Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo’s best El Clasico performances
Real Madrid and Barcelona have squared off in over 250 editions of soccer's best rivalry. El Clasico runs deep as deep can be, no doubt about it. But ever since the two best players on the planet started playing for their respective clubs, it's taken on a new level. Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo have had their ups and down when it comes to the El Clasico battles, with Messi winning 15 of the 32 matches in which he's played against Real Madrid and scoring an impressive 21 goals. Ronaldo has less Clasico experience, but he's not short of memorable moments scoring 16 times in the 25 matches he's played Barcelona. Here's a look at some of the most memorable matches each of these superstars has had in the storied rivalry.
March 10, 2007 -- Messi makes his mark
Messi made his Clasico debut in the 2005/06 La Liga season and marked his first match with an assist. But it was his match the following season that really opened people's eyes. In March 2007, Messi knotted things up in stoppage time to secure a draw for 10-man Barcelona. Oh, and that last-gasp goal also gave Messi a hat trick. The point bumped Barcelona up to first in the table from second, while Real Madrid remained mired in fourth. Real Madrid would have the last laugh, though. Both teams ended the 06/07 season tied on points, but Real won the title on the head-to-head tiebreak. Nevertheless, the hat trick from Messi to open his account against Real Madrid wouldn't soon be forgotten, nor would it be the last.
May 2, 2009 -- Messi shines in El Clasico rout
On match day 34 of the 2008/09 La Liga season, Barcelona came to play. They routed their rivals to the tune of 2-6 in front of 80,000 at the Santiago Bernabeu. It was a critical win for Barcelona, with Messi scoring twice and collecting an assist. The win widened Barcelona's lead at the top of the La Liga table from four points to seven. It effectively ended Real Madrid's hopes to challenging for the title, and Messi & Co. did it in humiliating fashion. The six goals are the most Barcelona have scored in an El Clasico that Messi has played in.
April 16, 2011 -- Ronaldo joins the party
Following his blockbuster move to Cristiano Ronaldo from Manchester United, Ronaldo was made to wait to open his account in the Spanish rivalry. He nabbed his first El Clasico goal during the 2010/11 La Liga season, scoring a late penalty to even the match at 1-1. Barcelona would run away with the league that year, but Ronaldo got his beak wet against his hated rivals and would continue to deliver the goods against the Catalan club as the rivalry rolled on.
April 20, 2011 -- CR7 keeps rolling
After breaking his duck just days earlier, Ronaldo scored a trophy-winning goal in the second edition of a trilogy of El Clasico matches that took place in quick succession. Ronaldo's critical goal came in the Copa del Rey final at Valencia's home stadium: the Mestalla. Both teams locked up defensively in the final, with a 0-0 draw pushing the clash into extra time. Up rose Ronaldo in the 102nd minute to meet and Angel Di Maria cross with his head and break the deadlock. The Merengues would hold firm from then out, winning the Copa del Rey: Clasico Edition. Ronaldo's game-winning performance also earned him Man of the Match honors.
April 27, 2011 -- Doing it in Europe
The inarguable highlight of the 2010/11 Champions League semifinals featured Real Madrid and Barcelona squaring off in a two-legged affair. It was the first time Messi featured in an El Clasico in Europe, and he made sure to make the best of it. In the first leg of the tie he scored twice, giving Barcelona a monster advantage of two away goals. A draw in the next leg saw Barcelona eliminate their rivals and move to the final, where they emerged triumphant. Messi ended the competition with 12 goals, four more than anyone else in the tournament.
March 23, 2014 -- La Pulga plagues Real Madrid
Messi has had plenty of impressive Clasico performances, but his solo effort on matchday 29 of the 2013/14 La Liga season might be his best to date. Visiting the leaders, Messi almost single-handedly took down his bitter rivals at the Bernabeu. Messi earned his second career El Clasico hat trick, tying him with Ferenc Puskas for the record. He also recorded an assist on the first goal of the match. Real battled back to take a 3-2 lead in the 55th minute, but Messi popped up twice more to make the final score 3-4. Barcelona wouldn't go on to win the title, but they would at least have a chance on the final match day.
April 2, 2016 -- Keeping it close in La Liga
Real Madrid started the 2015/16 La Liga season in trouble, and a 0-4 loss to their rivals in Madrid in November 2015 made the season nearly unbearable. Fortunately for Los Blancos, they had a chance to return the favor in 2016. The La Liga title seemed far out of reach at the turn of the New Year, but Real Madrid went on a 12-match league winning streak to almost reach the promised land again. The highlight of that streak came at Camp Nou, where Los Blancos exacted a measure of revenge with a 1-2 win. Ronaldo hit the winner in the 85th to keep Real's streak rolling and keep pressure on their rivals. Barcelona's lead would almost entirely evaporate, but they persevered and won La Liga by a point. The April victory just so happens to be the latest result in the storied rivalry, however.