As any sports fan can tell you, there’s nothing like a good rivalry. While the world of soccer has plenty of iconic battles—every league, nation, and region as its own derbies—one matchup stood head and shoulders above the rest: Lionel Messi vs. Cristiano Ronaldo. Even if you didn’t care about the specific game, it was worth tuning in just to see what two world-class athletes were capable of doing.
While Messi and Ronaldo now ply their trade in separate leagues, their rivalry hasn’t completely faded. Fans still debate which star is superior, and, as of late, the Argentine attacker scored another victory over his Portuguese foe.
Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo’s famous rivalry
During his time with Barcelona, Lionel Messi has established himself as one of the greatest players to ever step onto the pitch. That star status, however, has put him in constant competition with Cristiano Ronaldo.
While great players will always be compared to each other, Messi and Ronaldo also found themselves on opposite sides of a much larger rivalry. Despite being born in South America, the Argentine joined Barcelona at an early age, where he developed into a star; Ronaldo came into his own at Manchester United, then suited up for Real Madrid from 2009 through 2018. During those years, el Clasico became intertwined with the Messi vs. Ronaldo debate.
Beyond that context, though, some additional factors contributed to their rivalry. While both men are undeniably talented, they’re different players. In his prime, Ronaldo was more of a pure athlete, capable of tearing down the wing and scoring with incredible ease; Messi, while he lacks the same physical gifts, is a true artist with the ball. The former forward, accurately or not, also comes across as more self-interested and braggadocious.
Messi just scored a financial victory over his longtime rival
With age slowing both players down and the Portuguese strike leaving La Liga, the Lionel Messi-Cristiano Ronaldo rivalry is starting to die down. The Barcelona man, however, recently scored another victory over his longtime opponent.
According to Forbes, Messi edged out Ronaldo to claim the top spot in the latest “World’s Highest-Paid Soccer Players” ranking. The Argentine attacker’s annual earnings clock in at a reported $126 million; $92 million comes from playing salary, while the remaining $34 million in earnings stemmed from his endorsements.
It will be interesting, however, to see what happens to Messi’s earning power after this season. The forward seems set on leaving Barcelona and will become a free agent next summer; faced with the chance to acquire a generational, albeit aging, talent, the likes of Manchester City or PSG could offer Messi massive wages for his services.
Cristiano Ronaldo, however, is still in excellent financial shape
As an elite competitor, Cristiano Ronaldo never wants to finish in anything other than first place. From a financial perspective, though, the Juventus striker won’t be losing any sleep over his second-place finish.
According to Forbes, Ronaldo’s annual earnings only trail Messi by $9 million. While he earns less salary than Messi—Juventus pays him $70 million per season—he does come out on top in endorsements; he has a lifetime deal with Nike, sells shampoo, and lends his name to countless other brands and products.
Sooner rather than later, both Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo will have to retire. Their footballing fortunes, however, won’t be going anywhere.