Football by its nature is a team sport and a solid performance from all eleven players is required to win the game. But for a fan watching at home, it is easy to identify the gulf in class between players. Every generation has seen two outstanding players trying to one-up each other and attain ultimate success. We will look at five such unforgettable rivalries in recent times.
#5 Patrick Viera vs Roy Keane
Until Wenger’s arrival in England, United vs Liverpool was the biggest game of the PL season. But Wenger’s success in the late ’90s and his spat with Sir Alex made Arsenal vs United the most hyped match in the English calendar. In the middle of the rivalry was the sporting duel between two brilliant defensive midfielders, Roy Keane and Patrick Viera.
The rivalry was heightened by the fact that both of them were aggressive ruthless leaders who would not stop at anything to win a football match. In 2005, Keane clashed with Viera in the Highbury tunnel, and they had to be separated by the players surrounding them.
#4 Henry vs Ruud Van Nistelrooy
Henry vs Van Nistelrooy is another rivalry that owes its origins to Arsenal vs United games. In the early 2000s, Henry and Nistelrooy were at their prime while United and Arsenal were battling for the PL title. In 2001-02, Henry scored 24 goals while Nistelrooy managed only 23. However, the Dutchman overtook Henry the next season by scoring one goal more than him.
Van Nistelrooy also completely outdid Henry in European fixtures. But the Frenchman was also a magnificent creator while Van Nistelrooy was a penalty box poacher.
#3 Steven Gerrard vs Frank Lampard
Two of the greatest midfielders to ever grace the Premier League, Gerrard and Lampard also embodied club loyalty and determination. They were worshipped by their fans and hated by their rivals throughout their time in England.
Lampard scored more goals, but Gerrard had the ability to produce magical passes from anywhere on the pitch. Gerrard scored in the big fixtures but never won a Premier League title. It can be argued that Lampard has better teammates, and it is evident by the fact that he won three league titles and a Champions League title.
#2 Sergio Ramos vs Gerard Pique
By the time Pique returned to Barcelona after a short spell at United, Ramos was already a household name in Madrid. His aggression on the pitch won the hearts of the Bernabéu faithful. Under Guardiola, Pique also made a name for himself. Pique is elegantly personified on the ball and is a calm, assured presence at the back.
Ramos is quite the contradiction and has earned many red cards due to his controversial methods on the pitch. Both of them have been involved in several controversial El Clásico matches. Their rivalries on the pitch also has a subplot since Pique is a symbol of Catalan independence while Ramos has stood for Spanish nationalism.
#1 Messi vs Ronaldo
There are quite a few great sporting rivalries but none of them can match the longevity of Ronaldo and Messi’s never-ending battle for greatness. The rivalry started when Ronaldo won the Ballon d’Or in 2008 as Messi finished second.
Messi won the award for a record four years starting from 2009-12. This period also saw them go against each other in La Liga and records kept tumbling week after week. The rivalry is set to continue for 1-2 years as Ronaldo chases a sixth Ballon d’Or and Messi goes after a fifth Champions League trophy.