The Messi and Ronaldo rivalry is a football rivalry between fans of Argentinian forward Lionel Messi and Portuguese forward Cristiano Ronaldo and supposedly between the athletes themselves. Having won a combined ten Ballon d’Or/FIFA Ballon d’Or awards (5 each), both are widely regarded not only as the two best players of their generation, but also regarded by many as the greatest of all time. Both players have regularly broken the 50 goal barrier in a single season and have scored over 600 goals each in their careers for club and country. Sports journalists and pundits regularly argue the individual merits of both players in an attempt to establish who they believe is the best player in modern football. It has been compared to past global sports rivalries such as the Muhammad Ali–Joe Frazier rivalry in boxing, the Björn Borg–John McEnroe rivalry in tennis and the Ayrton Senna–Alain Prost rivalry in Formula One motor racing.
Some commentators choose to analyse the differing physiques and playing styles of the two while part of the debate revolves around the contrasting personalities of the two players: Ronaldo is sometimes described as someone of temperamental character while Messi is portrayed with reserved character. It could be the case that this is why Messi is considered trustworthier and more likable by the public, even though Ronaldo improved his reputation since 2013.
At club level, Messi and Ronaldo represented rivals FC Barcelona and Real Madrid C.F., the two players facing each other at least twice every season in the world’s most popular regular-season club game, El Clásico (among the most viewed annual sporting events), until Ronaldo’s transfer to Italian club Juventus F.C.in 2018. Off the field, they are the face of two rival sportswear manufacturers, Messi of Adidas and Ronaldo of Nike, which are also the kit suppliers of their national teams and the opposite for their clubs. The two highest paid players in football, Messi and Ronaldo are among the world’s best paid sports’ stars in combined income from salaries, bonuses and off-field earnings. In 2018, Messi edged Ronaldo on Forbes list of the best-paid athletes, earning $111 million, with Ronaldo next at $108 million. They have the two biggest social media followings in the world among sportspeople with a combined 211 million Facebook fans in 2016, Ronaldo having 122 million and Messi 89 million. Combining Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, Ronaldo has 321 million followers and Messi 181 million, though Messi does not have a Twitter account.