Precisely 4,632 days had handed because the first time Cristiano Ronaldo turned up on the Camp Nou and located that there was an impish little Barca-coloured magician within the opposition ranks. A fly in his ointment.
That was Manchester United en path to profitable the Champions League in 2008 — the primary leg of the semifinal.
In contrast to December 2020, this previous stadium was totally packed to the rafters again then for the Camp Nou’s first Lionel Messi-Ronaldo instalment — 95,949 rabidly passionate followers. These had been the times.
Identical to December 2020, nevertheless, Barcelona had been within the mud. Knee deep the truth is.
Out of the Copa del Rey and within the midst of a 5 recreation winless run, 11 factors behind the champions-elect Real Madrid and with a supervisor who was a veteran of that Dutch European Championship profitable staff in 1988.
Frank Rijkaard again then, Ronald Koeman at the moment. Teammates within the spectacular win over the united statesS.R. when the Netherlands gained their first main trophy, united by overseeing Barcelona turbulence and failure now.
– Participant Scores: Barca’s supporting cast fails 7/10 Messi
– Report: Ronaldo brace, McKennie volley power Juve past Barca
– Ronaldo: I’ve never seen Lionel Messi as a rival
Identical to December 2020, in April 2008, all these 662 weeks in the past, Ronaldo had an early penalty.
Three minutes into that semifinal, and 13 minutes into this one-sided conflict which positively served to place Ronaldo’s Juve through as group winners however may also have served because the final membership match between these two behemoth footballers who’ve dominated the scene, and our debate, for the final 16 years.
Again in 2008, Ronaldo skewed his penalty extensive of the purpose body.
Gifted right here the late-career likelihood to make amends for that uncommon failure, Juventus’ Portuguese celebrity smashed the ball twice previous Barca keeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen, taking little or no heed of the truth that the primary spot kick was one of many weakest choices with which he is ever been blessed.
Not his fault. However this was a comedy. When Ronald Araujo leaned shoulder to shoulder with Ronaldo, Juve’s No. 7 did not even declare a foul, and when the referee blew for a spot kick it was comedy itself to see the shocked double-take which it brought on in Barcelona’s ranks. Ronaldo simply shrugged in a gesture which mentioned: “No matter ref, I am going to take it!”
So whereas Ronaldo took his tally of transformed penalties when he is been enjoying towards Messi to 5, the Argentinian may do not more than watch. Helplessly. Frustratedly. Little doubt angrily.
After all no person is aware of whether or not this was the swansong for this most absorbing, polemic and great rivalry between the silky Messi and the highly effective Ronaldo.
However I can say this definitively: If that is the final time they meet on the pitch (which, personally, I doubt) then it will have been a poor approach to bear in mind the rivalry.
In Barca, Juve did not actually have a rival worthy of the identify, or the of the event if this was a curtain name to the Messi-Ronaldo present of exhibits. Ronaldo performed all the suitable notes.
Tucking away his two penalties, virtually serving to Leonardo Bonucci power house a fourth purpose which might have sealed group victory a lot earlier, his trademark leap, twirl and roar celebrations had been all there and we even acquired a pleasant “pally” embrace between him and the person who as soon as drove him to distraction however to whom, over time, he is realized to indicate respect and even some affection.
Past that, there was one marvellous second when Ronaldo, being Ronaldo, totally refused to simply accept the concept a stray Barcelona purpose may assist them win the group on the face to face file regardless of being thrashed on the night time, and dashed again into the Juve penalty space to dole out tackles and clearances. That was a sight and a half.
However you possibly can argue that in case your vista was skewed away from the scoreline, the staff performances, which facet gained the massive prize (the solutions in order that you do not have to cellphone a good friend or ask the viewers are: Juve, Juve and Juve) that Messi was the extra fascinating and “concerned” participant on this recreation, which smashed Barcelona’s seven and a half yr unbeaten house run on this competitors.
Messi is in a droop. His kind is sluggish, the staff round him is decayed and the reinforcements are younger and keen, not street-wise and battle-ready.
Though he is given Koeman zero issues along with his method or perspective in coaching, Messi is nonetheless fairly disgusted that for one motive or one other he did not handle to offer the slip to his markers in August.
By which I imply the now departed president and board of FC Barcelona who had been staunch of their refusal to let him be part of Manchester City on a free, regardless of having promised such a factor, however much less staunch in staying on to complete their mandate once they fancied doing a runner.
But on this potential bookend to what has been an uproarious and unforgettable 36 match (together with this Juve win) head-to-head sequence between two males who go far past the standing of soccer legends and stand on a pantheon of submit battle sporting greats in any self-discipline, Messi wakened.
He is been too sleepy too lengthy. The results of this strangest of calendar years the place then physique clock of just about all team-athletes is all to pot, then the consequences of getting run his legs off continuous for years and years as he leaves behind his Peter Pan persona and turns 33, effectively these results are fairly noticeable now.
So it wasn’t attainable for this, as many impartial spectators would have beloved, to show right into a blow for blow slugfest between the 2 stellar members.
One the place Ronaldo was on the spearhead of an apparently indomitable invading Italian power, however Messi was the person partisan who may lead and encourage some rag-tag and bobtail Camp Nou resistance to an unlikely consequence. That kind of Hollywood script.
After the match, Ronaldo mentioned: “Scoring right here is at all times particular for me. With Messi we now have shared the final 12, 13 years of our lives. It is at all times good to face him. Clearly folks communicate of our rivalry however for me it’s at all times a privilege to face him and clearly I am completely happy to attain once I face him.
“I really feel superb, targets are vital however I wish to proceed working like this as a result of it is not simple to maintain the identical requirements on a regular basis.”
However, no. This was a staff victory. In reality a squad one. However again to that in a minute.
However all that, Messi labored his little socks off.
Extra urgent, extra discovering house, higher wall-passes, and an rising side-show which diverted the spotlights kind what was purported to be the primary present.
When he walked off on the finish, Messi had modified strips not with Cristiano, who was by then a few minutes into his heat Juve polar-anorak having been subbed off by supervisor Andrea Pirlo with solely added time left. No, Messi selected Gianluigi Buffon.
And there was a motive. On an evening which the headline makers yearned to title “Messi vs. Ronaldo Half 36!”, the actually participating battle was Messi vs. Buffon.
Over and over Messi both stung the gloves of this Juve behemoth, who might be 43 in January, or despatched him diving to both facet of what could be an un-breached Juventus purpose body.
When within the first half it seemed as if the in any other case sensational Weston McKennie had nudged Messi as he shot and the Barcelona gamers had been demanding a penalty it was simply dandy to see Messi trying as much as Buffon with a “was it a penalty?” quizzical look, and when the enormous Italian shook his head “no mate, it actually wasn’t” Messi gestured a bit thumbs as much as Juve’s legendary keeper. Two greats.
A little bit later, as Buffon clutched the ball and jogged to the sting of his space to attempt to shortly re-start the play, Messi playfully tugged at his shirt from behind and Buffon did not even cease to look — he broke out in a smile. He knew who it was, did not lose an iota of mood and gave Messi a bit clip on the shoulder as he ran previous.
That did not cease him saving Messi’s efforts on purpose again and again, although. On an evening when this was purported to be Barcelona’s No. 10 vs. Juve’s No. 7 it was, the truth is Juve’s No. 77 who helped spoil the social gathering and steal the cake.
All of which helps transfer the story past what occurred right here.
Messi vs. Ronaldo over time has been an ideal tapestry of every of them including superlative moments of bare-naked bravado and sensible improvisation on high of the work their magnificent teammates produced.
They’ve been the 2 excellent gamers of most of our lifetimes, irrespective of whether or not or not you had a slight choice for one or the opposite. Simply suppose that 10 instances within the Ballon d’Or awards since 2007 one in every of these two has pipped the opposite by a single place, often first and second, and the final award noticed Ronaldo in third and Messi first.
Again and ahead the pendulum has swung however, irrespective of how effectively both did individually, it was at all times the case that they had been enjoying in a unit the place there was particular expertise, particular endeavour, enormous spirit and a recognition that everybody, be they fellow gamers or technical employees, had been working to make a platform for both Ronaldo or Messi so as to add the ending, profitable touches.
This isn’t the case proper now. In Ronaldo’s favour, he had the ambition, the restlessness, the starvation and the ambition to reject continued life at Madrid, to threat shifting to a membership and a league which, in comparison with the final 20 years of Spanish soccer, might be described as moribund.
Whether or not you suppose it was the suitable transfer or not, the actual fact is that he is flourished. Extra league titles, an unlimited haul of targets final season, Serie A’s most vital footballer and now — this.
What was great to look at and I am positive what could have given Messi pause for thought, most likely even an additional impulse to depart the Camp Nou on the finish of his contract was watching Juve function round Ronaldo.
Each ball was a prisoner, they surged out of the blocks with full and absolute perception that they may and would win by three or extra clear targets. Throughout Ronaldo had been footballers operating like dervishes, passes delivered at velocity, assist play when a Juve man robbed the ball again — this was a staff.
They had been fitter, larger, quicker and cleverer. And all of the whereas Messi was enjoying with teammates that Koeman later described as trying as in the event that they had been fearful. Teammates who Antoine Griezmann later mentioned wanted to take this defeat as a wake-up name.
If we’re ever to have a Messi-Ronaldo showdown which, no matter who wins, who scores, is becoming of the years of rivalry and the 35 direct clashes between them, then Messi has to depart Barcelona. At 33 he isn’t completed, he is nonetheless acquired plenty of moments of brilliance to reward this recreation, with which to entertain us and through which he can get some private satisfaction after this long term when he is been enjoying for a pale imitation of Barcelona.
They had been bitter rivals for some time, there was mutual envy, dislike and jealousy then there was respect and, even affection. There have been headers, dribbles, penalties, trophies, excellence, pleasure, mutual incentive to get higher, to by no means calm down and a sequence of probably the most magical, unpredictable, world-impactful Clasicos within the historical past of that fixture.
It is a privilege past measure to have watched the rivalry unfold, to interview each of them, to see every of them behind the scenes, to be lifted from my seat by the sheer pleasure of seeing issues which surpassed something I might witness or written about earlier than.
However now, if — and please do not let it’s — this occurs to be the top of one in every of sport’s greatest-ever private rivalries in its on-pitch model then maybe Ronaldo has completed Messi an enormous favour: The favour of exhibiting him that shifting on, experimenting with the suitable “pastures new” can really result in greener grass, better enjoyable, and a correct profession autumn that true greats like these two so massively deserve.
The favour got here within the type of onerous, bitter drugs. But when it helps treatment Messi of what ails him proper now then a Christmas card to Ronaldo could also be so as.
Both that or an unlikely rematch within the later knockout rounds of this competitors. However that is one other story altogether. For now this story should do.