They operate in a universe of their own. From the summer of last year to the end of the season just past, Cristiano Ronaldo has scored 54 goals in 59 appearances. And Messi has 56 from just 55 appearances in all competitions.
Forbes’ list of the wealthiest athletes, published just recently, is led almost exclusively by two of the greatest footballers (or if that’s too derogatory in your opinion, try two of the greatest goalscorers) of all time.
Whatever your stance is on Messi and Ronaldo, they are, above all else, the greatest mascots that this game has ever had. The instant brilliance that they are able to pull-off, coinciding side-by-side with the innovations of the 21st century, such as YouTube, has broadened the game to the now nearly-extinct locales of the Earth which haven’t been graced by this sport/religion yet.
However, although Ronaldo and Messi are clearly the figureheads that will keep football the most popular sport in the world for the remainder of their respective careers, it’s unclear if (and when) there will be a next generation of such feted rivalry.
Bear in mind that Ronaldo is already 32 years old, and Messi 29. The next up-and-coming talents are led by Barcelona’s Brazilian starlet Neymar Jr. However, even at just 25-years of age, it’s becoming clearer and clearer as each day passes that Neymar will not be the same as Messi or Ronaldo. His goalscoring rate is far less than the two men he will be succeeding. And that’s highlighted by his position on Forbes’ list as well.
He sits currently at no. 18. (Or $43M behind his Barcelona teammate Messi).
The anxiety, no doubt, will continue to mount till the day comes when football finally bids the two titans goodbye. And all football fans will hope that it’s not too long before there’s another duo capable of spinning the world on its head.
Forbes’ full list (footballers only):
- Cristiano Ronaldo – $58M salary; $35M in endorsements
- Lionel Messi – $53M in salary; $27M in endorsements
- Neymar Jr. – $15M in salary; $22M in endorsements
- Gareth Bale – $23M in salary; $11M in endorsements
- Zlatan Ibrahimovic – $27M in salary; $5M in endorsements
- Wayne Rooney – $17.6M in salary; $6M in endorsements
- Luis Suarez – $17.3M in salary; $6M in endorsements
- Sergio Aguero – $14.6M in salary; $8M in endorsements
- James Rodriguez – $14.9M in salary; $7M in endorsements