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Friendship and competition don’t exactly go hand in hand. When your goal is to be the best you can be and win every game, there isn’t a lot of time for pleasantries.

On the soccer pitch, Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo are two of the world’s best players. But, despite that status and the fact that they’ve lined up across from each other countless times, the pair don’t share a great deal in common. In fact, one fact reveals just how intense their rivalry truly is.

Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo on the pitch

Ever since coming to Barcelona as a boy, Lionel Messi had obvious talent. He made his first-team debut at age 16 and never looked back; while it took him some time to establish himself as a regular starter, the teenage impressed everyone who saw him play. Things truly kicked off once Pep Guardiola took over managerial duties. Playing in the tiki-taka style that prioritized short passes and maintaining possession, Messi’s talent and creativity took center stage.

While his production has dropped off since those glory years, Messi is still one of the world’s best talents. You simply don’t score 603 goals in 690 appearances for Barcelona by accident.

Cristiano Ronaldo has found similar success, but with pure athleticism rather than Messi’s finesse. After coming through the ranks at Sporting CP, the Portuguese winger moved to Manchester United; working under Sir Alex Ferguson, Ronaldo developed into a star. He would win three Premier League titles and be crowned a Champions League winner before moving to Real Madrid.

At Real, Ronaldo continued to dominate, scoring 450 total goals in 438 appearances and famously winning four more Champions Leagues. Prior to the 2018-2019 season, he moved to Juventus, hoping to help the Italian club reach Europe’s highest heights.

Ballon d’Or Voting

Traditionally, the Ballon d’Or has been the most prestigious individual award in world soccer. While it’s undergone some changes, including a brief merger with FIFA’s Men’s Player of the Year Award, the voting process has remained constant. National team coaches, national team captains, reporters, and fans, each cast votes for their top three players.

Since Messi and Ronaldo are both captains of their respective national teams, they’ve cast quite a few ballots for the award. And, while the Argentine has voted for Ronaldo in the past, the Portuguese striker has never named Messi one of his top three players.

Messi and Ronaldo’s real relationship

Voting doesn’t tell the full story, though. Given the two players’ time in Spain and consistent appearances in the Champions League and the World Cup, Messi and Ronaldo have had frequent contact off the pitch. And while they’re not exactly friends, the two competitors respect each other’s talent.

“My relationship with him is we are not friends, but we share the stage for 15 years,” Ronaldo recently explained in an interview with Piers Morgan. “I have a good relationship with him and I know it pushed me to be a better player and I push him to be a better player.”

In terms of performances on the pitch, no one can argue with that. Whether you’re a fan of delicate dribbling or a thumping free-kick, Messi and Ronaldo have you covered.