Barcelona vs Real Madrid: El Clasico Highlights Great Individual Rivalry

Rob Goldberg@TheRobGoldbergFeatured ColumnistOctober 8, 2012

BARCELONA, SPAIN - APRIL 21:  Lionel Messi of FC Barcelona (L) and Cristiano Ronaldo of Real Madrid CF shake hands prior to the La Liga match between FC Barcelona and Real Madrid at Camp Nou on April 21, 2012 in Barcelona, Spain. Real Madrid CF won 1-2.  (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
David Ramos/Getty Images

There are many great individual rivalries in the world of sports, but there might not be any better than the one between Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi.

This battle might have hit its peak on Sunday when Barcelona and Real Madrid competed in the latest edition of El Clasico. The match ended in a 2-2 draw, with each forward scoring both goals for his team.

The great team rivalry between the two storied clubs, combined with the fact that these players are undoubtedly the best in the world, make a perfect storyline to follow for years to come.

America has some good team rivalries that cause excitement from each side. The New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox dominate the baseball headlines. The college basketball battle between Duke and North Carolina has created a number of amazing memories. However, these have not produced historic one-on-one battles.

When there is a good individual rivalry between two elite players, the teams rarely follow suit. Peyton Manning and Tom Brady have competed to be known as the best quarterback in the league for more than a decade, but there is little history between the New England Patriots and Indianapolis Colts (or now the Denver Broncos) prior to the two arriving.

Conversely, El Clasico dates back to 1902. Real Madrid and Barcelona have been two of the most successful clubs not only in their league, but throughout the entire world. They have combined to win 53 league titles and 13 Champions League Cups.

While American teams will play a few times during the regular season and maybe the playoffs, these teams often compete in La Liga, Copa del Rey, Supercopa and sometimes even in the Champions League. The matches are always important and the winner is often rewarded with a trophy of some sort.

This is what makes the matchup between Messi and Ronaldo so exciting. If they were scoring goals at will in different parts of the world, it would be an interesting debate over who is better. However, watching them do it against each other brings the discussion to a completely different level.

During the 2010-2011 season, Ronaldo set the record for the most goals of all time in a La Liga season with 40. Last year, he would have broken his own record with 46. Unfortunately, Messi topped that mark and ended with 50 in league play. He totaled 73 overall.

The fact that these two continue to break each other's records is simply stunning. It shows that regardless of which player you believe to be better, there is no questioning whether there is a third in the conversation. 

This is not true in other sports, where a LeBron James versus Kobe Bryant debate could lead into an argument about Kevin Durant, Dwyane Wade or Dwight Howard.

Instead, the two best world football players are competing against each other with regularity on the two best teams in the world. Fans should treasure these moments, because rivalries this perfect do not come often. It is possible it might never happen again.