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World Cup 2018: Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi rivalry heats up

It is the question that has divided football fans for over a decade. Who has the edge -- Cristiano Ronaldo or Lionel ...

Posted: May 31, 2018 12:59 PM
Updated: May 31, 2018 12:59 PM

It is the question that has divided football fans for over a decade. Who has the edge -- Cristiano Ronaldo or Lionel Messi?

Between the two of them, Ronaldo and Messi have scored over a thousand goals, won the Ballon d'Or 10 times and have reshaped modern football.

With less than two weeks to go before the World Cup begins, the eternal rivalry has turned up a notch, captivating a legion of fans across the world on what is next.

For Ronaldo, it may be sooner than we think.

After Real Madrid's Champion's League win against Liverpool, the 33-year-old planted the seeds of doubt that it may be his last with the team.

The news comes after Messi hinted at a move back to his home country of Argentina after his Barcelona contract expires in 2021.

"We've been there before, one way of looking at it is a tactic," journalist and author Jimmy Burns told CNN Sport regarding Real's Portuguese international recent outburst. "Ronaldo is negotiating Real Madrid and is negotiating hard.

"There is no reason why he would want to leave, the fact is he has just won a fifth Champions League."

READ: Real Madrid win European Cup for 13th time

'Showman status'

For the 30-year-old Messi, Burns explains that his decision to move may allude to the shadow of Diego Maradona looming over him, having never brought a World Cup trophy home since his predecessor in 1986.

"There is no doubt that Messi needs to win the World Cup, many say he needs to do so to cement his place in history as the best player," Burns continued.

"Until he wins that cup -- for his own countrymen at least -- he won't quite be up there with Maradona," added Burns, who has written extensively about Maradona and also Barcelona.

Although Portugal is yet to bring home a World Cup, its team did win the European Championship in 2016, with Ronaldo playing a key role even if he was injured during the final.

Known for his youthful physique, good looks and star power on social media, international brands are quick to snag Ronaldo for brand endorsement.

"Ronaldo is good looking and works hard on his physique," said Burns. "His body looks better today than he did in his teenage years.

"All that matters to Messi is the football," added Burns, who says that the Argentine prioritizes football over his marketability and is a naturally reserved character who prefers a toned down lifestyle.

"His life in Barcelona is just the same as it was many years ago. He still loves eating meat and pastries at his favorite restaurant and still keeps a closely knit circle of friends, who are mostly Argentine or Uruguayan."

READ: Ronaldo's 'Playstation goal' is talk of the world

Previous generation's rivalries

While the pair are locked in this generation's rivalry, their feats offer an interesting counterpoint to other great footballers' achievements.

"Ronaldo and Messi are playing in a modern era of football which is as competitive as it is pressurized," said Burns.

"Players at that elite level are under immense pressure on and off the pitch with media attention, sponsorship and image rights. They are surrounded by lawyers, advisers and have a legion of fans across the world through social media.

"All of which wasn't around at the time of Maradona or Pel- --- they could just get on with the game.

"Their achievements and their brilliance have to be measured on the pitch and despite that huge pressure they continue to be incredibly fit for their age."

As for who is the better player ... Burns remains coy.

"You have got to judge them for their unrivaled performance over the last 10 years.

"Whichever statistics you look at, no footballer has reached the pinnacles they have reached."

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