Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo are going tit for tat in their friendly, decade-long rivalry for the hearts of football fans. Reminiscent of the battles of other artists at their peaks—Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse, Elton John and Paul McCartney, Larry Bird and Magic Johnson, John Keats and Lord Byron—each striker keeps trying to outdo the other on the pitch.
Frankly, it matters not that they are in different countries and were, in their respective recent matches, competing in different tourneys, what was of prime importance was that Ronnie had gotten a ton of ink and had suffused the ether, let alone the internet, with kudos and replays. So, of course, Lion-el had to stand up and roar in his inimitable way to ensure no one forgot who he was and what he could do.
Over the weekend, Barcelona’s Messi seemed to want to respond to Juventus star Ronaldo’s sublime UEFA Champions League hat trick against Atletico Madrid. So, in his Spanish team’s visit to Real Betis, the diminutive Argentine produced a fantastic trio of goals against his hosts that might have sealed the La Liga title for his club.
Ronaldo’s trio was arguably harder to achieve not only because of the opposition, and because it was a do-or-die match, but because his two headers were achieved with markers hanging all over him and his penalty was scored against arguably the best-playing goalkeeper in world soccer.
Yet, Messi’s touch on the run for his second goal, and his touch on the sweet lob that was his third goal, were only outdone by his second score, a free-kick, upper ninety placement, to the right of the keeper, converted with such power that it would have hit the back of the net regardless of its location.
We are blessed to be seeing these two super players ply their trades and can only hope for them to keep at it for years to come. If we are lucky, they may just be making reservations for a joint performance in Madrid on June 1, 2019.
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