Lionel Messi is now 33, Cristiano Ronaldo is 35 - let’s appreciate them both while we still can

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Birthdays are happy occasions but it’s hard not to feel a little sad that Lionel Messi, arguably the greatest footballer of all time, is now 33 years old.

Most footballers - especially those who have played as many matches as the Barcelona legend - usually retire in their mid-to-late 30s.

Pele and Diego Maradona both retired at the age of 36, Johan Cruyff was 37 when he hung up his boots, while Zinedine Zidane was just 34. It won’t be too much longer before Messi reaches the end of his own illustrious career.

The Argentine forward has played 722 games at club level and made a further 138 appearances for his country.

That remarkable amount of football, combined with his advancing years, means it’s sadly inevitable that he’ll begin to decline in the not-too-distant future.

The same applies to Cristiano Ronaldo, who turns 36 next February.

Ronaldo has made 839 senior appearances at club level and played 164 times for Portugal.

He keeps himself in top physical condition, so it’s possible that he’ll go on for a few more years, but it won’t be much longer before he has to tell himself ‘okay, enough is enough’.

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Time, and age, eventually catches up with everybody - even two seemingly untouchable superstars like Messi and Ronaldo.

With this in mind, it’s vital that we all appreciate *both* of them while we still can.

As football fans, we’re incredibly fortunate to exist at the same time as these once-in-a-lifetime talents.

It’s entirely plausible that we’ll never see two better footballers in our lifetimes.

Some of us have been fortunate to follow their respective careers from the very beginning in the early-to-mid 2000s and what an extraordinary journey it’s been.

Yes, we all have our own opinions about which player is better - but it’s important to respect the pair of them.

If you’re a die-hard Messi fan, try to appreciate Ronaldo’s qualities during the final years of his career and applaud him for maximising his potential.

If you’re a hardcore Ronaldo fan, allow yourself to enjoy Messi’s genius before his playing days are over.

And for those of us who already love to watch both players, let’s continue to enjoy the ride for a little bit longer.

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