Compared for years. Owners of eternal debates with the background story. Idolized by millions of fans and in turn criticized by the opposite side. Cover hoarders. Unthinkable record holders. Center of the spotlight both in matches and in lavish award galas. In short, protagonists and dominators of a withering era. Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo have been the benchmarks in football for more than a decade. Winners most times in the field, only the inexorable passage of time pushes them to their end. However, the epilogue to their unparalleled careers seems to go down different paths. While the Argentine walks towards a final chapter that is still brilliant, desired by PSG and with a World Cup star in his firmament, the Portuguese is approaching football ostracism from Saudi Arabia.
The 37-year-old star from Madeira has spent his last two years involved in controversy, with hardly any great performances on the pitch. His second spell at Manchester United, the club where he achieved his first successes, ended abruptly in the middle of the World Cup with the termination of his contract. The criticism that he received last season was still dampened by his numbers, still worthy of his career, top scorer for the Red Devils with 24 goals. But everything was cut short when last summer he did not participate in the summer tour of the Manchester team to find a way out.
A regular substitute in the first leg of this season, facing his coach, Erik ten Hag, the Portuguese ended up precipitating his final at Old Trafford with some incendiary statements in which he said he felt "betrayed" by the club, which had wanted to turn him into "the black sheep" Far from finding an oasis in Qatar, during his participation in the World Cup after his relationship with United ended, Ronaldo once again generated controversy with his attitude within the Portuguese team. He started as a starter in the group stage, but both in the round of 16 and in the quarterfinals he started as a substitute due to his poor performance, his only two games in his five World Cup appointments where he did not start. Before, he had earned the public reproach of his coach, Fernando Santos, who did not like the reaction of his star when he was substituted in the game against South Korea. The forward silenced a Korean player with an unequivocal gesture when he was leaving the field of play.
He closed the World Cup in tears once he was knocked out in the quarterfinals by the surprising Morocco and now he finds himself in no man's land, without a team or substantial European suitors capable of approaching his economic emoluments. "They have offered Cristiano Ronaldo, to us. Yes, they even offered it to us, and I have the feeling that it has been offered to all the participants in the Champions League," Eintracht Frankfurt president Philip Holzer recently revealed. With the doors of the continental elite closed, the striker seems to welcome the million-dollar long-term contract offered by the Saudi Al Nassr. By signing with the Arab club, an operation that is closed according to various media, Ronaldo will end his laureate career with a golden retirement, his most glorious stage now definitively over.
For his part, Messi continues to be among the best on the continent, his star aura reinforced thanks to his excellent performance in the World Cup, where in addition to achieving the long-awaited trophy that was missing from his record, he was also named the best of the tournament. It is true that the 35-year-old Argentine is two years younger than Ronaldo, but the Portuguese at the age of Rosario was leaving Juventus through the back door, who preferred to sell him a year before the end of his contract. His sports performance, despite his good scoring numbers, did not compensate for his salary. On the other hand, PSG, a team that has a surplus of cracks, has turned to closing the renewal of 'the flea' as soon as possible, whose contract ends this summer. As confirmed by La Vanguardia, the former Barça player has already agreed to the French champion, albeit verbally, to extend his relationship for at least one more year.
Messi seems to have a rope for a while and his transfer to a less competitive football, in his case everything points to Inter Miami, is still far away. Perhaps the innate talent of the man from Rosario, born to play football, has accentuated the difference in recent years with Ronaldo, who for many seasons maintained a titanic pulse with the Argentine thanks, among other things, to his imposing physique. In any case, the football legacy that both will leave, in addition to the cold statistics, will always remind them that no player during his time brought so much joy and nights of glory to their teams.