The Lionel Messi – Cristiano Ronaldo rivalry, particularly developed during the time the two players played for FC Barcelona and Real Madrid, has dominated world football for the past 15-20 years. Both achieved incredible numbers and performances. Today they are among the eight players who have scored over 700 goals each in their entire careers, in all competitions. They always sought to surpass themselves and are considered two of the best players of all time. Without a doubt, this rivalry can enter an all-time Top 5 in world sport, along with other famous battles, such as Roger Federer vs. Rafael Nadal or Muhammad Ali vs. Joe Frazier. They are rivalries that have created a sensation, have been followed with all their hearts by fans, journalists, and specialists, and have always launched the challenge: Who is the best?
We will not seek to argue now who is the GOAT, Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo. Most are already tipping the scales towards the Argentine star, he has won the Ballon d’Or seven times, compared to the Portuguese, who has won the trophy five times. In the number of podium finishes in this hierarchy, the score is 13-12. Each of them showed incredible qualities over time, they stood out in many chapters. Instead, something else is now attracting attention. The fact that the Lionel Messi – Cristiano Ronaldo rivalry will probably consume its last great chapter at the FIFA World Cup in Qatar. And both are insanely motivated to win the competition, especially that the World Cup trophy is the only thing missing from their exceptional record.
2021/22 season, the first in 17 years without Messi and Ronaldo in the same club competition
The 2021/22 season was the first in 17 years since Messi and Ronaldo did not meet on the way in club level competitions. Even before the Portuguese’s arrival at Real Madrid or his departure to Juventus and later his return to Manchester United, the two giants of football crossed paths, at least from a distance, in the UEFA Champions League. In the current season, Manchester United, Cristiano Ronaldo’s team, missed out on the UEFA Champions League. He also failed to move to another team in the summer, although he sought to reach a UEFA Champions League qualified team. So, the “flame” of this rivalry may have died out. But the FIFA World Cup in Qatar is sure to step it up again. Why? Because we could probably witness the last great battle between Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.
The Argentine star, now 35, has announced that he will not play in another FIFA World Cup apart from the one in Qatar, although he may play for Argentina at the Copa America in 2024. “This will be my last World Cup, surely. The decision has been made,” Messi said recently in an interview. The last FIFA World Cup could be played also by Cristiano Ronaldo, who is 2 years older than his rival.
Messi and Ronaldo at the FIFA World Cup
The final tournament in Qatar will therefore be the last chance for both Messi and Ronaldo to get their hands on the most coveted trophy in football. Both footballers will play in the fifth edition of the FIFA World Cup.
The PSG star came close to winning in 2014 when Argentina lost the final to Germany 1-0 after extra time.
Lionel Messi played in 19 matches and scored 6 goals. All of them have come in group matches. At the 2014 edition, he also received the Golden Ball award. He is already approaching 90 goals for the Argentine national team, being the best scorer in history. At the national team level, only Cristiano Ronaldo (117 goals) and Iran’s Ali Daei (109 goals) surpass him. In the history of the World Cup, Messi is surpassed by Gabriel Batistuta (10 goals from 12 matches), Diego Maradona (8 goals in 21 matches) and Guillermo Stabile (8 goals in 4 matches). Messi became Argentina’s youngest scorer at the FIFA World Cup, at 18 years and 357 days old, when he scored at the 2006 FIFA World Cup in Germany against Serbia and Montenegro. He came off the bench in the 75th minute.
Cristiano Ronaldo has scored seven goals in 17 matches at the FIFA World Cup, including a hat-trick against Spain in the 2018 edition. He scored in every edition he has played. The furthest in the competition was in 2006, when Portugal qualified for the semi-finals and finished in 4th place. The Manchester United star is now the all-time top scorer at the national team level with 117 goals. Ronaldo is today also the only man to score more than 800 goals for club and country. But CR7 is not the best scorer in the history of Portugal at the FIFA World Cup. Ronaldo needs three more goals at the FIFA World Cup 2022 to surpass the legendary Eusebio, who has nine FIFA World Cup goals.
Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo have not won the FIFA World Cup yet, but they have a great triumph with the national team. The Argentine won the Copa America in 2021, and the Portuguese led his country to UEFA European Championship triumph in 2016. Also, he won UEFA Nations League title in 2018-19. Now, both stars have very good teams around them, with which they can also dream of winning the FIFA World Cup 2022.
Messi and Ronaldo can face each other in the quarter-finals at the earliest
At the final tournament in Qatar, Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo can face each other in the quarter-finals at the earliest. Argentina and Portugal are in different halves of the draw. The South American national team will play in Group C, against Saudi Arabia, Mexico and Poland. In the round of 16, possible opponents can be France or Denmark. The representative of Europe is in Group H and will theoretically have more difficult opponents in the first phase: Ghana, Uruguay, and South Korea. In the round of 16, a possible opponent can be Brazil. Regardless of the opponents that Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo will face, their motivation will be the same, huge. For them, there is only one option: victory. But only one can become a champion. So, FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 brings The Last World Duel: Messi vs Ronaldo.