How Lionel Messi nearly made Cristiano Ronaldo retire

Finley Crebolder
Messi won his sixth Ballon d'Or in 2019
Messi won his sixth Ballon d'Or in 2019 / Nicolò Campo/GettyImages
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Cristiano Ronaldo briefly considering retiring in 2019 because of Lionel Messi.

A new biography on Ronaldo written by Thierry Marchand was released this week, with the author sitting down to speak to the now Manchester United player in 2019.

Some of what Ronaldo said in that conversation is included in the final version of the book, including the revelation that Messi almost made him retire that year.

At the time, the Portuguese superstar was in his second year at Juventus while Messi was still at Barcelona. For the first time since 2007, neither player had won the most recent Ballon d'Or in 2018, with Luka Modric claiming the prize after excelling for Real Madrid and Croatia.

Ronaldo claimed to Marchand he didn't win it because, unlike Messi, he left his comfort zone to join Juventus, and that he'd retire if the Argentinian won the 2019 edition.

"It's easy to stay in your bubble when you're successful," he said.

"I took a risk coming to Turin. I changed clubs, championships, football culture, I took a risk and it was that risk that, I'm sure, made me not win the Ballon d'Or in 2018.

"If Messi wins the Ballon d'Or this year, I'm leaving football."

Messi did ultimately win it, claiming it for the sixth time with Liverpool centre-back Virgil van Dijk close behind in second and Ronaldo some way off in third.

Despite his threat, five-time Ballon d'Or winner Ronaldo did of course decide to continue playing. He left Juventus to return to Manchester United in 2021 but is expected to leave Old Trafford in 2023.

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