5 reasons why Cristiano Ronaldo vs Lionel Messi is the greatest rivalry in football history

Anantaajith Ra

#3 Messi and Ronaldo's collection of major trophies

The collection of trophies Lionel Messi secured at Barcelona
The collection of trophies Lionel Messi secured at Barcelona

Both Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo have an incredible number of major trophies to their name which only further cements their legacy.

The Argentine won an incredible 10 La Liga titles, seven Copa del Reys and four UEFA Champions League titles with Barcelona, including two trebles. Additionally, he also secured eight Spanish Super Cups, three Club World Cups and three UEFA Super Cups. This takes his tally to 35 trophies in club football, making him one of the most decorated footballers of all time. Messi won the 2021 Copa America and also secured the U-20 FIFA World Cup and an Olympic gold medal with Argentina.

Ronaldo's trophy haul is equally impressive as well. Over the course of his career, the Portuguese has won domestic competitions in four different countries. Ronaldo first won a Portuguese Super Cup with Sporting Lisbon. He then went on to win three Premier League titles, an FA Cup, three League Cups, a Champions League title and two FA Community Shields in England.

Ronaldo followed it up with two La Liga titles, two Copa del Reys, two Spanish Super Cups and a staggering four Champions League titles with Real Madrid. Finally, he has also won two Serie A titles, two Italian Super Cups and an Italian Cup with Juventus.

Ronaldo also has five Champions League titles, three UEFA Super Cups and four Club World Cups, taking his club honors tally to 33. With the Portuguese national team, Ronaldo won the 2016 European Championships and the UEFA 2019 Nations League. That takes him up to 35 career honors - one less than Messi - but an equally impressive haul nonetheless.

#2 The inability to decide who is greater

Cristiano Ronaldo (center) and Lionel Messi (right) at The Best FIFA Football Awards show in 2017
Cristiano Ronaldo (center) and Lionel Messi (right) at The Best FIFA Football Awards show in 2017

One of the defining features of the rivalry between Messi and Ronaldo has been the inability of critics and pundits to definitively decide who is better. There are a host of footballing legends who believe Messi's creativity and artistic approach to the sport make him the superior footballer. But there are others who find it difficult to look beyond the all-round goalscorer that Ronaldo is and the fact that he has scored numerous clutch goals.

For instance, Pele, who has changed his mind numerous times, seems to lean towards Ronaldo. Meanwhile, Ronaldo's United teammate Paul Scholes prefers Messi. Similarly, Roberto Carlos, Zinedine Zidane and Iker Casillas have chosen the Portuguese over the Argentine. But at the same time, the likes of Jurgen Klopp, Marco van Basten and Fabio Capello tend to feel Messi's genius is a notch above Ronaldo's.

The common aspect in all of these legends' opinions is that they believe both Messi and Ronaldo are a level above the rest. At the end of the day, that is what makes them so special. The division in opinion simply proves there is no definitive way of saying one is better than the other. And that is the beauty of the Messi-Ronaldo rivalry that has dominated our TV screens for so many years.

#1 The manner in which Messi and Ronaldo revolutionized El Clasico

'El Clasico' is one of the most celebrated football clashes of all time. The rivalry between Barcelona and Real Madrid has seen several memorable moments over the last century. The matches between the two sides are always sprinkled with magic, controversy and intensity.

Who can forget Ronaldinho's incredible brace that got him a standing ovation at the Bernabeu? Or when Real thumped Barcelona 5-0 at the Bernabeu in 1995 with Barca's very own Michael Laudrup and Luis Enrique dropping a masterclass against their former side?

The introduction of Messi into this rivalry came back in the 2006-07 season. On his Clasico debut, the diminutive Argentine registered a hat-trick to give Barcelona a share of the spoils. On the whole, Messi played 45 matches against Real Madrid for the Catalans, scoring 26 goals and providing 14 assists.

Ronaldo entered the scene in 2009, featuring in a 1-0 loss for Los Blancos. While his introduction was not as impressive as Messi's, the Portuguese has had his fair share of moments in football's biggest rivalry. Overall, he played 30 matches for Real against Barcelona, scoring 18 goals and recording one assist.

The introduction of both players increased El Clasico's popularity significantly. What began as a sub-plot soon became the definitive cause for attraction. Fans tuned in in massive numbers for the matches, even if their club loyalties lay elsewhere across Spain and even Europe just to see the two magicians at work.

Beyond their statistics and results, Messi and Ronaldo provided sheer joy for football viewers and pundits through these matches. Both players have had several memorable moments and have single-handedly won Clasicos for their respective teams. But the major attraction was the phenomenon that involved two legendary footballers butting heads, fighting it out with the stakes flying through the roof.

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Edited by Vishal Subramanian
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