On the occasion of PSG’s short trip to Saudi Arabia, Lionel Messi and his troupe are playing a friendly match this Thursday (6 p.m.) against a selection of the best players from the country’s two flagship teams: Al-Hilal and Al-Nassr. Cristiano Ronaldo, new star of Al Nassr and designated captain of the team which will face Paris, will play his first match since his spectacular arrival in Saudi Arabia. Of very relative sporting interest, this match is above all symbolic of the end of an era, of a page in the history of football that is turning.
Messi (35) and Ronaldo (37) will play their 37th and possible last head-to-head at the King Fahd Stadium in Riyadh. A look back at the five most memorable matches between these two absolute football legends, protagonists of a fifteen-year-old rivalry.
May 27, 2009: meeting on the roof of Europe
Manchester United and FC Barcelona find themselves in the Champions League final, a year after their last clash which resulted in the elimination of the Catalan club in the semi-finals (1-0). Facing the Red Devils, holders of the title, appeared Blaugranas thirsty for revenge. In a full Stadio Olimpico, Ronaldo, crowned Ballon d’Or a few months earlier, and Messi come face to face for the third time. CR7 and the Mancunians get a few chances before being cooled by Samuel Eto’o in the 10th minute.
The two teams return to the locker room with a score of 1 to 0. While Ronaldo lacks success, Messi, hidden behind Ferdinand, surprises everyone and with an unstoppable head, mystifies Van der Sar. End of the match, 2-0, Messi eclipses CR7 and the Catalans win the third Champions League in their history.
April 27, 2011: In the space of 10 minutes, Messi annihilates Ronaldo and Real
The semi-final of this edition of the Champions League sees Real Madrid and FC Barcelona face off ten years after their last meeting on the most prestigious of stages. Ronaldo’s Real, crushed 5-0 by Messi’s Barça earlier in the season, is revengeful. At the Santiago Bernabéu, the match promises to be disputed and neither of the two teams manages to open the scoring until the 76th minute when Messi comes, in front of Sergio Ramos, to take over from the left a cross from Ibrahim Afellay.
The Madrid, left at 10 by the expulsion of Pepe earlier in the match, will try to equalize before “La Pulga”, this time on a ball left by Busquets in the 86th, does not take speed five players to drop the ball into the back of the net. Goal of anthology and unforgettable individual performance, this match is clearly marked by the paw Leo Messi.
October 7, 2012: two everywhere, ball in the center
For the first time in fourteen years, the Spanish Championship offers thousands of spectators around the world a Clasico at Camp Nou from the 7th day of La Liga. For both clubs this match is an opportunity to start the season well but also to put a damper on the start of that of the historic rival. For Messi and Ronaldo too, it’s about setting the tone for the coming season. It was the Portuguese who opened the scoring from the left in the 22nd minute before being caught by his Argentinian nemesis 8 minutes later, 1-1.
Returning from the locker room, in the 60th minute, Messi gives his team the advantage with a sumptuous free kick of which he alone has the secret. Like their rivalry, the two stars go blow for blow and this time it’s Ronaldo’s turn to respond. He also scored his second goal of the match barely five minutes after that of his rival. The two teams leave on the score of 2-2 in a meeting where the two phenomena are neutralized.
April 23, 2017: iconic celebration after an unreal game
Santiago Bernabéu, 33rd day of La Liga crucial for the race for the title. Real Madrid welcome their old enemy in a match that promises to be historic. From the start of the match Messi is twirling. Five minutes after Casemiro’s opener, he sneaks into the Madrid area and deceives Keylor Navas from the left. Ronaldo harvests him, one of his only actions of the meeting. Alone against Ter Stegen, he lays down too much on the ball and his shot ends up in the stands. Barca take the lead through Rakitic before James Rodriguez brings the two teams level in the 85th.
At 10 against 11 (Ramos expelled earlier in the match) the people of Madrid think they hold the point of a draw when, after additional time, Messi unleashes an unstoppable strike which seals the outcome of the match. The people of Madrid are on the ground. Messi, standing in front of the amazed spectators at the Bernabéu, celebrates his 500th goal in Barça colors by showing them his shirt.
August 13, 2017: burst of pride signed Cristiano Ronaldo
The Camp Nou hosts the final of the Spanish Super Cup which pits FC Barcelona against Real Madrid, champion of Spain against European champion. Four months after the victory in extremis of the Barcelonians which led them to the title, Ronaldo and the people of Madrid are revengeful.
While Messi holds, his Portuguese rival starts the match on the bench. The first goal of the game comes in the 49th minute when Pique cheats his own goalkeeper on a deflected cross. Barça equalize on penalty in the 76th thanks to their rather discreet Argentinian genius until then. Cristiano Ronaldo, who came into play a few minutes earlier, will, with a superb shot at the entrance to the penalty area, put Madrid back just four minutes after Leo Messi’s goal.
Stung in his pride by the defeat against his Argentinian enemy four months earlier, CR7 responds to him by reproducing the same celebration in front of the Camp Nou supporters. His celebration earned him a first yellow card and he collected a second, synonymous with expulsion, a few minutes later. At 10 against 11, Real ended up winning 3-1.