In May 2009, the Olimpico witnessed Lionel Messi score for Barcelona against Cristiano Ronaldo’s Manchester United in the Champions League Final, the first goal to be scored by the rivals against each other. Forty goals and 32 matches later, they treated us to some of the most entertaining football in recent times as they both sought to be the best of all time.
That defeat was the last time Ronaldo would play in the red jersey of United. The following summer, he broke the first of many records at Real Madrid, a transfer fee of €94m - the most paid for a player at that time which held a buyout clause of €1bn.
After winning everything possible with the Red Devils, Ronaldo’s first season at the Santiago Bernabeu added no trophies to the cabinet, despite playing alongside the greats of Kaka, Xabi Alonso and Raul Gonzalez. Madrid were trumped by Messi and Barca just by three points, and the Catalans completed the double over their rivals. The Argentine also netted 34 times that season, winning the Golden Boot during the 2009-10 season. Following a highly-entertaining season from the two table-topping rivals, the pair were relatively quiet at the 2010 World Cup. Argentina exited at the quarter-final stage with a 4-0 loss to Germany, their talisman failing to score while Spain defeated Portugal in the Round of 16.
The following season saw the dominance of Barca and Madrid once more, Valencia were their closest rivals, however - some 21 points adrift from second place. Both sides recorded the highest score margins of the season, attempting to assert their dominance in La Liga - which you can bet on with LaBa360.co.uk. Madrid beat Malaga 7-0, whereas the Blaugrana triumphed at Almeria 8-1. Pep Guardiola’s then-side secured a third-consecutive League title and stayed top of the pile from November, when Los Blancos were outclassed 5-0 at Camp Nou. The result was one of the record number of consecutive wins (16) in the Spanish top flight that season. Later in the season, the pair met for the first time on the international stage. A last-minute Argentina penalty scored by Messi ensured victory, despite Ronaldo equalising for Portugal earlier on.
Ronaldo’s Madrid won La Liga for a record 32nd time in an emphatic campaign, which saw Jose Mourinho’s team win the title with a joint-record number of points (100), as well as scoring the most amount of goals in a season (121). However, despite Ronaldo scoring 46 goals that season, Messi scored 50, making him the first-ever person to score 50 goals in a single season in any major European League. This was also the fourth consecutive time that the Barca forward had won the Ballon d’Or, with Ronaldo runner-up.
Seemingly it was a battle for European domination between Madrid and Barca as it was between Messi and Ronaldo, the closest rivalry to be regarded as ‘the best’ many will have ever seen in football. The Catalans fired back the following season, equalling the point tally (100) that Madrid set the following season and eclipsing Ronaldo’s Madrid by 15 points. During the 12-13 campaign, Messi rounded off 2012 with the most goals scored for a club in a calendar year (59). Despite this, the Ballon d’Or pendulum swung back towards Ronaldo for the second time since 2008, ending Messi’s grip on the prestigious award.
The following 13-14 season was celebrated by Madrid, not just Real though as Atletico won the League under Diego Simeone for the first time in 18 years. Los Blancos also won the Champions League for the first time in 12 years, defeating Los Rojiblancos in the final. Ronaldo won the Ballon d’Or for a second successive year following a mesmerising season, while also managing to surpass Messi’s record of 14 goals in a single Champions League season, netting an incredible 17 times. He also won La Liga’s Pichichi the same season, firing 31 goals, with Messi close behind on 28. Both global icons also stamped their mark on the Clasico, especially the latter one of the campaign at the Santiago Bernabeu, finishing 4-3 to Barca which saw Lionel Messi score a hat-trick, assuring Madrid would take no points from either Clasico that season. Messi took his scoring form at the end of the season into the World Cup, scoring on four occasions, despite falling at the last hurdle to Germany in extra time of the Final.
Following a heart-breaking World Cup for Messi, the Argentine responded impressively, recapturing the form that he displayed in the previous season in an attempt to defend Barcelona’s League title. Despite an impressive, 43-goal season from Messi, Ronaldo managed 48, which included him scoring five goals in a single game for the first time in his career, consisting of an eight-minute hat-trick against Girona. Despite this, Ronaldo was unable to secure the title for Madrid. Luis Enrique’s side pulled off a historic second Treble, winning La Liga, the Copa del Rey and Champions League. Their success was largely down to their front three with Messi, Neymar and new signing Luis Suarez, scoring 122 goals between them in all competitions to become MSN - the trio with the most goals in Spanish footballing history.
Ronaldo started off the 15-16 season in impressive form yet again, surpassing Raul and becoming Madrid’s all-time scorer in all competitions after a five-goal haul against Espanyol. The same season, Ronaldo broke another record, becoming the top scorer in the Champions League. The Catalans, however, remained victorious, securing consecutive Liga titles, despite the lead over Real Madrid being just a single point. During the same season, Messi tallied over 300 Liga goals, earning himself his fifth Ballon d’Or, two more than any other player. Ronaldo became the first one of the pair to win an international trophy, whereas Portugal were winning against France at their own European Championship after Ronaldo had to be substituted due to injury, having left the pitch in tears in the first-half. Despite this, his Portugal side went on to win in extra time, with a goal coming from Eder. That same year, Ronaldo became Portugal’s most-capped player of all time, as well as the country’s leading goalscorer, overtaking former Deportivo La Coruna striker Pauleta.
Madrid secured their 33rd Liga title for the first time since the 11-12 season under club legend Zinedine Zidane, beating Barcelona by three points in the 16-17 campaign. Meanwhile, Messi secured his fourth Pichichi following another impressive campaign, finishing up with 37 goals in 34 appearances. Ronaldo also maintained his incredible goalscoring record with his 500th in his career during the FIFA Club World Cup against Club America. CR7 also claimed his fourth Ballon d’Or that year, largely down to the international success that Portugal had enjoyed at the Euros.
The 17-18 season saw defending champions Madrid finish third, behind Atletico and Barca, who cruised to the championship, as well as beating Sevilla in the Copa del Rey Final, winning the trophy for the fourth consecutive time. Following that domestic double, Messi also scored 34 League goals that term, making him the record holder for the highest number of Golden Boots ever received in La Liga (5). Elsewhere, Ronaldo and Madrid were making records themselves. Not only were they the only side to win back-to-back Champions Leagues but Zidane’s side also beat their own record and won it three seasons in a row. Ronaldo finished the campaign as the tournament’s top scorer for the sixth consecutive season, finishing on 14 goals. One of the most exhilarating Clasico’s of late was Madrid’s 3-1 victory at Camp Nou in the Supercopa first leg, Ronaldo scored Los Merengues’ second goal but was cautioned for his extravagant goalscoring celebration, before shoving the referee. He was issued with a five-match ban following the game. However, the duo suffered at the 2018 World Cup. It became apparent to all that when both Argentina and Portugal went out from the last-16 stage, one player couldn’t consistently carry a whole team to international success.