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THERE’S no doubt about it, in this past decade we’ve witnessed two of the greats of football push each other to their goalscoring limits.
On Tuesday night, Cristiano Ronaldo, 36, scored his 20th league goal of the season as Juventus defeated Spezia in Serie A.
It’s the 12th consecutive season the Portuguese legend has managed to register 20-plus goals in a league campaign across Europe’s top five leagues.
But how does that compare to his great rival Lionel Messi, 33, who also has managed 20-plus goals in his last 12 campaigns – and is just one away from making 13 in a row.
SunSport takes a look at their numbers in the past years.
The first time any one of these greats registered 20 goals came in Messi’s fifth season with Barcelona.
23 goals in 31 league games saw Pep Guardiola’s team roar to the title – some nine points ahead of nearest rivals Real Madrid.
It wasn’t enough for Messi to win The Pichichi Trophy – with Diego Forlan netting the most – an astonishing 32 goals.
Ronaldo, in his final season as a Manchester United player managed 18 Premier League goals.
Lionel Messi registered his first 20 league goals a season haul in the 2008-09 seasonCredit: Getty Images – Getty
2008-09 was Cristiano Ronaldo’s last year at Manchester UnitedCredit: Getty Images – Getty
After his £80million transfer to Real Madrid, Ronaldo and Messi would go head-to-head for the first time.
Having the benefit of experience playing in LaLiga, the Argentine was top goalscorer in the competition with 34 goals in 35 games.
Ronaldo, who wasn’t even Real’s top scorer (Gonzalo Higuain managed 27), scored 26 goals in as many games. Ronaldo might’ve marginally had the better goalscoring ratio, but Messi had the numbers.
Ronaldo signed for Real Madrid in 2009 for £80m to ignite his rivalry with MessiCredit: Action Images – Reuters
With Messi setting the bar, Ronaldo knew he had to record special numbers to defeat his rival in the goalscoring charts.
Astonishingly, he bagged 40 goals in the 2010-11 season – nine more than Messi managed.
Still, for all his efforts, Barça were champions once again.
The numbers went astronomical in 2011-12, with both players reaching the peak of their powers.
Between them they managed an incredible 96 league goals, in a season where Jose Mourinho wrestled the title off Guardiola after three years of Barcelona dominance.
Messi hit a remarkable 50 league goals, while Ronaldo managed an equally impressive 46. Nearest to them was Radamel Falcao with 24, which was a measure of how far ahead the pair were of everyone else.
At the peak of their powers Ronaldo and Messi managed 96 league goals between them in the 2011-12 campaignCredit: EPA
Barcelona reclaimed their title in impressive fashion – by 15 points in the end.
Messi, was of course, central to that with 46 in just 32 games and was top scorer again.
Ronaldo was second with 34 in as many games. Although he did finish top scorer in the Champions League that season.
Injuries meant both Messi and Ronaldo didn’t play as many league games as they had managed previously.
The latter won back the Pichichi Trophy with 31 goals to Messi’s 28, but both both missed out on the LaLiga title, as Atletico Madrid were crowned champions.
Messi and Ronaldo’s fight to be crowned the GOAT continues to rage on
Again, it’s worth noting Ronaldo excelled in the Champions League – with 17 in a campaign that saw Real crowned European champions. It’s a record that’s not been broken.
Ronaldo landed the Pichichi Trophy for the 2013-14 seasonCredit: Getty – Contributor
In one of the closest title races in years, Barcelona pipped Real by just two points in the end.
But Ronaldo amassed his highest ever league goal total – scoring 48 goals in 35 matches.
Messi’s 43 would’ve done it any other year, if the former Manchester United player wasn’t around.
The top scorer mantle was passed on in 2015-16 to Luis Suarez – the first time it wasn’t Ronaldo or Messi in six seasons.
Messi’s 26 was his lowest since 2008-09, while Ronaldo’s 35 showed he was still on top of his game.
Again, Barcelona were champions by just one point in what was a nail-biting climax to the league season.
For the 2015-16 Messi had to share his goals with Neymar and Luis SuarezCredit: Corbis
Despite recording his lowest amount of league goals (25), Ronaldo’s Real were champions for the first time since their 2011-12 season.
Messi, who had the presence of Suarez and Neymar around him, managed an impressive 37 goals.
However, he would’ve been frustrated to see Ronaldo’s lifting ANOTHER Champions League trophy.
Domestically, Messi proved he was king again.
His 34 strikes helped propel the Catalans to the LaLiga trophy. Ronaldo’s 26 were an improvement from the previous season.
However, a new challenge was around the corner.
Messi proved he was the domestic king in 2017-18 scoring 34 times in the leagueCredit: AFP or licensors
At 33, Ronaldo embarked on a new challenge and moved to Juventus in an £88million deal.
With his rival gone, Messi still continued to deliver – scoring 36 times in La Liga.
In his debut season in Italy, Ronaldo just passed the 20 goal threshold with 21 in 31. He finished a disappointing fourth in the Capocannoniere hunt.
Ronaldo came back with a bang in 2019-20 – recording 31 goals in a campaign that delivered back-to-back league titles for his club.
It wasn’t enough to be crowned top scorer – with Ciro Immobile managing an amazing 36 – equalling a Serie A record of most goals in a season.
Messi ended his LaLiga campaign on 25, six less than Ronaldo, but as Pichichi Trophy winner.
In his second season at Juventus Ronaldo scored an impressive 31 Serie A goalsCredit: AP:Associated Press
This season, with still plenty of games left to play, Ronaldo leads the Serie A scoring charts with 20 goals in his 21 games.
He beat Messi to 20 by a fraction, who has 19 in his 23 league games.
Even though they’re perhaps past their peak, the numbers still remain positive, despite current advesity.
Their clubs are trailing behind in their respective title races, which hasn’t helped their cause.
But who will finish on top? Messi or Ronaldo?