It was Lionel Messi’s turn to take the Champions League spotlight on Wednesday night following Cristiano Ronaldo’s stunning hat-trick for Juventus 24 hours earlier.
Messi responded to his old rival’s heroics against Atletico Madrid with an excellent performance of his own for Barcelona, scoring twice as they joined Juventus in the quarter-finals with a 5-1 win over Lyon at the Nou Camp.
Messi’s goals make this the 11th consecutive season in which he has reached the 35-goal mark, but Ronaldo’s hat-trick against Portugal underlined his status as the king of the Champions League.
The Portuguese is the competition’s top scorer with 124 goals in 160 games, putting him comfortably ahead of Messi, who has now netted 108 goals – albeit in just 131 appearances.
Ronaldo has also won five Champions League trophies to Messi’s four, meaning he is now aiming to become the first player to win the competition six times.
Interestingly, Messi is in fact ahead of Ronaldo in terms of minutes per goal in the Champions League, averaging a goal every 100 minutes compared to Ronaldo’s 112 minutes, but when it comes to the crunch, Ronaldo’s record is unrivalled.
Ronaldo has a habit of stepping up when it matters most. Incredibly, he has scored 63 goals in 77 Champions League knockout games compared to Messi’s total of 42 goals in 64. It gives him a knockout stage strike rate of a goal every 108 minutes to Messi’s 131 minutes.
The pair are level for Champions League hat-tricks with eight apiece, but it is significant that four of Ronaldo’s have come in the knockout stages compared to only two of Messi’s.
Their Champions League rivalry is now poised to continue, with Juventus and Barcelona set to learn their quarter-final fate when the draw takes place on Friday at 11am.
Will Ronaldo and Messi be drawn against each other? Or will they be kept apart until the final? What’s certain is that a Champions League showdown between these two titans of the competition would whet the appetite of football fans everywhere.