Ronaldo, Messi Closing in on Records

Cristiano Ronaldo scored his first goal in the Champions League in 2007. Now he sits on the cusp of history, a simple hat trick away from standing alone with the competition's all-time scoring record. Of course, his greatest rival is only a goal behind him at the moment, with both playing the kind of world-class game that fans have come to expect from them.

Before Champions League play began this week, Ronaldo had notched 69 career goals in the competition, while Lionel Messi had 68. Both are chasing Real Madrid legend Raúl's 71.

This is yet another stage on which these players have displayed their dominance over world football, and yet another chapter in a personal rivalry that has inspired websites solely dedicated to their competition and been at the forefront of the football conversation for years. Both men appear to be in top form, and the Champions League record is just one piece of history they will be competing for this season and beyond.

It seems almost certain that one of these men will claim that record this year, and the two will tussle over it for years to come. With a blistering 15 goals in eight games in La Liga this year (19 from 12 competitions overall), Ronaldo is on such a historic scoring pace this year that partner bookmakers already have him at a prohibitive 1/8 favorite to claim the league scoring title, with Messi at 5/1 being the only other player with odds less than 18/1. For his part, the Argentine wonder is only a single La Liga goal behind Telmo Zarra of Bilbao for the league's career mark.

Interestingly, Ronaldo's scoring pace in league play is far ahead of Messi's, 1.1 goals per appearance against 0.88. Had Ronaldo begun playing in Spain at the same time as Messi, the Portugal star would most likely have far outpaced the career tally already. Even more interesting is that those goals per appearances numbers are reversed against the rest of Europe in the Champions League, where Messi holds a 0.77 to 0.64 goals per appearance edge.

Messi will get his chance at the CL record first, with a match against Ajax on Tuesday. The following day Ronaldo and Madrid take on Liverpool. Potentially, the stars could begin a cycle of passing the record between one another as early as this week. In a stark turn of luck, their club sides meet this weekend for the first leg of El Clásico with Barcelona on top of the table with 22 points and Real in third with 18.

The potential for historic moments from either side of the rivalry is high and exciting. Either man could enter Saturday with the Champions League mark in hand, while a brace from Messi in Barcelona would give him the La Liga record with the man that has been the Yang to Yin on the pitch.

Regardless of what actually happens, these men have played some of the greatest football the world has ever known, and the record books are starting to reflect that. How they perform for the rest of their already historic careers will determine just how much of those record books they will each own.