In recent seasons, countless column inches have been devoted, not without justification, to the rivalry between two giants of the modern game, Cristiano Ronaldo, nowadays of Juventus and Portugal, and Lionel Messi, of Barcelona and Argentina. Between them, they have won every individual award in the game, including the coveted Ballon d’Or, or ‘Golden Ball’, every year between 2008 and 2017 and, although neither of them is getting any younger, their rivalry seems set to continue for a while yet.
In terms of hat-tricks, Cristiano Ronaldo, 33, just holds the edge over his nemesis, having chalked up a total of 52 trebles in his career to date, including 44 for Real Madrid. He has scored three goals in a game for Los Blancos 34 times in La Liga, seven times in the UEFA Champion League, twice in the Copa del Rey and once in the FIFA Club World Cup. The remainder of his hat-trick tally is made up of six for Portugal, one for Juventus, in the UEFA Champions League and one for Manchester United in the Premier League. By contrast, Messi, 30, has racked up 51 career hat-tricks, including 45 for Barcelona. His Barça record includes 33 hat-tricks in La Liga, eight in the UEFA Champions League, three in the Copa del Rey and one in the Spanish Super Cup; like Ronaldo, he scored six hat-tricks at international level, for Argentina.
For all their accolades, neither Ronaldo nor Messi is likely to come anywhere near the record of 92 career hat-tricks set by the Brazilian footballer Edson Arantes do Nascimento, better known as Pele, who also recorded 31 four-goal ‘pokers’ between 1956 and 1977.