As Ballon d’Or nominations came out on Wednesday, a familiar name was missing in Cristiano Ronaldo. After his move to Al-Nassr in Saudi Arabia along with Portugal’s disappointing showing at the World Cup, Ronaldo didn’t have enough accomplishments to be considered for the award, failing to be nominated for the first time in 20 years. But while Ronaldo wasn’t on the list, Lionel Messi was not only a nominee but he’s a favorite for the award even after moving to Inter Miami in Major League Soccer thanks to winning the World Cup. For two players who have been competing for top honors during their entire career, this is a time where their paths are beginning to diverge. In a press conference for Portugal ahead of Euro qualifiers against Slovakia and Luxembourg, Ronaldo addressed that rivalry and said it’s over.
“We are respected all over the world, that’s the most important thing. He carves his path, I [carve] mine. He’s been doing well, from what I’ve seen,” he said.
“The legacy continues, but the rivalry is over. As I said, we shared the stage for 15 years and ended up being, I wouldn’t say friends, but professional colleagues and we respect each other.”
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With the two only being able to meet competitively at a World Cup or in the Club World Cup now, gone are the times when they’d battle for La Liga or Champions League with each on different sides of the world forging their own path. Now, Messi is forging his legacy after the World Cup win and pushing MLS forward while more global stars are following Ronaldo to the Saudi Pro League.
They each produced memorable moments throughout their careers and were involved in some of the greatest El Clasicos we’ve ever seen, but now they enter the final years of their careers looking to add to their longstanding impact on the global game in a unique setting and setting trends.