Messi and Ronaldo have been arguably the two best footballers of the current generation. These two legendary players of modern-day football have not only been pushing the boundaries of greatness but also been jostling each other on every single matchday to create history.
They are the crux of almost every football discussion and are always taken for granted for scoring goals week in and week out. Well, the debate is everlasting and each side has their arguments to support their reason as which player deserves the throne of the best. The following article provides a complete synopsis of how these two players have evolved over their careers.
Messi started his career at the age of six at Newell’s Old Boys in his home town of Rosario, Argentina. At age 10 he was diagnosed with a growth hormone deficiency, the treatment for which his family found hard to afford, Newell’s agreed to contribute, but later reneged on their promise. Therefore, his parents started to look for options in and out of Argentina and Fc Barcelona, fit the bill. Signing his contract on a mere napkin, Messi moved to Barcelona, Spain at the age of 13 in February of 2001 with his family, though he was enrolled in the Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) in February 2002 only due to a transfer conflict with Newell’s.
First Team Debut In 2003
Messi made his First Team Debut in 2003 against Porto FC in a club-friendly and impressing the coaching staff, who promoted the later to reserve teams with frequent training sessions along with the first team. Initially, Messi struggled to find minutes to play in the First Team but finally got to make his League debut against Espanyol under then-manager Frank Rijjkard, in October 2004 at the age of 17 making him the youngest player to represent FC Barcelona. Messi also got to make his UEFA Champions League debut against Shakhtar Donetsk. His first Senior Team goal came on 1 May 2005, against Albacete, from an assist by Ronaldinho, then club’s star player. Messi signed his first contract as a senior team player in 2005 at age of 18, taking his buyout clause to €150 million. FC Barcelona in 2005 were at the risk of losing Messi as Inter Milan then was ready to payout his €150 million buyout clause and triple his salary, though Messi decided to stay in Barcelona itself.
Becoming a Starting 11 Player
Messi’s impressive performances gradually earned him a permanent place in the Starting 11 forming an attacking trio with Ronaldinho and Samuel Eto as a right-winger. Messi had scored 8 goals in 25 games, including his first in the Champions League, but due to injuries he was forced out of the squad and benched in the Champions League Final in 2006, which his team won after beating Arsenal.
Coming Into The Spotlight
Messi played an impressive 2006–07 campaign scoring 17 goals in 36 games across all competitions, though his injuries kept haunting him. March 2007 was the first time, Messi created history on the pitch as scored his first professional Hat-Trick against Real Madrid in his debut El Clásico match, equalising a 3 goal shortage to ten men down FC Barcelona. After Ronaldinho’s departure from the club, Messi became the club’s star player at an age of 20 and his efforts earned him recognition from the media, who voted him as the Third best Player for the 2007 Ballon d’Or, behind Kaká and runner-up Cristiano Ronaldo, thus starting his infamous competition with Cristiano.
Need For An Overhaul
After two unsuccessful years Messi, as well as FC Barcelona, were in the dire need of a complete overhaul. After the departure of coach Frank Rijjkard, the new manager Pep Guardiola came as a beam of hope. Messi scored 38 goals in 51 games for the 2008–09 season, which he played injury-free, winning all three major competitions, The La Liga, The Copa Del Rey and The UEFA Champions League. It was the first time in the history of Spanish football that a team had won a treble.
Pep’s Tactical Genius
The next season, Messi was shifted to a False 9 and role he effectively became the tactical focal point of Guardiola’s team and effectively increasing goalscoring rate. Messi scored 47 goals in all competitions for the 2010-11 season equalizing Ronaldo De Lima’s club record from the 1996–97 campaign. On 6th April, after scoring four goals in Champions League Quater final fixture against Arsenal, he became the club’s top goal scorer for the competition.
First Ballon d’Or
In 2009, Messi won his first of five Ballon d’Or awards, at the age of just 22. The next year in 2010, Messi also won the inaugural FIFA Ballon d’Or for which he faced criticism due to lack of success with The Argentine national team in the 2010 Fifa World Cup. Both times winning with great margins over Cristiano Ronaldo.
Breaking Records in 2012
2012 was THE YEAR for Messi, breaking several records he also won his fourth Ballon d’Or award. Messi scored 91 goals in the calendar year 2012, earning him the Guinness World Records title for most goals scored in a calendar year, breaking the 40-year-old record held by Gerd Müller with 85 goals, also his 73 goals in all competitions surpassed Gerd Müller’s 67 goals in the 1972–73 Bundesliga season, making him the season top scorer in the history of European club football.
Ill Fate With National Team
During the 2014 world cup, all eyes were on Messi and his national Argentine team as they reached the Finals only to lose to German national team. The Argentine faced their ill-luck once again after losing to Chile in both 2015 and 2016 Copa America finals, with Messi announcing his retirement from international football. Following his announcement, a campaign began in Argentina for Messi to change his mind about retiring, and then Argentina President stated “We are lucky, it is one of life’s pleasures, it is a gift from God to have the best player in the world in a footballing country like ours… Lionel Messi is the greatest thing we have in Argentina and we must take care of him.”, starting the “Don’t Go Leo” campaign forcing him to come back from retirement.
Second Treble 2014-15
On 22nd November, Messi became the La Liga’s top goal scorer after netting a hat-trick against Seville FC under new coach and former Barcelona captain Luis Enrique. It was this season in which the world got the first glimpse of the deadly attacking trio of Messi, Suarez and Neymar a.k.a MSN, winning the Champions League, the La Liga and the Copa Del Rey with Messi later winning his fifth Ballon d’Or award.
2018-19 Another Fantastic Season with bitter Ending
2018 was another record-breaking season for Messi as he became the Captain for his F.C Barcelona side leading the team and winning his 10th La Liga title and Record Sixth Golden Boot, but the season had a bitter ending as his side were knocked out by Liverpool in Champions League Semi-Finals and they also faced a humiliating loss to Valencia F.C in the Copa Del Rey Finals.
Cristiano started his career as a child with amateur team Andorinha, before moving to the Sporting CP academy in Lisbon at age 12. At the age of 14, Ronaldo was diagnosed with the “Racing Heart”, which could have been an end to his football career. Ronaldo was bound to greatness as he was making records at just the age of 16 becoming the only player to play for the U-16, U-17, U-18, the B-team and the First team all in the same season. Ronaldo generated interest from all top-notch clubs like Barcelona, Liverpool and Arsenal but chose to stay at Sporting only.
2003 Move To Manchester
It was in 2003, Ronaldo decided to move away from Sporting CP to Manchester United due to United’s coach Sir Alex Ferguson keen interest in him. In 2003 itself, Ronaldo made his Manchester United debut against Bolton Wanderers in a comfortable 4-0 home win. Ronaldo scored his first goal for Manchester United with an unbelievable free-kick in a 3–0 win over Portsmouth.
Breakthrough in 2006
2006-07 was the breakout season for Ronaldo as this was the first time he broke the 20 goal limit and won his first Premier League title and helped United reach the FA Cup Final, but at the end losing 1-0 to Chelsea.
Best Season for United
The stage was set for Ronaldo in 2007, as this was by far the best season for him and Manchester United, scoring a staggering 42 goals in all competitions combined and at last winning the Uefa Champions League. He also became the first player to win all four main Professional Footballers’ Association(PFA) and Football Writers’ Association(FWA) honours.
Winning The Ballon d’Or
After his explosive 2007-08 season, Ronaldo won his first Ballon d’Or in 2008, finishing way up on points from Barcelona’s Lionel Messi. He became the only United player to win the Ballon d’Or after George Best in 1968.
Move To Real Madrid
In 2009 Ronaldo joined Real Madrid for then world-record transfer fees of €94 million, kick-starting his famous rivalry with Barcelona’s Messi. Ronaldo debuted in La Liga on 29 August 2009, against a combative Deportivo La Coruña, and scored from the penalty spot. Ronaldo finished the campaign with 33 goals in all competitions combined, though the first season at Real Madrid ended trophy less., thanks to Barcelona’s treble season.
With a record 17 goals under his name, Ronaldo helped Real Madrid lift their tenth Champions League Title and thus been named the UEFA Best Player in Europe and also received the FIFA Ballon d’Or. He ended his season with 69 goals in 59 appearances, his best season for Real Madrid.
The Euro 2016 win was no less than a fairytale for Ronaldo and his Portugal side. Finishing third in their group they somehow managed to qualify for the knockout stages of the tournament. Ronaldo also became the first player to score in four European Championships but the saga had a twist as Ronaldo was stretchered off the pitch, still, his Portugal national team managed to beat the French team and win the first major tournament in their history.
The Champions League Three-Peat
Real Madrid under the management of Zinedine Zidane became the first team to win the Champions League consecutively for three times. Ronaldo won his fifth Champions League title and became the tournament’s all-time top goalscorer.
Move To Juventus
In 2018, Ronaldo stunned the whole world after his €100 million transfer to the Italian giants, making him the most expensive player above the age of 30. Ronaldo cited that his reason for joining Juventus was his search for a new challenge, but later accepted it was mainly due to a lack of support from Real Madrid’d Club President Florentino Pérez.