Cristiano Ronaldo is synonymous with the Champions League, but this season, the competition has been without its cherished son.
Now on the Persian Gulf enjoying his twilight years, Europe’s flagship tournament has entered a new era, a post-Ronaldo one. The former Real Madrid and Manchester United superstar broke countless records during his time in the competition, not least becoming the all-time record goalscorer.
With the superlative sensation now out of the continental picture, an opportunity has emerged for Lionel Messi to make the competition his own. Already the proud owner of several Champions League records himself, Messi could now go on to knock Ronaldo off his perch and become the competition’s objective best.
Here are the Champions League records that Lionel Messi could steal from Cristiano Ronaldo.
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Most Champions League hat-tricks
Both Messi and Ronaldo have claimed eight Champions League match balls in their respective careers. They are currently neck and neck for the most competition hat-tricks. With the Portuguese no longer on the scene terrorising opposition ‘keepers, Messi now needs just one more match ball to overtake his perennial rival. If nothing else, I would be giving my all just to get my hands on one of these bad boys…
The new Champions League ball for the upcoming knockout rounds. ? pic.twitter.com/kv6gX33vV2
— Madrid Xtra (@MadridXtra) February 9, 2023
Most Champions League finals scored in
PSG’s quest for European supremacy goes on, and you can bet your boots they will be giving their all to cross that final frontier this term. You certainly cannot write off a club that stockpiles world-class talent like Messi does Ballon d’Ors. Speaking of which, if the Parisians do manage to reach Istanbul, and Messi scores, then he will equal Ronaldo as the only other player to net in three separate finals (his two previous goals have both come against Man Utd in 2009 and 2011).
Most Champions League goals scored after turning 35
Some players are either usually calling it a day once they turn 35, enjoying a cushy sinecure on the sidelines somewhere, or living their best life stateside. Not Ronaldo and Messi, though. As things currently stand, Ronaldo has bagged 12 goals since turning 35, while Messi is lagging somewhat behind on eight. The World Cup winner is more than capable of netting four in this season’s knockouts, though. Beware Bayern (and Ronaldo).
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Knockout round half-centurion
When it came to the Champions League, no one can accuse Ronaldo of stat-padding in the groups. He was anything but a flat-track bully, as we know. Indeed, the potent force of Ronaldo brought carnage to the knockouts, and he remains the only player to bag a half-century of goals from the last 16 onwards. Messi is just one off joining him in that exclusive club, but Ronaldo’s overall 67 gives him a near-unassailable lead. It would take something special from Messi to catch him. But, write him off at your peril.
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Most goals scored versus a single opponent
Juventus enjoyed the scoring brilliance of Ronaldo for three years, but that only came after he had devastated The Old Lady for yonks in Europe. Indeed, the 38-year-old is the only player to achieve a double-digit haul against a single opponent in the Champions League, smashing 10 past Juventus in his career, including that outrageous bicycle kick which elicited a standing ovation from the Turin crowd.
Of those currently in the competition, Messi has notched eight against Milan, and seven against Manchester City. He would need the draw to work in his favour if he is to meet one of those clubs and move level with Ronaldo. Should he wait until next season, though, Messi has nine versus Arsenal and eight against Celtic, so there’s still hope beyond 2022/23 for the diminutive genius.
Most Champions League goals
And of course, the all-time leaderboard. Ronaldo is second to none when it comes to most Champions League goals. His record tally of 140 is an incredible feat of endeavour and ruthlessness, but Messi isn’t actually too far behind. Currently on 129, the PSG forward is only 11 shy off matching his eternal foe.
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