Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo are widely regarded as two of the best footballers of all time. They have dominated the sport for over a decade, winning countless trophies and awards, and breaking numerous records.
However, their paths diverged in 2021, when Ronaldo left Juventus to join Manchester United, while Messi ended his long association with Barcelona to sign for Paris Saint-Germain.
Both players faced a new challenge in their careers, but they also had different motivations for their moves. Ronaldo, who had previously played for United from 2003 to 2009, returned to the club where he became a global superstar, hoping to help them reclaim their glory in the Premier League and the Champions League.
Messi, on the other hand, left Barcelona reluctantly, after the club failed to renew his contract due to financial difficulties. He joined PSG, a team with immense wealth and ambition, but also with fierce competition from other stars like Neymar and Kylian Mbappe.
While both players have adapted well to their new environments, scoring goals and creating chances for their teammates, they have also faced some criticism for their choices.
Ronaldo, in particular, has been accused of chasing money and fame by moving to Saudi Arabia in January 2022, where he signed a lucrative deal with Al-Hilal, a club owned by the Saudi royal family.
The move was seen as a betrayal by many United fans, who felt that Ronaldo had abandoned them after only six months. It was also condemned by human rights activists, who pointed out the poor record of Saudi Arabia on issues such as women’s rights, freedom of expression, and the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
Sergio Aguero reveals why Lionel Messi chose MLS 👀
— GOAL News (@GoalNews) August 3, 2023
Messi, meanwhile, has been praised for staying loyal to his principles and rejecting a similar offer from Al-Nassr, another Saudi club.
According to reports, Messi was offered a staggering $100 million per year to play in Saudi Arabia, but he turned it down, saying that he wanted to respect his contract with PSG and that he did not feel comfortable playing in a country with such a controversial reputation.
Messi also said that he wanted to end his career in Europe, where he had spent most of his life and where he had achieved his greatest success.
One player who did follow Ronaldo to Saudi Arabia was Sergio Aguero, Messi’s close friend, and former teammate at Barcelona. Aguero had joined Barcelona from Manchester City in 2021, hoping to play alongside Messi, but he barely featured for the Catalan club due to injuries and poor form.
He decided to leave in January 2022, when he received an offer from Al-Shabab, another Saudi club. Aguero said that he was attracted by the opportunity to play with Ronaldo, whom he admired as a player and as a person.
He also said that he wanted to experience a different culture and lifestyle and that he was not bothered by the criticism he received for his move.
However, Aguero’s stint in Saudi Arabia was short-lived. He played only 10 games for Al-Shabab, scoring four goals, before announcing his retirement from football in June 2022.
Aguero said that he had lost his passion for the game after suffering several injuries and setbacks in his career. He also said that he did not enjoy playing in Saudi Arabia, where he felt isolated and unhappy.
He revealed that he had regrets about leaving Barcelona and PSG too soon and that he wished he had stayed with Messi until the end.
Aguero has since moved to Miami, where he owns a luxury apartment and runs a football academy for young players. He said that he is enjoying his life after football and that he is proud of what he achieved in his career.
He also said that he still keeps in touch with Messi and Ronaldo, whom he considers as friends and legends of the game.