Reunion of Messi and Ronaldo, the world’s two best players: Buxton
Competition between Ronaldo and Messi brings the duo to greater heights
More than possibly ever, Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo need each other.
Duking it out for the Ballon d'Or and countless other major honours makes the respective talismans of Barcelona and Juventus football's ultimate brothers in arms.
Reuniting two of the finest players in a generation, if not of all-time, promises to enliven their sides' latest Champions League showdown tomorrow morning (Singapore time).
If it even happens, that is.
Ronaldo's involvement in the Group G encounter is still uncertain, after testing positive for coronavirus twice before his first meeting with Messi in more than two years.
Time has not dimmed the spectacle of the pair's sparring contest although the current parameters are vastly different since the Portugal international departed Real Madrid.
By personal admission, El Clasico carried a greater significance for Messi when his nemesis donned Real's No. 7 shirt with a relentless drive and supreme self-confidence which forced the Barca superstar to raise his own game exponentially when they faced off.
It is telling that the 33-year-old has failed to score in Barca's biannual battles with their arch-rivals since Ronaldo traded La Liga for a fresh challenge in the Italian top flight.
Messi, ironically, is experiencing the same emotions which forced his adversary to quit the Bernabeu. Feeling undervalued drove Ronaldo away from Los Blancos, but being taken for granted at the Nou Camp led to the Argentinian agonising over his own future.
His exasperation with the Barca hierarchy became the story of last summer and is set to rumble on into the next. Only the insistence of his eye-watering 700 million euro (S$1.12 billion) release clause saw Messi staying put under very public protest.
Ronaldo, however, does not offer conclusive proof that the grass is necessarily greener elsewhere. His opening two seasons at Juve yielded back-to-back Serie A titles but, ultimately, failed to build on a remarkable individual haul of five Champions League titles.
Diego Maradona perfectly articulated the magnitude of their duel earlier this week in claiming that each player remains "a cut above the others" and practically untouchable.
For years, Messi's compatriot found himself invariably stacked against Pele as the greatest-ever footballer.
Plenty distinguished "The King" from Maradona, yet he never tested himself in any major European league, the game's perennial gold standard.
Continental surroundings do not make the comparisons between Messi and Ronaldo any easier to quantify.
Ronaldo has undeniably plundered more goals for club and country, but Messi's combined tally with assists far outstrips those impressive numbers.
Such multi-faceted statistics mean that the debate will continue to rage over individual superiority.
They still divide loyalties as fiercely as they previously conquered various pantheons; admiration for one automatically translates into resentment of the other.
Ronaldo's high-profile defection to Turin took the sting out of their one-upmanship yet rampant tribalism ensures there is no room for even a hint of mutual appreciation.
That eyebrow-raising move to Juventus altered the dynamic in the one-time Manchester United winger's competitive relationship with Messi irreparably. Rare meetings such as tomorrow's are a reminder of what has been lost instead of what could be rekindled.
Clinging to the comfort of Messi-Ronaldo's former duopoly will see worldwide audiences tuning in hoping to see whether this age-old feud can conjure up its timeless magic.
For their sake as much as the watching masses, both need to put on a show.