Ali Ashhar is a poet, short story writer and columnist. His works appear in Indian Review, The Raven Review, Bosphorus Review of Books, among others.
How Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi Enthralled the Football World
FIFA World Cup 2022 recently concluded in Qatar. This was one of the most thrilling editions ever. Watching Asian teams dominate European and South American teams in the group stage left everyone exhilarated. It was a dream for the likes of Ronaldo, Messi, and Neymar, among others to win this coveted trophy. With Portugal and Brazil getting knocked out in the Quarter-finals; it was Lionel Messi, who got the privilege of turning his dreams into reality. For the finals, it was more of Messi versus Mbappe, and the world witnessed one of the most entertaining finals ever. In the end, it was Argentina led by the magnificent Messi who got the upper hand. Messi not only led his team to World Cup glory after 26 years but also became the only player in history to win the prestigious World Cup Golden Ball two times.
With the conclusion of this World Cup, one thing we can’t overlook is how the humongous rivalry between Messi and Ronaldo has entertained us over the decade. It started back in the year 2008 when Ronaldo was scintillating enough to win his first Ballon d'Or. What followed next was a saga of rivalry: Messi became the only player in history to win four Ballon D’or consecutively. He won it in 2009, 2010, 2011, and 2012. He also won a continental treble with FC Barcelona in 2009. Winning back-to-back Ballon D’or made Messi lead the race to the GOAT (greatest of all time) title. Meanwhile, Ronaldo was having a tough time having not won the Champions League or Ballon D'or since 2008. During UEFA Champions League 2012, Ronaldo’s club Real Madrid was knocked-out by Bayern Munich in the Semifinals. Cristiano Ronaldo made a promise and told the world that he owes Real Madrid a Champions League and he won’t fail them. The following seasons, Real Madrid went on to win four Champions League in five years from 2013-2018 with a stellar performance from Cristiano in all four seasons.
Cristiano Ronaldo became the highest goal-scoring player in a single season of the Champions League during 2013-14 with 17 goals which were followed by 16 goals during the 2015-16 season. He was the top-scorer during Real Madrid’s triumph of the 2017-18 season. Ronaldo shone on all horizons as he clinched the prestigious Euro Cup in 2016 with Portugal. This was also his first international trophy with the Portuguese Football Team. In 2017, the scorecard of Ballon D’or settled to 5-5 with Ronaldo winning his fifth Ballon D’or trophy in December 2017, which Messi won back in January 2016. At this stage, Ronaldo was undoubtedly having the upper hand. Meanwhile, Messi was having a tough time after missing a penalty in the finals of the Copa America tournament against Chile in 2016 and bottling the chance of winning his first international trophy. The debacle of the dramatic Copa America final led to Messi's retirement. However, Messi made up his mind and decided to don the Argentine jersey once again. Now, fate took another turn in the chapter of this epic rivalry in 2019, when Messi became the only player to win six Ballon D'or in the history of football.
Messi carried on with magnificence and two years later his unyielding persistence bore fruits and Argentina won the Copa America 2021 by beating the heavyweights, Brazil in the finals. This is a huge moment for Messi and Argentina after a couple of setbacks in Copa America. Winning Copa America meant a lot to Messi. Messi went on to win the Ballon D'or for a record seventh time. Now, there was no stopping for the Argentine prodigy. Argentina was already on a rampant winning streak before starting their Qatar World Cup campaign. Messi's teammates vowed to leave no stone left unturned in winning the coveted prize for Messi. Despite starting the tournament with a setback loss to Saudi Arabia, Argentina went on to clinch their third World Cup trophy since 1986. On December 18, 2022, Messi fulfilled the dream of millions of Argentines and his fans around the world. He was the protagonist leading his country to World Cup glory. This became the chapter to be etched into history books. After the World Cup, Messi announced that he will continue playing for his team. This time with the aura of a World Champion. Ronaldo may not have fulfilled his dream in what was believed to be his last world cup, but perhaps he is not giving up and still believes he can give his best for his team.
This is undoubtedly one of the biggest, most thrilling, and nail-biting rivalries the sporting world has ever witnessed and the good news is that we will be seeing more of them. While Messi has announced that he will continue playing as a world champion, Ronaldo too with his brut mentality knows no backing down. Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo are certainly the golden chapters in the book of football.