February 1st will see Inter Miami take a long flight to Saudi Arabia to face Al-Nassr in a friendly match. Though this match is nominally between two football clubs, it is really between two men: Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.
Ranked: The top five Messi v Ronaldo H2Hs
Messi and Ronaldo are arguably the two greatest footballers of all time. The pair had an incredible tit-for-tat battle during their times at Barcelona and Real Madrid respectively, and the two are neck-a-neck in many categories.
Messi has four Champions Leagues, Ronaldo has five. Ronaldo has five Balon d’Or, Messi has eight. Ronaldo has the Euros and Nations’ League, Messi has the World Cup and Copa America. In the 35 previous H2Hs between the two, Messi has won 16, Ronaldo has won 10. Messi has 721 career goals, Ronaldo has 739. More of this pair's incredible records can be found in our comprehensive guide.
With Messi aged 36 and Ronaldo 38, this could well be the very last time we see these two old rivals face off.
Game 1: FC Barcelona 3-2 Real Madrid 17/08/2011
Starting things off with the chaotic second leg of the 2011/12 Spanish Supercopa, Ronaldo and then Karim Benzema pegged Barca back twice before Messi, inevitably, netted a late winner. Pandemonium ensued at the Camp Nou, with the red cards flying out. David Villa, Marcelo and Mesut Özil all got sent off for their involvement in a late brawl.
Messi always seemed to find a way against Real Madrid and Ronaldo, as shown by his 1.17 goals and assists per game when playing against Ronaldo. As such, do not be surprised if Messi scores the final goal when the pair reunite on Thursday.
2011/12 represented the peak of hostilities between Barcelona and Real Madrid in recent memory, so there was a lot on the line for both players. This is not the last time we will be reminiscing over this infamous season however…
Game 2: Real Madrid 3-4 FC Barcelona 23/03/2014
Moving onto another helter skelter game, this match saw La Blaugrana take an early lead through Andres Iniesta, before Karim Benzema scored a brace to put Los Blancos back in front. Messi equalised to make it 2-2, but Ronaldo put Real ahead again, with just 25 minutes to go.
But as above, Messi would have the last laugh in this one, scoring two late goals to complete his hat-trick, and leave the Bernabeu with all three points. Despite the quality on the pitch, neither side won La Liga this season, as Atletico pipped them both to the title.
Messi scores fewer hat-tricks these days, and has uncharacteristically scored just one in the past year. But with 57 across his career, do not bet against the little Argentine rolling back the clock against his old foe.
Game 3: FC Barcelona 0-3 Juventus 08/12/2020
Cristiano Ronaldo signed off his time at Real Madrid by winning an unprecedented third Champions League in a row, and left for pastures new. He joined Italian giants Juventus, and though he couldn’t replicate the same level of success as he did in the Spanish capital, he left the Bianconeri with a memory to last a lifetime – a 3-0 win over Barcelona.
Behind the Camp Nou’s closed doors, Ronaldo got his own back, with no reply from Messi. He won a penalty early in the game, which he converted with characteristic confidence and venom, and then netted another late on to seal the game. This was the most recent time the two greats faced off.
Ronaldo’s spot kick record is near unimpeachable. Since his miss from 12 yards in the 2008, the Portuguese has become the first player to score 150 penalties. With the imbalance in attacking and defensive talent between both Al-Nassr and Inter Miami, backing CR7 to net a penalty may be a wise wager.
Game 4: FC Barcelona 1-2 Real Madrid 21/04/2012
Ronaldo’s finest moment against Barcelona came over eight years earlier however, as Jose Mourinho masterminded a rare win at the Camp Nou against Pep Guardiola’s all-conquering side.
Ronaldo ran the show from start to finish, tormenting Dani Alves and Javier Mascherano with his speed and trickery, and silenced the Cules when he latched onto an Özil through ball to finish.
Ronaldo has scored six winning goals in total against Messi, backing him to do so again could represent a good value bet.
Game 5: Real Madrid 0-2 FC Barcelona 27/04/2011
But the greatest moment in the long rivalry between these two came a year earlier. In this Champions League semi-final, Messi scored one of the greatest goals ever.
Jose Mourinho had charged Pepe with following (and kicking) Messi everywhere he went. So Messi dropped to the halfway line, exchanged passes with Sergio Busquets and then slalomed through the well-set Real defence as though they were traffic cones. Messi scored again to seal it.
Both goals came in the final 15 minutes of this game, and as mentioned earlier, Messi always seemed to find a way to defeat Ronaldo’s Madrid late on. And with this potentially being their final encounter, do not rule out Messi scoring in the final 15 minutes.