Whether or not you are a football fanatic, you would have heard of the GOATs – Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. While they are two distinct legends, with their own trademark moves, impact, and a polarizing fan base, there are several similarities between these two sports leaders. And there’s much we can learn from them.

Age is no bar

While Messi (born 1987) debuted at 17, Ronaldo (born 1985) debuted at 18. They burst on the scene with their own distinct styles and at 35 and 37 they continue to challenge naysayers. When it comes to pursuing your passion, Messi and Ronaldo prove that it’s never too early to start, nor too late to stop doing what you truly love.

Driven by purpose

Both have had humble beginnings plagued by hardships and challenges. Yet they were vehemently driven by a single purpose – reach the highest level of the sport they play and bring laurels to their country. While they’ve earned tons of individual awards, their biggest drive is to win globally. As captains of their teams, they’ve reiterated this purpose during every locker room rally and on the sidelines. A leader’s purpose then is always bigger than himself or herself and that can rally teams and nations forward.

Cool under pressure

It’s never easy to be the face of an entire nation. Under the leadership of Messi and Ronaldo, Argentina and Portugal exited past World Cups at crucial stages, leaving fans fuming. When their team faced controversial referee decisions, both took on the organizers. Despite the situation, they held their ground proving that sometimes leadership is about facing failures and collisions head on – unapologetically and unabashedly.

A strong personal influence

The CR7 brand and the fan frenzy around everything Ronaldo is unimaginable. Ronaldo’s simple actions can make or break a brand. His visit to a local barber shop torpedoes followers, while a press conference can plummet Coca Cola’s market value by billions. The goalpost of his brand keeps changing thanks to his strong social media presence. Messi’s influence also extends far beyond the pitch into the realm of business, including his work with UNICEF. Most recent is BYJU’S social initiative ‘Education For All’ where he promotes accessible, equitable, and affordable education. Leaders can better influence their organizations or industry if they command a strong personal brand. Build this to keep pushing your influential power.

Always look for ‘what next’

A sports career is often short-lived and can be marred by injury anytime. Hence it is crucial that sports personalities use their fame to cement their future. Both Messi and Ronaldo have consciously done so throughout their playing days. As they near the end of their international careers, they are intensely focused on their next big impact. Both have ventured into their own businesses and brands. Both gained hotel chains, prime properties, apparels, and car collections. Messi recently launched his sports and tech investment firm, in addition to his own Messi Store, and MiM Hotels. He holds more registered trademarks (115) than any other footballer. Among Ronaldo’s many ventures are investments in his hometown Madeira through a fashion label, museum, and luxury hotel group, which give jobs to locals. “Many footballers end their careers without knowing what they want to do. For me it’s clear, I want to look after my brands,” Ronaldo told AFP in 2015. Good leaders hang their boots at their prime. Great leaders never stop.

Pitting one GOAT against the other is easy. Learning from both of them can be stimulating.

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