcelona’s Lionel Messi by one. However, the four-time world’s best player has pushed further to increase his tally to four, with his Argentine nemesis only becoming par in the recently ended 2016/2017 season.
4. UEFA Champions League titles (from 1-3 to 4-4)
It took Cristiano Ronaldo five years to win his first UEFA Champions League trophy as a Madridista following his move from Manchester United. The Portuguese winger, alongside his teammates, has been overly dominant in the competition since that triumph in 2014.
Before Ronaldo completed his switch to Real Madrid in 2009, Lionel Messi had already won the trophy twice. Two years later, the Barcelona number 10 helped his side to yet another triumph in the final of the European competition to extend the advantage over CR7 to two trophies.
But the best was obviously yet to come considering the iconic number 7 and the rest of the Whites brigade have fought on to win the title three times after Messi’s feat. The Argentine, nonetheless, enjoyed a bit of an interlude as he managed to lead his side to the title via a 2-1 victory over Juventus in 2015.
However, the principal significance is the fact that just like most of the aforementioned categories, Lionel Messi bottled another lead to the tenacious Cristiano Ronaldo.
5. Hat-tricks scored in the UEFA Champions League (from 1-3 to 7-7)
“Omne trium perfectum,” is a Latin aphorism which translates to “good things come in threes”. Before 2013, Cristiano Ronaldo had only managed to score a hat-trick on just one occasion (against Ajax in 2012).
Lionel Messi, on the other hand, had three to his name (vs Arsenal in 2010, Viktor Plzen in 2011 and Bayer Leverkusen in 2012). Then, the insurgency began. What makes Ronaldo’s feat more special is the fact that he met tougher opponents than his nemesis did.
He was a handful for them and he emphatically obliterated each of them while breaking records in the process. Here is how and when Cristiano Ronaldo caught up with Lionel Messi:
Messi – Home vs Arsenal, 4-0 win, Quarter-finals, 2010
Ronaldo – Away at Ajax, 4-1 win, Group stage, 2012
Messi – Away at Viktoria Plzen, 4-0 win, Group stage, 2011
Ronaldo – Away at Galatasaray, 6-1 win, Group stage, 2013
Messi – Home vs Bayer Leverkusen, 7-1 win, Round of 16, 2012
Ronaldo – Home vs Shakhtar Donetsk, 4-0 win, Group stage, 2015
Messi – Home vs Ajax, 4-0 win, Group stage, 2013
Ronaldo – Home vs Malmo, 8-0 win, Group stage, 2015
Messi – Away at APOEL, 4-0 win, Group stage, 2014
Ronaldo – Home vs Wolfsburg, 3-0 win, Round of 16, 2016
Messi – Home vs Celtic, 7-0 win, Group stage, 2016
Ronaldo – Home vs Bayern Munich, 4-2 win, Quarter-finals, 2017
Messi – Home vs Man City, 4-0 win, Group stage, 2016
Ronaldo – Home vs Atletico Madrid, 3-0 win, Semi-finals, 2017
6. FIFA Club World Cup (from 1-2 to 3-3)
Just as in the UEFA Champions League, Cristiano Ronaldo had to wait five years before featuring in the FIFA Club World Cup for Real Madrid having participated and won the competition in 2008 with Manchester United.
His former side’s defeat to Barcelona in the final of the UEFA Champions League the following year prevented him from potentially winning his second successive inter-continental cup. The Catalans, eventually, went on to win the trophy to ensure that Messi had his first medal in the competition.
The Argentine added another to his collection two years later before Cristiano Ronaldo took the tally to two apiece in 2014. Messi took the lead again in 2015 but Real Madrid’s La Undecima exploit in 2016 provided the right avenue for Cristiano Ronaldo to get on level-pegging again.
Having won the Champions League back-to-back in 2017, the Portuguese superstar has the opportunity to take the contest to 4-3, come December 2017.
7. UEFA Super Cup (from 0-2 to 3-3)
After losing the UEFA Super Cup in 2008 to Zenith Saint Petersburg while at Manchester United, Cristiano Ronaldo had no option but to bounce back. Just like the previously mentioned competition, the iconic number 7 had to wait for five years in order to get his hands on the trophy.
Trailing by a difference of two trophies before 2013 to Lionel Messi, the Real Madrid all-time top-scorer reduced the deficit to just one in 2014. His Argentine nemesis extending the gap to two again in 2015 could have probably unsettled Ronaldo but sheer persistence ensured that he never gave up.
Before the beginning of the 2017/2018 league season, the four-time Ballon d’Or winner took the tie to three-all after winning the trophy for the second time in 2016.
8. Top-goalscorer in UCL Final (from 1-2 to 4-2)
“Ronaldo only scores against smaller teams,” they said. The four-time Ballon d’Or winner has scored as many goals as the number of Champions League finals he’s played in the last four years (3). Prior to that, the 32-year-old forward had just a goal to show for; his header against Chelsea in Manchester United’s victory in Moscow back in 2008.
Interestingly, the two goals scored by Lionel Messi in the final of the European competition have all come against Manchester United. The first was scored in Barca’s 2:1 win in 2009, while his second came in the Spanish club’s 3:1 win at Wembley in 2011. The forward has since played in just one final (vs Juventus in 2015) but failed to increase his tally despite his side’s victory.
9. International trophy (from 0:0 to 1:0)
To lose a final is one thing but to lose four on the go with three being consecutive is a more or less a monumental flaw. That is the sticky situation Lionel Messi has found himself in recent years. 2007, 2014, 2015 and 2016 are the years the Barcelona man failed to guide his nation to triumphs in the finals of the Copa America and the FIFA World Cup competitions.
For those who are myopic about the flops, here’s a little souvenir from the 30-year-old forward’s adventure in the final of the Copa America Centenario back in 2016:
Cristiano Ronaldo, on the other hand, fully utilized the second chance he got at winning a trophy for Portugal since that dramatic loss to Greece in Euro 2004. The iconic number 7, whose goals initially ensured that the Seleccao secured qualification from their group after finishing third, guided them to victory against France in the final of Euro 2016.
And he wasn’t even on the field for the majority of the game considering he was subbed off after getting injured in the early stages!
10. UEFA Men’s Player of the Year Award (from 1-2 to 4-3)
Here both Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi respectively won the UEFA Club Footballer of the Year award in 2008 and 2009 before it was rebranded to the UEFA Best Player in Europe Award in 2011. Following the renaming, Lionel Messi quickly picked up the first edition of the award.
His 2-1 lead was relinquished again after Cristiano Ronaldo stood tall in the 2014 edition. After Barcelona won the Champions League in 2015, the Argentine forward was bestowed the honor once more but his reign was short-lived as Cristiano Ronaldo restored parity again in 2016.
The name of the award was changed again to the UEFA Men’s Player of the Year Award in 2017 and guess who the victor was?!
Analyzing the fact that Cristiano Ronaldo defied the bookies to usurp Messi’s momentary dominance, any football fan who is still stuck with the narrative that “Ronaldo is finished” or “Ronaldo is the second best” should really take a look at him or herself in a mirror.
That withstanding, the rhetoric that Lionel Messi is younger than Cristiano and hence will soon regain the top spot as far as the records at stake are concerned will soon be established as a certified oxymoron. The only way that could happen is if his Portuguese nemesis decides to retire from the game as soon as possible.
However, we are all aware that it isn’t an option as Cristiano Ronaldo, even at his ‘old age’, has been putting in immense shifts week-in-week-out. His days of single-handedly tormenting defenses with his blistering pace and tricks may be no more but scoring goals has never been a problem for the iconic number 7.
In a nutshell, Messi has some mileage to cover if he indeed wants to end up as football’s greatest-ever because as long as Ronaldo exists whatever he does will never be enough. And to all the B fans out there, kindly apply cold water to the burnt areas!