End of an Era

Lionel+Messi+%28left%29+and+Cristiano+Ronaldo+%28right%29+have+dominated+for+the+past+15+years%2C+but+we+may+be+seeing+the+beginning+of+the+end+for+these+two+soccer+legends.+%28Courtesy+of+Twitter%29

Lionel Messi (left) and Cristiano Ronaldo (right) have dominated for the past 15 years, but we may be seeing the beginning of the end for these two soccer legends. (Courtesy of Twitter)

Michael Hernandez, Assistant Sports Editor

Nothing beats watching sports when I was younger; and to this day, nothing still does. Athletes are the best in the world and people look up to them as a source of inspiration. However, there comes a time where the people that we look up to eventually retire or fall out of the spotlight because they are no longer at the level that they used to be. 

One recent example is Serena Williams. After she lost in the semi-finals of the Australian Open against eventual winner Naomi Osaka, she left the court and thanked the in-person fans for everything in what seemed like a farewell message.

Now take a look at soccer: In the past 10 years, there have been two players that have surpassed the competition. These players are Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. And this year, we may be seeing the changing of the guard from the old to the new.

If you ask any soccer fan to name the best player,  Messi and Ronaldo will always be at the front of the discussion. Both of these players have dominated over the past decade. These two GOATs have won six out of the previous 10 Champions League tournaments, arguably the highest and most prestigious club trophy in the world. 

Messi broke and continues to surpass Pele’s record of the most goals scored for a single club. He also holds the record for the most goals in a calendar year with 91. As for Ronaldo he broke Pele’s record of the most goals scored across all competitions, which is at 763 and counting. He is the leading goal scorer in the champions league with a current tally of 134 goals and counting. Combined, Messi and Ronaldo have scored over 1445 goals.

They have been at a level above anyone else. They have dominated and won every single Ballon d’Or, a yearly award given to the best footballer in the world since 2008. The only year since then when Ronaldo or Messi did not win the award was 2018. Messi holds six of them and Ronaldo has five. 

Between the two, they have won 44 trophies for either their clubs or countries. They have also won a combined total of 68 individual honors, including player of the year and the European golden boot, which is an award given to the player who has scored the most goals in their league.

However, since 2018, Messi and Ronaldo have slightly fallen. 

Messi and Barcelona have been humiliated for the past four years in the Champions League, either by blowing a huge lead in the knockout rounds or getting completely destroyed in matches. Last season, Messi did not win a single trophy for the first time since 2007 and it seems likely that he will not win a trophy this season. 

Just two weeks ago, Barcelona got thrashed 4-1 in the Champions League against Paris Saint-Germain, leaving them with a slim chance of advancing to the quarterfinals. 

As for Ronaldo, he has won the league in both of his two years with Juventus. However, this year they are not top of the league and it seems like Juventus may miss out on winning their 10th consecutive league title. 

Even though their teams are not at their best, Messi and Ronaldo are still proving that they are the best in the world and still have that magic touch. Both are the leading goal scorers in their respective leagues, with 19 goals each. 

But as of now, it seems like they are beginning to share the spotlight with future stars. Two of these players are French international and PSG star Kylian Mbappe and Erling Haaland, a Norwegian international who plays for Borussia Dortmund. 

Mbappe, who is 22 years old, is already a World Cup winner, winning the 2018 trophy with France, an achievement that neither Ronaldo or Messi has been able to accomplish. Mbappe even scored a hat trick against Barcelona in the 4-1 match that was previously mentioned. 

As for Haaland, age 20, he has been a rising star for Dortmund who also made headlines in his champions league match against Sevilla. 

Both of them have the potential to be superstars, but Ronaldo and Messi have set the benchmark. For either Haaland or Mbappe to equal Ronaldo’s goal tally of 763, they would need to score at least 44 or 48 goals per season respectively until they hit the age of 35. 

The day that Ronaldo and Messi decide to retire will be a sad day for all soccer fans, regardless of their opinion of who is better. But we can take comfort in a couple of things. The first is that we will be able to say that we saw them play. And the second is the fact that they have inspired a new generation of superstars that will entertain us for years to come.