Till now what has only been accomplished on FIFA 20 Ultimate teams and during armchair discussions may actually, legitimately become a reality next season.
Lionel Messi may line up alongside Cristiano Ronaldo at Juventus given all the noise from Spain about his departure at the end of this season.
But that raises quite a few questions. Will the two pre-eminent footballers of this era be able to co-exist with one another? Even if they do, will they be able to play with one another?
And if Lionel Messi joins Juventus, does that mean some other star player in Juventus has to leave for the Argentine’s exorbitant wage demands to be accomodated?
We survey the potential pitfalls – and advantages – of the move if it comes to pass.
Here are 3 things to expect if Lionel Messi joins Cristiano Ronaldo at Juventus.
3. Dressing room issues
The most pertinent question to answer when it comes to Messi and Ronaldo playing at the same club is whether the two of them – with their understandably massive egos – can co-exist in the same dressing room.
Let’s be clear about one thing. These two men have managed to push the boundary of what it means to excel in football purely through their skill, hard work and the massive chips on their respective shoulders.
In fact, both of them have acknowledged in the past that they get spurred on by the other one performing well. Hence the Ballon d’Or counts standing at Messi 6 and Ronaldo 5 – with the Portuguese attacker embarking on a hot goalscoring spree ever since the Argentine picked up last year’s award.
It could turn out one of three ways when they play together. Either they push each other on to perform better for the club or they get comfortable in their own skins knowing their greatest rival is also their teammate now.
Or the most likely outcome is that there is simply no space in the dressing room for the egos of these two gentlemen.
It’s not taking a shot at either man, as much as it is an unfortunate reality. Players as good as Messi and Ronaldo need to be their respective dressing room leaders.
If they share the same one though, it’s what they say about too many cooks and all that…
2. The most potent attacking line of this era?
Just focussing on on-field matters however, an attack comprising of Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi is enough to beat the majority of opposition teams before the game ever gets started.
Alex Ferguson used to advocate and employ, so masterfully, mental warfare against opposition teams. Not as much by way of words, though he wasn’t averse to that either, but rather through the conduct of Manchester United players.
Players who played for him were expected to behave a certain way. To act like winners. To reflect the winning mentality in their actions. And they had the likes of Roy Keane to keep them in line and ensure that those standards in conduct were maintained.
Cristiano Ronaldo was moulded in that winner’s mentality. And at a club like Barcelona, predominantly under the tutelage of serial winner Pep Guardiola, so was Lionel Messi.
These two players embody what it takes to win – not to mention a ridiculous level of skill that they bring to the football pitch.
And alonside the likes of Paulo Dybala, Gonzalo Higuain, Douglas Costa and Juan Cuadrado to name some of the great attacking players Juventus have, a Messi – Ronaldo nexus could prove to be the most potent we’ve seen in this era.
1. Which manager can get them to play together?
Tactically speaking, fitting Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi into the same team could be a tricky proposition.
Although one starts from the left wing and the other from the right, both currently do their best work in central areas.
Lionel Messi likes to drift into the hole vacated by the likes of Luis Suarez or Antoine Griezmann when they draw defenders out of position and – in theory – Cristiano Ronaldo can do provide that for him with his phenomenal off the ball movement.
However, the Portuguese superstar isn’t as selfless as either Suarez or Griezmann and it remains to be seen if he can work hard for Lionel Messi.
Similarly, it would also be interesting to see if Lionel Messi can offer Cristiano Ronaldo the service he needs to bang in the goals.
One thing’s for sure – that it would take a managerial giant to get both these players on the same page.
And even if Lionel Messi joins Juventus next season, it is quite unlikely that Maurizio Sarri is the man to do that.