How much do Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo think about each other? Probably not as much as we’d like them to. Just as Real Madrid and Barcelona are huge rivals, it’s quite common to think that there’s some huge individual rivalry between the two best players in the world as well. But every time the subject comes up with one of them, the truth seems a little bit different.
Messi: “I don’t have a rivalry with Ronaldo. He is a good guy and a great player who can change any game. I’m concentrated on our success.”
— FC Barcelona Fl (@FCBarcelonaFl) August 17, 2013
Sometimes, it’s actually disappointing to read or hear these words. The better storyline is thinking that Ronaldo simply drives himself crazy every time he sees Messi finishing with more goals than him during a season or picks up another individual award he’s quite belongs to him.
Now, Ronaldo thinks of himself as the best player in the world. But most top athletes, in pretty much any sport, consider themselves as better than the rest. Part of what makes them so good is that drive to reach the top and stay there. But is he obsessed with Messi “being better than him”? Probably not. It simply generates more interest to think that he does.
Rivalries generate more interest. Friendship, camaraderie and mutual respect? That is simply boring, so it’s much easier thinking of Messi and Ronaldo, who play each other about times a season in Spain, as these two giants of the game who can’t stand each other and constantly think about how to beat their opponent’s achievements.
The way the La Liga is set up usually puts Barcelona and Real Madrid playing on the same evening, one following the other one. Messi scores twice? Ronaldo tries to make it a hat trick, and the other way around is probably correct as well. In that sense, yes, there’s a rivalry. But not because Ronaldo or Messi have something personal going on. It’s just the way opponents push each other to the limits. Ronaldo doesn’t try to score hat tricks because Messi does. He does it because that’s him, and having someone like Messi rivaling him for individual and team award and trophies only gives him more motivations.
They hardly cross each other’s paths on the pitch. Messi doesn’t do defense, and Ronaldo usually defends in a different part of the pitch. Most of the rivalry we’ve built up into massive proportions is probably an imaginary one. The truth is, there’s respect, and the two of them are probably a bit too busy than to be concerning themselves with ‘what Ronaldo/Messi is doing now…” thoughts.
Sometimes, it has to creep into their minds. Ronaldo felt too much criticism coming his way during Euro 2012 so he made a remark about Messi being knocked out with Argentina in the Copa America a year earlier. These things happen, but it doesn’t make this into some personal animosity dictating the lives of both players. They’re simply two of the greatest footballers to have ever played the game, peaking at the same time, playing on teams that have a huge rivalry. Nothing more.