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It has to be said that El Clasico has never been about Lionel Messi vs. Cristiano Ronaldo. The eternal rivalry may be the greatest of this generation, but it will always pale in comparison to the larger club rivalry.
Fans of both players like to point out how each performs head-to-head as a way to fuel debate, but in reality, this battle never decides the final outcome.
This latest Clasico was an exception to that rule, however. The world's two best players matched each other blow for blow as if they were the only two players on the pitch.
Messi had the better performance overall with more impact felt throughout and with CR7 not even completing 70 percent of his passes, but Ronaldo still managed to win the same amount of points for his team despite playing with a sprained shoulder for part of the match.
Goal tally a bit flattering
While these two were the only ones to net for their teams, neither had a spectacular match, especially in the first half.
Ronaldo was rather anonymous for the entire first half and failed to get involved for large stretches of the second.
Messi was uncharacteristically sloppy with his passes for much of the first half as well. He was also much less involved than he should be in his role.
No such thing as an easy goal?
In addition, both opening goals were due to poor defense rather than individual brilliance.
The opener by Ronaldo—while he is most definitely a great striker—would not have happened if not for some atrocious defending from Barcelona's right flank.
The Portuguese took advantage of a gaping hole left on Barcelona's right flank, the same space Benzema and Marcelo exploited just minutes earlier.
The game's second, and Messi's first, happened due to some poor defending from Pepe as his attempted clearance with his head landed at Messi's feet right in front of goal.
Of course, there is nothing to take away from either player since every single goal required skill.
To say anyone could slot the ball past Valdes on the near post or be in the right position to slot home an error from Pepe would be foolish.
But to say these two dominated just isn't accurate.
After the break, both players were much more effective and far more involved than they were for the first 30 minutes and the goals were a reflection of that.
Messi all but took over the match and left Madrid fouling as a last resort when they realized they couldn't stop him.
Ronaldo moved in and out of a more central role and put himself in the position to score while also putting the ball in the box.
Who is the free-kick specialist again?
The one goal that cannot at all be credited to poor defense was Messi's world-class free-kick.
The Argentinian bent the ball around the wall and put it past Casillas with pin-point accuracy into the top right corner of the net.
After a second beautiful free-kick in three matches against his rivals with Ronaldo wasting another effort, it is fair to say that Messi has now matched the Portuguese as a world-class free-kick taker.
Many people came into this match with the idea that a special performance from either player could be the deciding factor for the Ballon d'Or race.
To this point, both players have strong stats and arguments in their favor, but neither so great that it makes the debate conclusive.
Now, after matching each other in the last head-to-head match of the calendar year, deciding which player has been the best over the last 10 months is as hard to decide as ever.
No matter who wins the award, they will be thoroughly deserving. They will also send the other player's fan base into a frenzy, claiming robbery or unfair voting.
With the two players so evenly matched, this may be the only time that dual winners actually makes sense. That would never happen, though.