‘I Hated Cristiano Ronaldo as a Kid – I Went on to be His Strike Partner’

‘I Hated Cristiano Ronaldo as a Kid – I Went on to be His Strike Partner’


Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi were, by some distance, the greatest footballers on the planet between the late 2000s and early 2020s. For nine years, the two greats shared the illustrious Ballon d’Or trophy and, in doing so, helped perpetuate a culture of following or supporting individual players, rather than their team.

It is rare, if not entirely unique, for the football world to be so clearly dominated by just two individual players. Occasionally, one player emerges to become comfortably the best player of their generation; for example, Pele was undisputedly the world’s best player during the 1960s and 1970s as Brazil would win World Cup after World Cup. Likewise, Diego Maradona became the next player, some 20 years later, to be in genuine consideration for the ‘greatest player of all time’ tag.

Ronaldo vs Messi

The debate that shaped the 2010s

Cristiano Ronaldo helping Lionel Messi off the ground during a match between Barcelona and Real Madrid

It was unprecedented for the footballing world to come across two of the very, very greatest to ever play the game in the same era. What intensified their rivalry was that they played against each other in arguably Europe’s most fierce rivalry: The ‘El Clasico’. Supporters of Celtic or Rangers may dispute it being Europe’s fiercest rivalry, but it was the highest quality of football on display in a derby match anywhere on the planet.

When Ronaldo, now 39 years old and plying his trade in the Saudi Arabian league, signed for Real Madrid in 2009 for a world-record transfer fee, the Portuguese superstar would come up against Messi’s Barcelona team for nine consecutive years. The two Spanish titans fought year-on-year for La Liga and the Champions League.

As the duo approach their final playing years, most football fans are in agreement that Messi finally got the better of his nemesis, Ronaldo, after winning the 2022 World Cup with Argentina. But if we’re to exclusively evaluate their respective careers between 2009 and 2018 while playing for Spain’s two biggest football clubs, it’s much harder to coronate a winner in their spectacular battle for footballing supremacy.

They both won titles, a lot of them. Messi’s Barcelona, managed by current Manchester City boss, Pep Guardiola, during the earlier period of their battle, were wonderful to watch and won the majority of the La Liga titles during Ronaldo’s time in Spain. Although Real Madrid would strike back on the European stage almost yearly, winning four Champions League trophies in Ronaldo’s final five seasons in the Spanish capital.

Dybala Told Ronaldo He Hated Him

Dybala, a Messi fan growing up, played with Ronaldo at Juventus

uventus' Paulo Dybala, Cristiano Ronaldo and Miralem Pjanic

Football fans across the globe were in awe of the brilliance displayed by Ronaldo and Messi on a weekly basis and, naturally, ended up picking a side in their rivalry. After all, it was impossible not to, with “Messi or Ronaldo?” one of the most popular topics of debate across any genre during much of the 2000s.

Pablo Dybala, who eventually partnered Ronaldo at Juventus, was not exempt from this fascination of the world’s two greatest players. Dybala was, by his own admission, not a fan of Ronaldo. He told DAZN’s ‘Scacco Capitale’ (per GOAL):
Though Dybala, who won Serie A twice alongside Ronaldo, didn’t let his childhood tribalism prevent the duo from flourishing together in Turin. He recalled:

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