For decades, La Liga was blessed with having two of the almighty superpowers of footballing prowess in one league, and at opposite ends of an immensely competitive, rich, and almost age-old rivalry. Ronaldo’s departure from Los Blancos had football fans wondering whether El Clasico would ever be the same after encounters with the other man vying for the title of best footballer in the world, but now with Messi’s departure from Barcelona, many are questioning whether the old and bitter rivalry will ever be as beautifully contested as it was in what has been a golden age for football.
Whenever Messi or Ronaldo move clubs, football stands still, and then erupts. High calibre players have been common throughout history, but none left as influential of a mark as those etched into history by Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi. The footballing gods looked kindly on us earthlings when they decided to grant us two of the best footballers in the history of the sport within the same generation.
But now, both of their times in La Liga have come to an unfortunate end. The Santiago Bernabéu have come to terms with the void left when Ronaldo turned his sights to Italy, however Messi’s departure from Catalonia is far fresher and shocking for many footballing fans out there.
Messi has become synonymous with Barcelona. From early days at La Masia, and talks of how the club treated his growth defects, and fostered him to become football’s brightest star, many believed that Messi would begin and end at Barcelona, etching his name into history books for being one of the only players out there to represent one club for his footballing life.
That sadly changed in 2021, when it was announced that Barcelona could no longer fund Messi’s contract, forcing his hand to head elsewhere. In this process, new signings Sergio Aguero and Memphis Depay have outwardly expressed their disappointment, as one of the chief reasons many players want to move to Barcelona, is not only to play for one of the oldest and most prestigious footballing establishments in the world, but to also play with the man who has revolutionized the very game itself.
Messi’s departure has led to bookakers from across the globe, even online betting sites in South Africa to suggest that Barcelona have a tougher task of securing a title this season, having been giving longer odds to win the much sought after La Liga title.
But as the dust begins to settle, pundits and fans alike are naturally beginning to ask whether we have seen the end of the golden age of at least one of La Liga’s biggest exports: El Clasico. The truth is that while Ronaldo and Messi have come to define the occasion, there have been other “galactico” matchups that have caused the El Clasico to become one of the most watched events in sport.
Think the likes of Ronaldinho, Zidane, Roberto Carlos, Xavi, the list goes on and on. This suggests that we should not be too hasty in jumping to conclusions about El Clasico’s golden age being over, because if we think about it, the golden age stretches back a long way. Clubs like Real Madrid and Barcelona have the power of attracting the biggest and most exciting names in football, and it is likely that within the next few years, we will simply see new faces that are capable of delivering a mouth watering match up.
While it certainly feels like the end of an era, there is still plenty to look forward to as the wheels of time march on. Young prospects like Kylian Mbappe and Erling Haaland are showing signs of potentially besting the old rivalry shared by Messi and Ronaldo. Only time will tell as to whether or not the El Clasico is indeed in safe hands.