Editors’ note: This article has been updated since it was first published on April 24, 2020
It’s been a while — 947 days, to be exact — but Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo are all set to face off once again as Barcelona host to Juventus in their Champions League Group G closer on Tuesday.
The long-awaited reunion could have come back in October, but Ronaldo missed that match in Turin after contracting COVID-19 while away on international duty. Messi scored the second goal in a 2-0 win for Barca with a late penalty.
As such, this will be the first time that Messi and Ronaldo have come up against each other since the latter left La Liga rivals Real Madrid to join Juve in 2018.
Ronaldo has represented three different clubs over the course of their long rivalry, while Messi has only ever played for Barca. That did look like changing last summer when he sent ructions through the football world by briefly, and very publicly, toying with the idea of ending his 20-year association with the Catalan giants.
There too were doubts over Messi’s participation against Juve this week, after he was rested for Barca’s previous two Champions League games, but coach Ronald Koeman has since confirmed the Argentina captain will most definitely be part of his squad on Tuesday night. Who knows how much longer he’ll be able to say that?
The pair have tangled a total of 35 times for club and country. Indeed, during the entire duration of Ronaldo’s senior career, the only player he’s faced more is Andres Iniesta (36 times). On the other hand, Messi has faced three other opponents on more occasions during his career: Sergio Ramos, Diego Godin, and Karim Benzema.
The very first meeting between the pair came on April 23, 2008 when a 20-year-old Messi found himself fielded opposite a 23-year-old Ronaldo as Barcelona and Manchester United played out a goalless draw in the first leg of the Champions League semifinals — United would go on to reach the final, where they beat Chelsea on penalties. The most recent meeting between Messi and Ronaldo came in La Liga on May 6, 2018, during the Clasico between Barca and Real that ended in a 2-2 draw.
The Barca superstar is on top when it comes to the head-to-head record between himself and Ronaldo, with 16 wins to his old foe’s 10. There have been nine draws. Messi also has more goals by some distance, having scored 22 to Ronaldo’s 19.
Ahead of Tuesday’s game at Camp Nou, Messi and Ronaldo have never faced each other during the Champions League group stage before, though they have sparred five times in the knockout phase — both legs of the 2007-08 and 2010-11 semifinals, and the 2009 final in Rome.
Ronaldo may be the Champions League’s all-time top scorer with 132 goals, but the Portugal captain has never scored in the competition while sharing the pitch with Messi, who has scored three itmes in European clashes against teams featuring Ronaldo.
Most memorable clashes
Of the 35 occasions on which Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo have been pitted against each other, many have produced truly memorable encounters. Here are six of the best.
The 2009 final in Rome was hyped as a gladiatorial clash between the two best players in the world, and this time Messi came out on top. Barca successfully kept United at arm’s length in Rome to win 2-0 — with Messi scoring a rare header for his team’s second goal — and secure their first ever league, cup and European Cup Treble.
The game that was seen as something of a proving ground for both Messi and Ronaldo (who were both Ballon d’Or winners by this point) veered off script as the Camp Nou witnessed a historic humiliation of Real and their coach, Jose Mourinho. Messi didn’t score, but he set up two goals as he played a pivotal role in Barca dishing out a mauling of their foes, who had started the game top of La Liga and unbeaten in seven matches. The hefty scoreline was immortalised by Gerard Pique‘s five-fingered “Manita” (“Little Hand”) salute to the watching world.
🏆💫 👑 Nine years ago today we clinched our 18th Copa del Rey!
⏳ On April 20, 2011 we ran out 0-1 winners against @FCBarcelona in a dramatic extra-time victory at Mestalla!#RMHistory | #RMFansEnCasa pic.twitter.com/ROTmQPygFZ
— Real Madrid C.F. 🇬🇧🇺🇸 (@realmadriden) April 20, 2020
Ronaldo finally triumphed over Barca as a Real player at the fifth time of asking. The Madrid forward was the only scorer as his trademark towering 103rd-minute header saw Los Blancos snatch the Copa del Rey from beneath Barca’s noses. However, that final at the Mestalla came in the middle of an intense run of four Clasicos in three weeks, which culminated in Barca reaching the Champions League final at the expense of their bitter rivals.
Ronaldo again prevailed when the old adversaries met at Camp Nou toward the tail end of the 2011-12 league campaign. Barca surrendered their hopes of defending the La Liga title as a winner from Ronaldo put Los Blancos seven points clear at the top of the table with four matches left to play. Ronaldo’s goal also saw Real break the Spanish league scoring record with goal No. 109 of the season, and they romped to the title soon thereafter.
Long-awaited payback for Ronaldo came in the latter stages of the 2012-13 Copa del Rey when the Real man turned in a star performance to send Barcelona packing. After the first leg had ended 1-1 at the Bernabeu, the Portuguese forward scored twice and almost single-handedly wrapped up a 3-1 win at the Camp Nou in the return to seal Real’s place in the final. By the end of the game, Mourinho was brazenly shushing the home fans with his finger pressed against his lips and Ronaldo left the ground having scored in each of his last six appearances on Barca’s hallowed turf.
Messi once again seized the headlines after a 92nd-minute winner from the Argentine talisman nicked a very late victory at the Bernabeu and kept Barca’s title aspirations alive. Having already scored in the first half, Messi kept his cool to slot home an injury-time winner amid a hostile atmosphere and then celebrate by pointedly reminding the Real supporters of his name. In the entire nine-year period that Messi and Ronaldo were together in Spain, there was never a goalless Clasico. Box office, guaranteed.