It may just be the most opinion-splitting subject in the history of the world: Who is better, Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo?
Over the past decade or so, fans have been treated to two ridiculously talented footballers in Messi and Ronaldo, playing for some of the most successful clubs in the history of the game.
For Messi it’s been all about helping Barcelona dominate Spain, staying loyal to the club that brought him over from his native Argentina at a young age. Meanwhile Cristiano Ronaldo has tested himself in the Premier League, La Liga and Serie A, winning titles with Manchester United, Real Madrid and Juventus – to add to his five Champions League trophies.
Understandably, then, the duo have dominated the individual awards over the past 11 years, with Luka Modric and Kaka the only other players to win the Ballon d’Or since 2007. Messi and Ronaldo have won five each during that time.
But perhaps more impressively, either one of Messi or Ronaldo have finished in the top three for the Ballon d’Or in each of the past 12 editions. The 2006 award was the last time neither made the top three, with Fabio Cannavaro pipping Gianluigi Buffon and Thierry Henry for that trophy. Though it’s worth remembering that Messi had just enjoyed his first full season as a Barcelona first-team player while Ronaldo was finding his feet at Manchester United.
In the following 12 editions, both Messi and Ronaldo have featured in the top three 10 times, starting with the pair finishing second and third to Kaka respectively in 2007.
Ronaldo and Messi traded first and second in 2008 and 2009, with both players being rewarded for Champions League wins for their respective clubs. In 2010 Messi won the Ballon d’Or for the second time, but Ronaldo was nowhere to be seen inside the top three, finishing sixth. Messi’s Barcelona teammates Andres Iniesta and Xavi finished second and third after winning the World Cup with Spain.
Messi went on to win the next two Ballon d’Or awards in 2011 and 2012 with Ronaldo finishing second both times, before they switch roles in 2013 and 2014. Messi once again came out on top in 2015 ahead of second-placed Ronaldo, but the Portuguese took the next two awards pipping his Barcelona rival.
Then came 2018, the first time since 2006 that Messi had not featured in the Ballon d’Or’s top three, with the Argentinian finishing fifth overall. Ronaldo kept up appearances for the pair but he finished second, behind Real Madrid and Croatia midfielder Luka Modric with Antoine Griezmann in third.
The pair have both been named in the 30-man Ballon d’Or shortlist which was released on Monday evening but will the top-three streak continue when the winner is announced in December?
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