Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo’s most iconic Champions League performances

The pair, between them, have won a total of nine UEFA Champions League trophies and are viewed as two of the greatest players to have graced the game.

Over the past 15 years, soccer fans have been lucky in witnessing the greatness of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.

In particular, their triumphs and performances in soccer's elite club competition - the UEFA Champions League - are a major part of the legacy they will leave behind.

Since making his Champions League proper debut in 2003, Ronaldo has scored an incredible 134 goals in the competition from his spells at Manchester UnitedReal Madrid and Juventus.

This makes him the greatest goalscorer in the competition's history.

Ronaldo is a five-time winner of Europe's elite tournament, winning his first with Man United in 2008 and a further four with Los Blancos.

Messi made his European bow for Barcelona in 2005 and is just behind Ronaldo on the all-time scorers list with 120 goals in the competition.

Messi has won four Champions League trophies although he was unavailable for the first final he reached in 2006 against Arsenal due to a hamstring injury.

No one can forget what both have achieved in soccer's elite club competition but they are sadly coming towards the end of their careers with Ronaldo 36 years old and Messi set to turn 34 this summer.

Ronaldo's last three seasons in Turin has seen him eliminated in the round of 16 to Ajax, Lyon and most recent Porto. Messi's Barcelona also crashed out of the last-16 this season to Paris Saint-Germain, losing 5-2 on aggregate.

In doing so, it was the first time they had not reached the last eight in the competition since 2006/7.

Still, with nine Champions League crowns between them, there is plenty to celebrate so here is a look at their standout performances in Europe.

Messi 

Barcelona vs Arsenal 2009/10

Quarter-final

Having drawn 2-2 in the first leg at the Emirates Stadium, Barcelona were predominantly in control of their last-eight tie against Arsenal with two away goals.

However, the return leg at Camp Nou saw the Catalan giants start nervously as they fell a goal behind thanks to a Nicklas Bendtner strike.

What followed was simply breathtaking.

Messi cancelled out Bendtner's opener with a stunning left-footed strike from outside the box to level the game.

Astonishingly two more goals followed in the first half to give Messi a first half hat-trick.

A fourth goal was added by the Argentina international in the dying minutes to round off one of the greatest individual performances witnessed in recent memory.

Ronaldo

Man United vs Roma 2006/07

Quarter-final

Having lost the first leg in Rome 2-1, Man United needed their biggest stars to show up against Roma to advance to the semi-finals.

An exhilarating first half spectacle from Man United saw them race into a 4-0 win by half-time with Ronaldo assisting the opening goal by Michael Carrick.

Cristiano Ronaldo inspired Man United to a famous 7-0 victory over Roma
Cristiano Ronaldo inspired Man United to a famous 7-0 victory over Roma

Ronaldo got on the scoresheet himself just before half-time as he managed to squeeze his effort in by the near post.

Ronaldo added another shortly after the interval with a tap in to extend the Red Devils' lead as they cruised to a sensational 7-1 win.

Messi

Real Madrid vs Barcelona 2010/11

Semi-final

The tension between the Spanish soccer giants was at an all time high during this period with the personal rivalry between Barcelona manager Pep Guardiola and Real Madrid boss Jose Mourinho.

The two teams could not get enough of one another during April and May of 2011 as they played each other in the Champions League semi-finals, Copa del Rey final and in La Liga.

The Champions League first leg was a tight affair with not much to separate the two sides in the first half.

The heated game reached boiling point in the second half when Pepe was sent off for Real Madrid for allegedly fouling Dani Alves dangerously.

With so much animosity between the two sides, there was little happening on the playing end.

This would set the stage for Messi to score a brace in the final 15 minutes of the game with his second being a tidy finish after going on a mesmerizing run through Madrid's midfield and defence.

Whilst the game was overshadowed by the Pepe red card incident, Messi and Barcelona would not have cared, having walked out of the Santiago Bernabeu with a 2-0 win.

Ronaldo

Real Madrid vs Wolfsburg 2015/16

Quarter-final

After losing the first leg of the quarter-final tie 2-0 against Wolfsburg, Real Madrid were in danger of elimination and a major upset.

Coming back against Wolfsburg was not viewed as a totally straight forward challenge due to the German side having got through a tough group stage involving Man United.

However, Wolfsburg's first leg lead was to be short lived as Ronaldo wasted little time in getting his side back into the tie. His two goals in two minutes in the first half levelled the aggregate score to 2-2.

Wolfsburg held out for a bit longer as they looked to possibly send the tie into extra time or even nick a winner themselves.

Despite their efforts, Ronaldo was to complete the turnaround and get his hat trick through a free-kick strike in the remaining quarter of the game.

This was Ronaldo's third hat-trick in the Champions League that season, something no other player had achieved in a single European campaign.

Messi

Barcelona vs Man United 2010/11

Final

After his stunning performance in the semi-final first leg against Real Madrid, all eyes were on the Argentina international to deliver the goods again in the 2011 final at Wembley Stadium.

Messi had scored against Man United before in a Champions League final with a looping header in the 2009 final in Rome helping seal glory.

Barcelona put in one of the all-time great Champions League team performances with Messi being at the heart of nearly everything.

Messi constantly dropped deep to create an overload in the midfield and Man United simply had no answer for the little magician.

Lionel Messi with the Champions League trophy in 2011 after beating Manchester United
Lionel Messi with the Champions League trophy in 2011 after beating Manchester United

Messi rounded off a brilliant all-round performance with a fantastic second half strike to restore Barcelona's lead as his left footed effort from outside the box flew past Edwin van der Sar into the bottom corner.

Barcelona ran out 3-1 winners and Messi was given the UEFA Man of the Match award for his brilliant display against Alex Ferguson's side.

Ronaldo

Real Madrid vs Bayern Munich 2016/17

Quarter-final

After scoring a brace to complete a 2-1 turnaround in the first leg in Germany, Ronaldo was in fine form going into the second leg with Germany's top side.

After restoring Real Madrid's authority in the tie with a header to cancel out a Robert Lewnadowski penalty, Sergio Ramos put the ball into his own net to send the tie into extra time.

Within a five minute timespan in extra time Ronaldo took back control of the tie with both left and right foot finishes to complete a perfect hat-trick and send his side into the semi-finals.

This was Ronaldo at his devastating best as he had netted yet another treble in the competition, whilst doing it against elite opposition.

Messi

Barcelona vs Bayer Leverkusen 2011/12

Round of 16

Now this may not have been the most important of games Messi has played in his career and the tie was a stroll but there is good reason for this performance to be on this list.

In a season where Messi scored his career-best 73 goals in a season and managed a remarkable 91 goals across the calendar year of 2012, his most iconic performance came in a 7-1 win over Bayer Leverkusen.

The Argentine scored an incredible five goals in this game, becoming the first player at that time to do so. The five strikes included the first and third being delightful chips over the keeper.

Since this extraordinary feat only Luiz Adriano, then of Shakhtar Donetsk, has matched this tally for goals in a single Champions League fixture.

Ronaldo

Real Madrid vs Atletico Madrid 2016/17

Semi-final

In order to reach a second consecutive final and secure back-to-back Champions League titles, Real Madrid had to get past their stubborn local rivals Atletico Madrid.

Real Madrid had come out on top against Atletico in recent Champions League games, beating them in the 2014 and 2016 finals as well as the 2015 quarter-finals.

Ronaldo wasted no time in breaking down Atletico's defence as he opened the scoring with a header in the 10th minute.

Atletico held on for the majority of the game but their resistance was broken in the last 20 minutes starting with Ronaldo smashing a strike on the half volley past the helpless Jan Oblak in goal.

Ronaldo then capped off an outstanding performance with yet another hat-trick to secure a 3-0 win over their neighbours.

Messi

Barcelona vs Bayern Munich 2014/15

Semi-final

After being knocked out in devastating fashion by Bayern Munich two seasons prior with an aggregate loss of 7-0, Barcelona were looking to avenge their loss in the 2015 semi-final.

This was also to be the first time Guardiola returned to the Camp Nou since stepping down as Barcelona coach in 2012.

After a stalemate of a first half and the second half lacking any real quality, Messi stepped up in the last quarter of the game with two quick fire strikes to put the game out of Bayern's reach.

The debate continues as to who the greatest player of this era is between Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo
The debate continues as to who the greatest player of this era is between Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo

The first was a brilliant strike from outside the box into the near post corner whilst the second will go down as one of the great Champions League goals.

Messi's second saw him drive at the Bayern defence putting defender Jerome Boateng on his backside after a silky bit of play down the right hand side. The finish was a memorable one as Messi looped the ball of Manuel Neuer to get his brace.

Ronaldo

Juventus vs Atletico Madrid 2018/19

Round of 16

By this point, Atletico Madrid must have been sick at the sight of Ronaldo tearing them apart in the Champions League.

However, they looked as if they were finally going to get the better of him as they went into the second leg with a commanding 2-0 lead from the first matchup.

With Ronaldo and Juventus facing an embarrassing round of 16 exit, the Portuguese maestro took matters into his own hands, or should we say head!

Two powerful headers from Ronaldo either side of the break brought Juventus level on aggregate and set them up for a grandstand finish.

With the game looking like it was heading for extra time, Juventus went on the attack and received a penalty in the dying minutes of normal time after Angel Correa fouled Federico Bernardeschi.

Ronaldo stepped up and kept his cool as he slotted away the penalty completing another hat-trick and sealing Juventus' place in the last eight of the competition.

Quite frankly, this list could have gone on even longer. Now it is up to the new generation of players like Kylian Mbappe and Erling Haaland to step up and try to come close to what the two have achieved in soccer's elite club competition.

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