Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi: Who are their toughest ever opponents?

  • Kobe Tong

Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi are about as easy to stop as a cheetah covered in baby oil.

I mean, let’s face it, we’re talking about two generational talents with over 600 career goals to their name and they’re showing no signs of stopping despite edging towards their 40th birthdays.

Over the years we’ve seen some of the greatest defenders of all time failing terribly in their attempts to stop Ronaldo and Messi, who boast an astonishing 11 Ballon d’Or trophies between them.

Messi vs Ronaldo

You only have to look at how badly Sergio Ramos and Gerard Pique struggled against the respective superstars when they stood either side of El Clasico battle-lines to get the point.

And if even that hasn’t convinced you, lest we forget that when Virgil van Dijk was competing to become the first Ballon d’Or-winning defender since 2006, he still conceded a brace to Messi.

Meanwhile, Ronaldo has casually smashed no less than two Champions League hat-tricks past Atletico Madrid, arguably the greatest all-round defence of our era, over the last half-decade.


Toughest opponents

As a result, it’s no surprise that Ronaldo and Messi have been asked countless times about their toughest opponents because even coming close to stopping them is nigh on impossible.

And while neither of them would readily admit to having struggled too much, naturally, they have both given answers to that most fascinating of questions over the years.

So, without further ado, here are the two players who have stopped Messi and Ronaldo the best, when so many legends have failed, in the words of the superstars themselves.


Lionel Messi

(Source: DAZN via FourFourTwo)

“Man-marking doesn’t bother me – you know that there will be tough matches and it can be strange to always have someone around you.

“In truth it hasn’t happened to me that often. It doesn’t bother me, but it is strange. Pablo Maffeo of Girona [was the toughest man-marker]. That was intense!

“I’ve never been one who complains. I think physical contact and kicks are part of the game.

“I get more annoyed when I play bad and I get a little more angry. But if I’m not [playing bad], it’s not a problem, it’s part of the game and I don’t take it personally.”


Cristiano Ronaldo

(Source: Coach Mag via Sky Sports)

“Over the years I had some great battles with Ashley Cole, he does not give you a second to breathe. He was such a tenacious player when he was at his peak, quick, tough in the tackle.

“You knew it would never be an easy game.”


Varying choices

Well then, talk about a contrast.

It’s admittedly quite well-known that Cole is the player who got under Ronaldo’s skin the most, giving him plenty of tough evenings during his time with Arsenal and Chelsea.

But while Cole is openly revered as one of the greatest defenders ever, it’s interesting that Messi cites a far less famous option who, well, took a bit more of an aggressive approach to halting him.


Nevertheless, it goes to show that even superhumans like Messi and Ronaldo have their kryptonite… it just happens that it affects them much less than any mere mortal.

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