Lionel Messi has explained he and Cristiano Ronaldo “fed off each other’s rivalry” to become two of the greatest players of all time.
Messi recently lifted his record-extending eighth Ballon d’Or, thanks to his 2022 FIFA World Cup heroics with Argentina, cementing his legacy as the greatest footballer of all time in many people’s eyes. During the period in which Messi has managed to win eight Ballon d’Or awards, rival Ronaldo also managed to win five and become the top goalscorer in footballing history.
At the peak of their powers the pair battled it out on either side of El Clasico’s divide, winning a combined 12 La Liga titles, nine Copa del Rey trophies and eight UEFA Champions Leagues during that golden era of domestic Spanish football.
Looking back on the rivalry with Ronaldo after winning the 2023 Ballon d’Or, Messi told L’Equipe that the pair helped spur one another on to greater heights during their careers.
The pair in action / Yasser Bakhsh/GettyImages
“It was a great battle, from a sporting point of view. We fed off each other’s rivalry because we’re both great competitors. He, too, always wanted to win everything, all the time,” the Inter Miami star said.
“It was a very enjoyable time for both of us and for everyone who loves football.
“I think we deserve a lot of credit for having managed to stay at the top for so long. Because as they say, it’s easy to get there. What’s difficult is staying there. And we stayed at the top for ten, fifteen years. It’s very difficult to stay at that level and it’s spectacular. And I think it remains a good memory for all those who followed us.”
The pair now ply their trades on completely opposites sides of the world, with Ronaldo starring for Al Nassr in Saudi Arabia – bagging a whopping 20 goals in 21 appearances this season – and Messi having just recently finished up his maiden campaign in Major League Soccer.