The pair are considered the finest players of their generation, as they have set new benchmarks for consistent goalscoring. Messi recently claimed his sixth Ballon d'Or prize, while Ronaldo has earned the accolade on five occasions.
The comparisons between the pair were most intense when Ronaldo was playing for Real Madrid, the great rivals of Barcelona, in La Liga. Speaking to DAZN (h/t Kieran Francis of Goal), Messi said the presence of Ronaldo made for an enjoyable battle:
"It was a special duel, and it will remain forever because it lasted many years and it is not easy to maintain certain levels for a long time. Plus, the teams we played in were also very demanding, both Real Madrid and Barca, the two best in the world.
"Competing on an equal footing for so many years, I think it will remain forever. The sporting duel between us was very nice on a personal level, and I think people had fun too, whether it was from Madrid or from Barca, or even only football fans in general."
At the turn of the year, ESPN FC reflected on how prolific the duo have been in front of goal over the previous decade:
Speaking after his recent Ballon d'Or success, Messi said he was pleased to have edged ahead of Ronaldo with his sixth accolade:
It's testament to the talent, mentality and durability of both that they have been able to maintain these standards for such a prolonged spell.
Given their age, the clubs they played for and the positions they operated in early in Ronaldo's time in La Liga—primarily as wide forwards—it was understandable that there were consistent comparisons between the duo.
However, following Ronaldo's move to Juventus in 2018, the incessant talk regarding the pair and who the superior player is has dwindled. Not only are they operating in different divisions, as they've got older their games have changed too, with Ronaldo becoming more of a No. 9 and Messi frequently dropping into midfield positions.
It's a challenge to compare the two:
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Before this devolves into a 'Ronaldo or Messi' debate, as is often the case when you mention either of them, I'll say this: I'm delighted to have seen them both in their primes, and we're lucky to have had them. Both incredible. Both irreplaceable. No interest in comparing.
Although both are edging closer to the twilight years of their career, they each remain ambitious and are still among the best players in the world.
Barcelona and Juventus are both in fights for their respective domestic titles this season, with Real Madrid and Inter Milan offering serious competition. The two clubs also remain in the UEFA Champions League; if the Blaugrana and the Bianconeri were to meet each other in the quarter-finals or beyond, debates surrounding Messi and Ronaldo would intensify again.