Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo are two of the greatest football players of a generation. From their battles at Barcelona and Real Madrid to success at the international level, the icons have carried club and country numerous times throughout their careers.
Last summer, the pair decided to move their careers on. In the backdrop of financial difficulties at Barcelona, Messi moved on a free transfer to Paris St Germain. Ronaldo also moved on from a three-season spell at Juventus to join his previous club Man United.
However, since taking on new challenges, the two superstars have struggled to reclaim their legendary heights of previous years, showing that they could be on the decline.
Are Messi and Ronaldo on the decline as footballers?
Compared to previous seasons, there are signs that we may have seen the best footballing years from Messi and Ronaldo.
Now aged 34, Messi, in particular, has not hit the same peak at PSG as he did at Barcelona. So far in Ligue 1, Messi has only played in 18 of the 29 league matches and his campaign has been hampered by successive injuries.
When he has played, the Argentinian forward has produced, making 11 assists and scoring two goals in the league. In addition, Messi has produced in the Champions League, netting five goals in seven appearances.
But, last season for Barca, the forward scored 38 goals during the season and there are few signs that he will achieve such numbers in 2021/22.
Ronaldo has perhaps been more successful after moving back to Man United. The Portuguese has been an ever-present player for United, making 33 appearances so far in 2021/22. This season, Ronaldo is the Red Devils’ leading scorer with 18 in all competitions and three assists. Ronaldo is currently best priced at 33/1 by UK bookies to be the top Premier League goalscorer this season.
Even though he is still scoring goals at the age of 36, Ronaldo has not produced at the same level as he did at Juventus. Last season, the Portuguese netted 35 goals in 44 matches for the Old Lady and he is unlikely to match those numbers this season.
Generally, Messi and Ronaldo are not producing at the same level as they did at their peak. Changing clubs, playing under new managers and with new players may also have an effect on their output. But, considering both are now in their mid-30s, it is unlikely that they will re-discover the unplayable ability they once had.
How Many Years do Messi and Ronaldo have at the top level?
Currently, Messi and Ronaldo are playing at two of World football’s biggest clubs with some of the sport’s best players. There may come a time when two of football’s greats have to move aside for new players to come through.
Both players are contracted at their current clubs until the summer of 2023. They will likely see out their contracts at PSG and United respectively. However, it would be surprising if either club decided to renew Messi or Ronaldo’s contracts. As a result, retirement or a few final seasons in the MLS or another lucrative league seems the most likely scenario for the duo in the coming years.