The End of an Era: Reflecting on the Messi-Ronaldo Rivalry and the Legacy Left Behind
On Facebook, on their verified page, Real Madrid had written in that announcement, "Based on Cristiano Ronaldo's desire and request, Real Madrid informs that the club has given him permission to join Juventus. Real Madrid officially wants to express gratitude to a player who has presented himself as the best in the world, leaving his mark in the club's best times and in the world of football..."
Messi-Ronaldo supporters also saw the other side of the coin that day. On one side, there was rivalry, which had become golden in the history of football. On the other side? When it comes to writing about that side, the rivalry turns upside down! It's just like a Tom and Jerry cartoon example. If Tom is not at home, Jerry misses him. Or vice versa. But their enmity is not the end. Okay, seeing them together, you would never think that Tom and Jerry are actually a pair. They are extremely incomplete without each other!
Messi-Ronaldo is the same. A pair. The history of the eternal rivalry in the history of football was written by those addicts. But one day Ronaldo's addiction ended. There was no negotiation with Real about salary. Ronaldo said, 'I'm leaving!' That statement not only shook Real but also touched Messi's heart. Whether it's playing alongside each other or against each other, they both like it! By leaving Real too, the last page of the history of the eternal rivalry in football was officially written. When? On this day five years ago.
This day is about the memory of Messi-Ronaldo supporters. Five years ago, at 10:59 PM according to Bangladesh time, Real Madrid made that announcement on Facebook. La Liga had seen eye-to-eye rivalry between the two for nine years, and that was the end of that chapter. After that, Messi-Ronaldo encounters took place in the Champions League. But before the fire of rivalry was extinguished, they didn't have much of that experience in the gentle breeze. After leaving Real in 2018, Ronaldo toured Juventus, Manchester United, and now Saudi Arabia's club, Al Nassr, in these five years. Messi stayed in Spain for three years, leaving Barcelona in 2021 to join PSG. How has Messi's time been since then?
PSG took Messi to win the Champions League. However, Messi couldn't fulfill his ultimate goal even though PSG won the league. They both heard it from the results of the last season. They were forbidden. Even before the season ended, there was a buzz about their reunion. Whether Al Hilal wants Messi—rumors were circulating in European media. Many have also dreamed of witnessing the new version of the "Saudi Classico" between Messi and Ronaldo! But Messi probably doesn't yearn for anything other than the national team. It can be understood. After retiring from the national team, he didn't look back and only returned to this. However, Ronaldo didn't return to Messi. That never happened in the Tom and Jerry scenario. Actually, cartoons and human characters are not the same! The reins of imagination need to be loosened a bit to say that cartoons do what they do, but humans are not like that. Humans are proud, like Lionel Messi.
In the professional world, the passion doesn't manifest as openly outside the football field. It's not someone's concern for someone else. And if it's the greatest personal rivalry of all time, then there's no question about it. And imagine the business generated by it! These characters have to be strong and intense. In July 2018, just a month after Ronaldo's announcement, Messi wore a smile on his face. On September 4, he told Catalunya Radio, "I'm amazed. I didn't think he would leave Real. La Liga, El Clasico, and our rivalry took a step forward."
As for the reins of imagination, let them go a little—after Ronaldo's announcement of leaving Real, Messi knew that this epic race of rivalry would end here. The best two players of the same league and eternal rivals, almost a decade of their rivalry would come to an end here. The legacy of their rivalry in La Liga cannot be revived anywhere else. It's not possible even for age, popularity, and the culture of football. That one decade became a part of many people's daily lives, a topic of discussion that resonated with the same tone among supporters. Restoring that in another place is not possible. Messi sought his "revenge." Revenge against whom?
There is no way to know what's going on in Messi's mind. However, looking at both sides, it can be assumed that Messi wanted Ronaldo to stay at Real. Ronaldo didn't stay. So Messi didn't want to do the "favor" of helping Ronaldo, who managed to surpass him by scoring thirty-one goals in Saudi football. Even if Messi returns to the national team, who knows if he has read the story of "Hemanti," so he knows that "relinquishing rights and holding on to power" doesn't lead to any progress. Is that why he didn't help Ronaldo?
Messi, overcoming that nostalgic conflict, has joined Inter Miami. While Ronaldo is busy changing the map of Saudi football on one side of the world, Messi is preparing to take American football a step further. From above, it seems that their work is the same—after reaching fame, both have taken the responsibility of pushing the football of their respective countries forward in their old age. Just like Pelé, Beckham, Zico did. So no matter what statistics say, no one is far behind anyone after that "pair" was separated. Fate is favoring them as well.
Seven years ago, Ronaldo won the first major trophy as Portugal in Euro 2016. Messi, as an Argentine, won the first major trophy Copa America two years ago. Today is the day when both have won the first major trophy for their respective countries. And see what a coincidence, on this day, that "pair" of their rivalry officially ended! Then the waves have gone far. Messi, by winning the World Cup, has gone ahead in the battle of supremacy in the eyes of some. That argument remains today. Today, let's raise another argument instead. From the 2009-2010 season to the 2017-2018 season, in these nine seasons, Ronaldo has scored 450 goals in 438 matches in Spanish football and European club football. Messi has scored 472 goals in 476 matches. Who has the edge during that time?
The answer to this question is given by Sir Brian May, a member of the band Queen, a songwriter, singer, and guitarist. He was once asked, who is the best guitarist in the world? Brian, who was included in the list of all-time best guitarists, said, "Who is the best cannot be determined. Playing the guitar is a beautiful thing, and everyone's style of playing is different. Who is the best cannot be determined. But I like hearing the question."
Even though it's not as formal as music, some people consider football as an art form as well. Even after Messi and Ronaldo became the best in that "arena," can comparisons still be made? Their styles of play are different!
Rather, a fantastic image is created by combining their styles of play. It's called La Liga. Inside it, there's a chart of who scored how many goals. There are also two dartboards filled with lots of darts. And there's a ball and two hammers. There's a list of records, where it's mentioned who scored how many goals and when they surpassed whom, all the details. And in the middle of the room, Messi stands, facing Ronaldo, turning his face and throwing away the Real jersey, walking out through the door. This imagined image is actually a cartoon. After Ronaldo left Real, Eurosport brought it.
In that one picture, the subject is clear. There will always be rivalry, that's why they stand tall today. But it's within the heat of this rivalry that their hearts have melted for each other. That's why they've become a "pair" like Tom and Jerry. Five years ago, after that pair was cut, is anyone doing well? Ronaldo hasn't won anything significant since leaving Real. He's fallen even from the podium. But Messi has won the World Cup as an Argentine. Yes, in Messi's language, winning the World Cup is the best moment of his life. But club football? Where both have left a hundred red and blue footprints and found and achieved—they can no longer see Messi in that field as before.
Can they be seen? If they're not playing together, there's still fun in playing!