They’re two footballers who have defined a generation, but most players only ever have the same experience as fans when it comes to Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi – watching them on television.
Some are lucky enough to play against two of the best players of all time, while a select few even get to play alongside one of these greats.
But only a handful of footballers of the last 15 years have ever played with both Ronaldo and Messi either at club level or internationally.
Played With Ronaldo: 2004-06 & 2007-08 (Manchester United)
Played With Messi: 2008-present (Barcelona)
As Barcelona’s seventh most capped player of all time, it’s easy to forget that Gerard Piqué’s career in senior football actually started at Manchester United.
Piqué moved to Old Trafford one year after Ronaldo and left one year before the Portugal international moved to Spain – he also spent one season on loan at Real Zaragoza – but the defender still made 23 appearances for United.
The centre back even scored twice in the Champions League group stages in 2007, including in a win over Dynamo Kyiv where Ronaldo also found the back of the net.
Piqué is the only player who has played with both Ronaldo and Messi at club level.
Played With Ronaldo: 2018-present (Juventus)
Played With Messi: 2015-present (Argentina)
Having made his international debut under Gerardo Martino shortly after his move to Juventus from Palermo, Paulo Dybala has gone on to make 28 appearances for La Albiceleste.
It’s been suggested for some time that Dybala could link up with Messi at club level too as he frequently gets linked with a move to Barcelona in the back pages, but the 25-year-old instead became Ronaldo’s teammate in 2018.
Dybala’s been directly involved in 20 goals in 56 appearances since Ronaldo’s move to Turin, compared to 90 goals or assists in 140 games for Juventus before the 2018/19 season.
Played With Ronaldo: 2014-present (Portugal)
Played With Messi: 2016-18 (Barcelona)
Everton’s André Gomes was tipped for instant success at Barcelona when he made a move to Camp Nou from Valencia in 2016, but the Portugal international could never really find his feet and only spent two years alongside Messi in Catalonia.
Gomes even dropped out of international duty with Ronaldo during his fledgling years at Barcelona, but the midfielder was recalled to the squad last month and will likely return once he recovers from a horrific ankle injury.
Played With Ronaldo: 2015-present (Portugal)
Played With Messi: 2017-present (Barcelona)
Nélson Semedo isn’t the first player on this list who’s played with Messi at Barcelona and Ronaldo with Portugal, and he won’t be the last mentioned either.
The 25-year-old has been part of the national team for over four years, but he’s only ever made 14 senior appearances with the Selecção das Quinas.
In two years in Catalonia, Semedo has already played 98 times and has even set up five goals for Messi during that time, including four penalties.
Played With Ronaldo: 2007-09 (Manchester United)
Played With Messi: 2005-15 (Argentina)
Even though Carlos Tevez broke into the national team in 2004 under Marcelo Bielsa, he didn’t actually play alongside Messi until Argentina’s World Cup qualification match against Peru the following season.
It was Tevez’s performances with Argentina that saw West Ham come in for his signature soon after, before Manchester United brought him to Old Trafford where he’d form a devastating partnership with Ronaldo in the north-west.
Played With Ronaldo: 2009-13 (Real Madrid) & 2019-present (Juventus)
Played With Messi: 2009-2019 (Argentina)
Having arrived at Real Madrid two years before Ronaldo, Gonzalo Higuaín was a regular part of their starting lineup thanks to his impressive record in front of goal, but chances became few and far between when Karim Benzema arrived in 2009.
Even though Ronaldo went on to join Higuaín’s Juventus in 2018, the Argentina international spent last season on loan at Milan and Chelsea, so the 31-year-old has only joined up with his former teammate once again this year.
Higuaín spent a decade alongside Messi with Argentina, but the striker decided to hang up his boots with La Albiceleste last season.
Played With Ronaldo: 2004-07 (Manchester United)
Played With Messi: 2005-10 (Argentina)
Gabriel Heinze was actually on the books at Sporting CP – Ronaldo’s boyhood club – at the same time as the five-time Ballon d’Or winner, but the defender ended his loan spell in Portugal some years before the 34-year-old’s debut.
Heinze eventually did have the chance to play alongside Ronaldo at Manchester United, while a year later he also stepped onto the pitch with Messi whilst on international duty.
The defender not only started Messi’s international debut against Hungary, but Heinze also scored the winning goal of the match after Sándor Torghelle had cancelled out Maxi Rodríguez’s opener.
Messi came off the bench just after Heinze’s winner, replacing Lisandro López, but it was a debut to forget as the Barcelona legend was sent off after just 43 seconds as a senior international footballer.
Played With Ronaldo: 2009-11 (Real Madrid)
Played With Messi: 2007-17 (Argentina)
For those who warm to specific quiz shows on the BBC, Fernando Gago would probably be the best chance of a pointless answer if this question were ever to be asked by Alexander Armstrong. Cue funny Richard Osman quip.
Even though the 33-year-old goes under the radar, Gago was actually one of the most highly rated defensive midfielders in his prime, going on to make more international appearances than legends like Wálter Samuel, Pablo Aimar and Juan Román Riquelme.
Gago spent four years on the books at Real Madrid too, before moving back to Argentina where he still plays at Club Atlético Vélez Sarsfield.
Played With Ronaldo: 2009-11 (Real Madrid)
Played With Messi: 2007-15 (Argentina)
Ezequiel Garay is a player who has never quite reached the heights that many were expecting when he first broke through at Real Madrid in 2008, going on to have spells in Portugal and Russia before returning to La Liga with Valencia.
Garay didn’t spend long playing with Ronaldo, but the two actually combined for one of Real Madrid’s goals during their 6-0 win over Real Zaragoza in December 2009.
He never combined like that with Messi for Argentina, although he was an ever-present for La Albiceleste at the 2014 World Cup and 2015 Copa América.
Played With Ronaldo: 2003-10 (Portugal)
Played With Messi: 2004-08 (Barcelona)
Deco didn’t just play alongside Messi during his career, but the Portugal legend actually came off the pitch when the Barça star made his debut for the club.
He was also on the pitch when Ronaldo made his Portugal debut against Kazakhstan.
Deco and Ronaldo first combined for a goal at Euro 2004, going on to be directly involved in six strikes between them.
Ángel Di María
Played With Ronaldo: 2010-14 (Real Madrid)
Played With Messi: 2009-present (Argentina)
Arriving at Real Madrid a year after Ronaldo, Ángel Di María went on to make 190 appearances for the club where he formed part of a formidable front three, including Karim Benzema.
The 31-year-old won six trophies alongside Ronaldo before moving to Manchester United in 2014, where he spent just one season.
Although Di María is more memorably associated with Ronaldo, he actually lined up alongside Messi for Argentina two years before his move to the Spanish capital.
Di María hasn’t played for La Albiceleste since the Copa América.
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