Tactical Insights

Lionel Messi at 37: Cristiano Ronaldo rivalry, tearful Barcelona exit and World Cup triumph

As he turns 37, Lionel Messi is under no illusions about the amount of time he has left in his football career.

Inter Miami will be my last club, yes,” the Argentina star said a fortnight before his birthday. “As of today, it’s gonna be my last one. I love playing football, I enjoy everything much more because I am aware that every time there’s less and less.”

The veteran is part of Argentina’s Copa America squad this summer, though, looking to add another continental title. His great rival Cristiano Ronaldo is in a similar boat with Portugal at Euro 2024, despite both men being in the twilight of their careers.

For some time, Messi and Ronaldo were the pinnacle of club football as they traded Ballon d’Or wins. As Messi turns 37, Mirror Football takes a closer look at that rivalry… and everything the South American achieved before and since.

Ronaldo rivalry

Ronaldo and Messi weren’t in the same league until 2009, but the rivalry between the pair – at least in the eyes of the media – came earlier. The Portugal star, then at Manchester United, beat Messi to the Ballon d’Or in 2008 to set off a decade-long run where no other player claimed the award.

For the bulk of that period, the pair were trading blows in La Liga. There was a sense each brought the best out of the other, bringing about goal tallies which are scarcely believable even for those who were there when it all happened.

474 goals in 520 La Liga appearances was Messi’s final tally for Barcelona, with Ronaldo bagging 311 in 292 outings for Madrid, though take away Messi’s teenage years (Ronaldo moved to La Liga aged 24) and the goal-per-game ratios are even closer. In the Champions League, the pair sit one and two in the all-time counts thanks to Ronaldo’s 141 goals in 187 appearances and Messi’s 129 in 161.

How will you remember Lionel Messi’s career? Have your say in the comments section

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