Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi have put up impressive numbers -in life and on the field -going into a fourth World Cup. So much has happened for football's standout stars since the 2014 tournament, when both left Brazil still lacking the game's most coveted prize. Yes, each has scored at least 200 more goals, won at least one more Champions League title and taken home at least one more Ballon d'Or trophy since that last World Cup. Ronaldo also captained Portugal to win the 2016 European Championship.
Both have also turned 30 and seen their families grow, becoming doting dads while still the game's best players. Ronaldo is now a 33-year-old father of four children, and three were born within the last year. Messi will have his 31st birthday in Russia during the group stage, and two of his three sons were born since Argentina lost in the 2014 World Cup final. Life is changing even as their will to win and hunger for goals stay the same. Messi inspired Barcelona to go unbeaten until the league title was won, when many expected a dip after Neymar left. Ronaldo scored in Madrid's first 10 Champions League games on the way to a fourth final in five years, against Liverpool on Saturday. Madrid won the previous three. Amid the other-worldly feats are down-to-earth moments shared with social media followers -91 million for LeoMessi on Instagram, 73 million for @Cristiano on Twitter.
They show Ronaldo and 7-year-old son Cristiano Junior in green hospital gowns, at the bedside of partner Georgina Rodriguez and new-born daughter, Alana Martina, last November. Messi is reading a story to 5-year-old son Thiago, and wearing a red and white Santa Claus hat in a family portrait at Christmas. Thiago is among Messi's toughest opponents, albeit on a games console -"he drives me crazy wanting to play all the time" -and Cristiano Junior joins dad to collect his trophies at FIFA award ceremonies. Cristiano Junior's birthdays in June are woven through his dad's major tournaments. He was born in the United States during the 2010 World Cup where, 12 days later in South Africa, Portugal lost to Spain in the round of 16.
Ronaldo, captaining his country, scored once in four games and that was a late goal in a 7-0 rout of North Korea. In more fruitful times at Euro 2016, Ronaldo was surprised by a family visit at the team's base near Paris so he could celebrate his son's sixth birthday. Footage of the moment shows the tenderness between them. Ronaldo led the European champions to Russia last June for the 2017 Confederations Cup and was -unknown to all but a few people -unable to be with his newborn son and daughter, Mateo and Eva. The day after Portugal's semifinal loss on penalties to Chile, Ronaldo announced on social media he was a father again and had left Russia to see his twins. One day later, Messi had his own family event. Taking advantage of his first free offseason in four years, Messi married long-time partner Antonella Roccuzzo in Rosario, Argentina. Their third son, Ciro, was born in March. Still, a World Cup is unfinished business for both greats, whose career score of world's best player trophies is 5-5.
Meanwhile, Ronaldo topped the ESPN World Fame 100 list for a third straight year, pipping American basketball player Lebron James and long-term Argentine rival Lionel Messi.