File picture of Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi
Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi react during the UEFA Champions League Draw, on August 29, 2019 in Monaco Photo by Harold Cunningham - UEFA/UEFA via Getty Images

ALABAMA - For more than a decade, Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi have ruled supreme over world soccer. Between the two, they have won 13 Ballon d'Or awards, nine UEFA Champions League titles and scored more than a thousand goals. Since the first time they each other in 2008 until their most recent clash in 2023, Messi and Ronaldo have delivered memorable celebrations, goals and a high-quality game each time they are both on the field.

Ronaldo and Messi will have another chance at sharing the pitch but, contrary to the past, this time will be just in an exhibition game, as Inter Miami continue their preseason with a trip to Saudi Arabia and will face Ronaldo's All Nassr on Feb. 1.

However, Al Nassr's coach confirmed that Cristiano Ronaldo will miss the game against Inter Miami after failing to recover from a calf injury on time. Al Nassr had to postpone two friendly games in China in hopes that 'CR7' could recover on time. Considering they will turn 39 and 37 years old this year, it wouldn't be a surprise if this exhibition match ends up being the the last chance they had to compete at a professional level.

A Historic Rivalry

Throughout their careers, Messi and Ronaldo have played against each other in 36 competitive matches (non exhibition games), including two international friendlies at the national team level.

The first time they played each other was in a UEFA Champions League semifinal tie between Ronaldo's Manchester United and Messi's Barcelona. A 0-0 draw in April of 2008 remains as the only time that the game remained scoreless in a match in which both were playing.

Messi-Ronaldo head-to-head

Goals scored
Lionel Messi
Cristiano Ronaldo

The Argentine has a slight advantage over 'CR7' thanks to a very strong Barcelona team that dominated their rivalry with Real Madrid between 2009-12. In their first 15 games, Lionel Messi's team won nine of the encounters including a famous 5-0 win and a 0-2 win at the Santiago Bernabéu in the UEFA Champions League semifinals.

Cristiano Ronaldo was able to level the head-to-head in their last 18 matches, posting a winning record over Messi (8-6-4 W-L-D) thanks in part due to a legendary Real Madrid team that won three straight Champions League titles between 2016-18.

At the international level, both Cristiano and Messi have one win apiece. In 2011, Argentina defeated Portugal 2-1 thanks to a Messi penalty kick in the 90th minute. In November of 2014, Portugal edged Argentina 1-0 months after the 2014 World Cup. Both were friendly matches.

Although Messi has a better head-to-head record, Ronaldo has a better record against Messi in finals. In games involving a trophy, Cristiano Ronaldo won three of the five trophies available (2011 Copa del Rey, 2012 Supercopa de España, 2017 Supercopa de España), while Messi won just two (2009 UEFA Champions League, 2011 Supercopa de España).

Arguably, the rivalry between both players and their respective clubs reached its highest peak in 2011. That year, Messi and Ronaldo played against each other eight times, including a series of four games in the span of one month. Lionel Messi had his moment of genius scoring an amazing solo goal after dribbling past a series of Real Madrid defenders, while Cristiano Ronaldo's commanding header gave the 'Merengues' a Copa del Rey title over Barcelona in extra time.

In terms of goals, Messi has just one more than Ronaldo's total, although the Portuguese scored in more games (18) than the Argentine (16). Both have a six-game goalless streak when facing each other. Cristiano Ronaldo's dry spell came at the beginning of his career, going goalless vs Messi from 2008 until 2011. For Messi, the six-game streak without a goal came 2014 and 2017, going six "El Clásico's" without a goal vs Cristiano's Real Madrid.

More than 15 years after their first meeting, both players continue to be the ultimate definition of what a professional should be. With both stars nearing the end of their careers, Thursday's match could very well be the last chapter of one of the best rivalries in the history of sports.

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