Ronaldo, Messi rivalry fires up Spanish fans
Ronaldo was the winner of the Golden Ball award for 2008, while Messi is widely tipped to win World Player of the Year award for 2009.
Madrid – Just four weeks into the Spanish season, Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, two of the best strikers in the world, are already forging a rivalry that has fans drooling.
The superstars of Real Madrid and Barcelona have scored five goals each in four matches played so far, leaving their clubs atop the Primera Liga.
"I only want to win, not to be the 'pichichi' (top scorer)" of La Liga, claimed Ronaldo, known as 'CR9', after scoring a great solo goal in the first minute of Real's 2-0 defeat of Villareal on Wednesday.
"I'm lucky to play alongside teammates who play very well," said Messi, after two spectacular goals that helped European champions Barcelona crush Racing Santander 4-1 on Tuesday.
Their rivalry is exciting fans and the Spanish press alike.
"CR9-Messi, the duel of la Liga," said the sports daily Marca, anticipating a 'mano a mano' contest throughout the season alongside the battle between 'new Galacticos' of the big-spending Real and the Spanish and European champions Barcelona for the league title.
Ronaldo, 24, fast and powerful, was the winner of the Golden Ball award for 2008. The impish Messi, 22, sharp and agile, is the favourite to pick the World Player of the Year award for 2009.
Ronaldo, transferred from Manchester United for a world record EUR 94 million, is desperate to make an impression at the club where he always dreamt of playing when he was a child kicking a ball around in the streets of the Portuguese island of Madeira.
"I am not trying to be Messi. What is important for me is to give the most in every match for Real," he said.
The Argentine Messi, who emerged from Barca's youth programme, has just extended his contract until 2016, which will see him pick up a whopping EUR 10 million a year.
But both paradoxically have failed to show the same devastating form with their national teams, who are in danger of failing to qualify for the 2010 World Cup.
"I would like to be as good (with Argentina) as I am here in Barcelona," said Messi.
Two-time World Cup champions Argentina this month slipped to fifth in the South American World Cup qualifying standings, a place below the automatic qualification slots, after suffering four defeats in their last five games.
Portugal also risk elimination from their qualifying group, dominated by Denmark and Sweden.
So it's possible the World Cup in South Africa will be without Ronaldo and Messi, who many view as the two best players in the world.
The consolation for fans around the world would be if the two Spanish club giants face off in the Champions League final in 2010.
AFP / Expatica