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22 May 2009

Planet transfixed by Ronaldo v Messi

When two of the world's most famous clubs come together to contest the UEFA Champions League final on 27 May in Rome, so too will two of the planet's best players.

Such is the talent each side boasts, though, this statement could be applied to any number of the Manchester United FC and FC Barcelona squads: Xavi Hernández and Paul Scholes, Wayne Rooney and Samuel Eto'o, Thierry Henry and Dimitar Berbatov. The head-to-head of Barça's Lionel Messi and United No7 Cristiano Ronaldo, however, is perhaps the most mouthwatering contest.

Goals galore
Two of the most marketable footballers on the planet, are also two of the most deadly − Ronaldo is the joint leading scorer in the Premier League with 18 goals, quite a feat for somebody considered a winger, while Messi is not far behind the Liga's Pichichi contenders with 23. The 21-year-old Argentinian averages exactly a goal every two league games in Spain (54 in 108 matches), while United's Portuguese international is almost as prolific, with 84 in 196 domestic league appearances.

Individual awards
When put to the vote, Ronaldo holds the edge; according to his peers and journalists anyway. The 24-year-old won the FIFA World Player of the Year and the Ballon d'Or in 2008, both times nudging Messi into second place. Last season saw a similar story in the UEFA Champions League scoring stakes as the former Sporting Clube de Portugal player edged Barça's No10 into the runners-up spot with his eight goals, including one in the final, to Messi's six. This term, though, Messi tops the charts with eight, while Ronaldo has scored just four to date.

'From another planet'
Asked which of the two players was the best, Barcelona's Daniel Alves opted for his team-mate, saying: "He's from another planet because his ability is unbelievable; the way he can unbalance a match." He added of the impending meeting with Ronaldo: "I think it will be quite a duel and I hope that Messi will come out on top." Messi, meanwhile, refuted the suggestion that it would be a Messi v Ronaldo final. "No, it will be Barcelona v Manchester. These are the best teams in the world and this is a final that the people hoped for."

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