Studio Minuit Sporting Rivalries - True Stories

May the best win ! Some athletes attract more attention than others, in particular thanks to their exploits and performances. Only they are not the only ones to be gifted in their field. Rivalries between athletes sometimes take on a great deal of importance in order to prove who is the best. And there's no denying it, these clashes grab our attention. Discover the 20 sporting rivalries that have marked history. Narrated by Brad Carty.

John McEnroe vs Ivan Lendl, Johnny and the ColonelCruyff vs Beckenbauer, the enemy brothersHunt vs Lauda, fast and furiousTyson vs Holyfield, a rivalry with teethCarl Lewis vs Ben Johnson, Olympic duelNadal vs Federer, the giants of the small yellow ballCristiano Ronaldo vs Lionel Messi, the ClasicoJohnson vs Bird, the golden age of the NBAProst vs Senna, fraticidal warEvert vs Navratilova, the queens of tennisAli vs Frazier, the bee and the gorillaHamilton vs Verstappen, defying the masterWitt vs Thomas, the battle of the CarmensFury vs Wilder, when the noble art becomes a war of egoBrady vs Manning, the guardians of the templeAnquetil vs Poulidor, the French divorceOvechkin vs Crosby, neighborhood battleKerrigan vs Harding, the other side of the coinJordan vs Thomad, irreconcilableCormier vs Jones, beauty and the beast

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OVECHKIN vs CROSBY, Neighborhood battle
OVECHKIN vs CROSBY, Neighborhood battle (5:15)
Field hockey and the NHL, the American league, had a great rivalry with Mario Lemieux and Wayne Gretzky during the 80's and 90's, but these last ones are not as much confronted as the Russian Alex Ovechkin and the Canadian Sidney Crosby. The latter were drafted respectively in 2004 and 2005, each as first choice; the first by the Pittsburgs Penguins and the second by the Washington Capitals. But the 2004-05 season having been cancelled, they officially started in the league the same season, and it is the Russian who will be named Rookie of the year, that is to say the best player making his debut in the NHL. The two players were rivals both individually and collectively from the beginning and were the face of their team. Today, they are still among the best players in the league, showing a longevity equal to their talent. Since they play in the same division and have therefore played against each other a lot in the regular season as well as in the play-offs, the finals of American sports, this rivalry has only been fueled. The Canadian is a methodical and cerebral playmaker, an admirable passer but also a fine scorer. The Russian is a goal machine, flying on the ice, aggressive in everything he does. Those who have worked with them speak of two great professionals, tireless in training and in games. Both of them concede the greatness of the other, but there is no friendship between them. At most a cordial respect, on the ice there is no room for feelings, especially with so many games against each other.
In the number of Stanley Cups, that is, the NHL finals, Crosby is the winner with three titles, one more than the other legend of the Pittsburgh Penguins, Mario Lemieux. Ovechkin has only won once, and ten years after his rival's first victory, but in terms of individual trophies the Russian is clearly ahead. For the title of Best Player of the League, the Russian leads 3 trophies to 1 against his rival. In terms of individual statistics, the two players are neck and neck despite their different styles: the Russian winger is mostly a scorer while the Canadian center has a style closer to the great Gretzky. At the end of 2021, Ovechkin became the best power play scorer in NHL history, meaning the number of goals that give his team the lead in scoring, not the total number of goals scored, thus highlighting the decisive character of the player. Although they are the powerhouses of their sport, both stars have also had their share of critics. Early in his career Crosby was deemed too grouchy, too flashy in his accessories, and was even accused of dropping himself to get penalties. When he refuses a call-up from Canada, it creates a controversy, and yet he won two Olympic gold medals with his team, which the Russian never managed, even if he won more world championships with Russia. Ovechkin is not free of blame either, and his physical commitment sometimes excessive is also criticized. His ability to be a hard hitter without making mistakes has served his reputation: and Crosby has tasted some of them...
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ANQUETIL vs POULIDOR, The French divorce
ANQUETIL vs POULIDOR, The French divorce (4:44)
Of the rivalries that French sport has known, the one between Jacques Anquetil and Raymond Poulidor in the 1960s is one of the greatest, having transcended the world of cycling and gone beyond its borders. Everything opposes the two men: Anquetil, the bad winner, who only likes to win, and Poulidor, the good loser, happy to be already there and eternal second. The popular affection for the one nicknamed "Poupou" animated the "Trentes Glorieuses" and remains today one of the most beautiful stories of French sport.
The historian Michel Winock described this multi-factorial rivalry: "Behind these two stereotypes, the public feels confused that two universes are opposed, like modernity and archaism. Both riders come from a rural environment, but they do not evolve in the same agrarian civilization. Anquetil is representative of a modern agriculture (...) Poulidor is the figure of the "resigned peasant". This is also found in the style of each one: "Maître Jacques" is a rouleur, specialist of the time trial, which echoes his way of life with the attention of the detail. As for Poupou, he is a climber, comfortable in the mountains, at ease in the effort and force of nature. The division of the French has to do with these characters, because there is no real debate about who is the best, and this is what makes the admiration for Poulidor even more beautiful. In fact, Anquetil's record is far superior.
Although they were almost the same age, when Poulidor turned professional in 1960, at 24, Anquetil was already a cycling star. When Poupou first entered the Tour de France in 1962, his future rival had already won two. In fact, the two men were only competitors during the 1960s, which was not so long, and during this period "Maître Jacques" was clearly the better of the two. How to explain this rivalry, how to explain that Anquetil entered into a psychological confrontation with his compatriot? Maybe he needed a rival to surpass himself, but in any case the public needed it: to a champion who crushes the competition one prefers a duel with suspense, especially since the two men were so different that there were all the elements for a good drama. But if Poulidor had the legs, and the popular passion, he didn't have the mind of a champion. Nor the luck: punctures, falls, nothing will be spared to the destiny of Poupou.
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BRADY vs MANNING, The guardians of the temple
BRADY vs MANNING, The guardians of the temple (4:02)
The two quarterbacks Tom Brady and Peyton Manning dominated the NFL for nearly twenty years, and embodied a rivalry that pushed them to surpass each other with a mutual respect that does them credit. Manning, #1 draft pick in 1998 for the Indiannapolis Colts, had a flourishing career until his retirement in 2015 with the Denver Broncos. An admirable longevity, during which Peyton won two Superbowls with each of his teams, winning one each time. Nicknamed the Sheriff, he was awarded the league's MVP five times, a record that still stands today, and named to the Pro Bowl for the best days of the season 14 times, which was a record until the 2021-2022 season when Brady earned his 15th nomination. The son of a former player, and older brother of another renowned quarterback, Eli Manning, also number one in his draft and a two-time Super Bowl winner, Peyton is the archetypal old school quarterback, a brilliant strategist, respected leader, exceptional passer and cold-blooded competitor. 
Tom Brady, a living legend in American sports, is considered the greatest American soccer player of all time. However, he did not have a brilliant college career like Manning and other NFL stars. He was only selected 199th in the 2000 draft and began his adventure with the New England Patriots as a backup. He will embody the greatest dynasty of the sport until the 2019 season when he will join the Tampa Bay Bucanneers. In terms of longevity, Brady is truly a special case! Three times MVP but above all man of the Superbowl: he holds the record of ten finals played, including seven wins - six with the Patriots and 1 with the Buccanneers in 2021 - and five times he was named MVP of the final. The two players have played each other 17 times during their careers, with Tom Brady winning 11 times. However, they have only met once in a Super Bowl, and it was Manning's Broncos who came out on top.
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FURY vs WILDER, When the noble art becomes a war of ego
FURY vs WILDER, When the noble art becomes a war of ego (4:23)
If the most important categories in boxing are historically the welterweights and the middleweights, for the combination of speed, technique and power, the most popular category and the one that gets the most media coverage is the heavyweights. Contemporary boxing is no exception, especially since in recent years the competition is real. Thus, the queen category of English boxing offered us a rivalry worthy of the golden age of the discipline with Tyson Fury and Deontay Wilder.
The Englishman Tyson Fury is nicknamed The Gypsy King, a nickname he borrowed from one of his ancestors, who was a British champion in underground bare-knuckle fighting. His own father was also a professional boxer, but was sentenced to eleven years in prison for putting out a man's eye during a street fight. He owes his first name to Mike Tyson. In this context, it is not surprising to see that Fury went to boxing: despite a good amateur career, he did not compete in the Olympics and became a professional in 2008 at only 20 years. His first big feat is the victory in 2015 against the legend Wladimir Klitschko: for his first fight with belts at stake, he defeats the Ukrainian boxer then undefeated for 11 years! However, instead of exploding his career came to a halt as Fury had to retire due to medical problems. After two years of absence he returned to competition but the boxing world did not take him seriously due to a significant weight gain and this despite his invincibility. After two easy victories, he can fight one of the two other undefeated heavyweights with his compatriot Anthony Joshua: the American Deontay Wilder...
Wilder is an atypical boxer who started late, at 19, to support his newborn daughter who has a bone marrow disease. A real knockout machine, he is also a trash-talker always eager to provoke. US champion in 2007, Olympic bronze in 2008, he then started a professional career with quick wins thanks to his punch. Knockout machine, he declares he wants to kill someone in the ring. When he was supposed to fight Joshua, the match was postponed several times and it was Fury who replaced Joshua. We then witness the birth of a monster rivalry between two titans of the category, both experts in the pre-fight provocation and undefeated in the professionals. At the end of 2018, after a completely crazy scenario, Fury is sent twice to the mat while he controlled the fight and the duel ends in a draw. The rematch takes place in early 2020 and this time Fury wins easily in the 7th round. Wilder makes excuses, accuses the Englishman of cheating and immediately activates the clause of his contract for a trilogy under high tension. 
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WITT vs THOMAS, The battle of the Carmens
WITT vs THOMAS, The battle of the Carmens (3:00)
During the Winter Olympics of Calgary in 1988, two major figures of figure skating confront each other. On one side, the East German Katarina Witt, on the other the American Debi Thomas. They are the two favorites, it is about their last Olympic Games and there scandal: the two athletes choose to carry out their long program on the opera Carmen of Bizet, thus giving for nickname to this duel "the battle of Carmens"
Best American skater, Debi Thomas was even World Champion in 1986. She was one of the first African-American skaters to express herself at the highest level, and at the Calgary Games became the first to wear a tight-fitting jumpsuit instead of a skirt. After the year 88, she will retire at 21 years in order to devote herself to her studies of medicine begun two years earlier. Katarina Witt is endowed with a much more extensive list of achievements: already Olympic champion in 1984 at only 18 years old, she has since won all the major competitions she has competed in, except for the 86 Worlds where she finished second behind Thomas. After her amateur career ended in 88 she became a professional skater for various shows and even made a few appearances in Hollywood films. She received an Emmy Award for her performance in the movie-show "Carmen on Ice". Nicknamed "the most beautiful face of socialism", as much an athlete as an artist, she is considered as the skater who brought her discipline into the modernity, by her performances and her media coverage.
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HAMILTON vs VERSTAPPEN, Defying the master
HAMILTON vs VERSTAPPEN, Defying the master (5:03)
The 2021 Formula 1 season saw Dutchman Max Verstappen win his first world championship title at the age of 24, at the end of a crazy season crowned by a last grand prix that is still controversial weeks after its conclusion. Indeed, during the race in Abu Dhabi, a controversial arbitration decision affecting the course of the race following an incident, has indirectly favored Verstappen who was able to dethrone the English Lewis Hamilton. The latter is probably the greatest driver in the history of F1, and he was so close to an 8th world title synonymous with an absolute record. The 36-year-old Mercedes driver already holds all the other major records possible, but it is the identity of his successor and the scenario that make it so special. For one thing is certain, Verstappen and Hamilton hate each other.
For several years, the young Dutch prodigy of the Red Bull team and the British champion have been clashing on and off the track. Since 2018, the two drivers' rivalry has become a legendary duel like Senna vs Prost or Hunt vs Lauda, and it is in 2021 that it will reach its climax. During the British GP of Silverstone, the 10th of the season, the two men clashed in the race, which led to Verstappen's withdrawal and hospital stay, while Hamilton won and climbed back up in the standings. The Red Bull team was offended to see the frank celebration of the Englishman while his competitor was in hospital. A few races later, at Monza in Italy, a circuit renowned for its speed, the two drivers clashed again; this time both were forced to retire and this time it was Hamilton who was indignant, believing that Verstappen had knowingly caused the accident. As the end of the championship approached, Hamilton was demoted to the end of the grid at the start of the Sao Paulo GP because of a spoiler that was not in conformity with the regulations: at the end of a crazy race, the Englishman caught up with everyone else and even managed to overtake his rival to win the race. The conquest of the title is relaunched, and Hamilton will win the next grand prix in Qatar after Verstappen was in turn penalized before the race. Toto Wolff, the Mercedes boss, compared this duel to a combat sport, and the tension grew. During the penultimate race, in Saudi Arabia, the tension is maximum and it is Hamilton who signs again a victory in a chaotic GP having seen several incidents having in particular damaged the Dutchman.
For the first time since 1974, two drivers are tied in the standings before the last GP of the season! Some analysts are predicting another clash between the two, since in the event of joint retirements, the Red Bull driver would be the champion because he has won one more GP. We are in Abu Dhabi, and Hamilton leads the race until the 53rd lap. However, an accident led to the introduction of a safety car, temporarily freezing the race, but allowing the Red Bull driver to change his tires. Hamilton, stuck behind the other Red Bull driver, was unable to make a pit stop to change his tires, while Verstappen easily recovered from his own pit stop as the race was slowed by the accident. Some late cars were allowed to overtake the safety car that had returned to the track, but others were not, including Hamilton, which led to confusion and then anger among the Mercedes clan, but also among other drivers. Some teams questioned the timing of the decisions, but the race director seemed overwhelmed. The usual procedure would have been for everyone to be able to take their places before a normal restart, and this would have led to the race ending in groups. Finally, when the race resumed, there was one lap to go, and Hamilton was easily overtaken by his rival on new tires, with Toto Wolff shouting indignantly at the race director on the general radio. Hamilton even spoke of manipulation.
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ALI vs FRAZIER, The bee and the gorilla
ALI vs FRAZIER, The bee and the gorilla (5:30)
Almost 50 years ago, on March 8, 1971, two of the greatest boxers in history faced each other at the mythical Madison Square Garden, marking the beginning of a legendary trilogy in the history of sport. Of the rivalry between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier, we know mostly the third round, nicknamed "Thrilla in Manilla", which took place in 1975, disputed one year after the "Rumble in the Jungle" of 1974 against George Foreman in Zaire. However, the relationship between Ali and Frazier was first of all a frank friendship.
Even though Frazier was only two years younger, he completely admired Ali who had shone very early. After a successful amateur career in which he won Olympic gold in the light-heavyweight class in 1960, his professional career got off to a flying start. In 1963, despite a record of 19 victories, including 15 before the limit, and no defeat, Ali - who was still called Cassius Clay at the time - faced the heavyweight champion Sonny Liston, considered invincible. The young Cassius surprisingly defeated the biggest puncher of the 1960s, and confirmed his superiority in a rematch the following year. In 1967, at 30-0, Muhammad Ali's career was to come to a halt: as a conscientious objector criticizing the war in Vietnam, he refused to be drafted, which earned him a heavy fine and a conviction. He escaped prison, but was stripped of his world championship title and his boxing license. As for his image, it becomes controversial after his support to the Nation of Islam and its leader Malcolm X.
Joe Frazier took advantage of Ali's years of absence to become the new king of boxing, while supporting his friend and going so far as to plead with the White House for his return to competition. In 1971, after only one fight since his return to the ring, Muhammad Ali finally challenged Joe Frazier. And to the surprise of the latter, Ali begins the confrontation in the media, with statements and provocations. It was the first time in history that two undefeated heavyweights in more than 25 fights faced each other. Nicknamed at the time "the fight of the century", it was a clash of styles inside and outside the ring. Frazier, a discreet puncher, versus Ali, a virtuoso of fists and words. In this high tension fight, Frazier wins the decision after 15 rounds. However, it was not until 1974 that the rematch took place: Ali fought again, picking up the pace and level, but lost in 1973 to Ken Norton; while Frazier greatly reduced the pace after the war against Ali, and was stripped of his title in 1973 by the young rising star George Foreman. Thus, in 1974, Ali took his revenge on Frazier in a fight that was disappointing on all levels but was preceded by a fight on a TV set during the promotion of the fight. It became clear that the two men would have to fight a third time.

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EVERT vs NAVRATILOVA, The queens of tennis
EVERT vs NAVRATILOVA, The queens of tennis (3:40)
When Djokovic claims that his record of confrontations with Nadal makes him the de facto greatest rivalry in tennis, former player Christine Evert is quick to remind him that this only applies to men's matches: in fact, with his rival Martina Navratilova, they have faced each other 80 times, far surpassing any other historical duel. If the two American players (Navratilova, of Czechoslovakian origin, became an American citizen in 1981) were so opposed to each other, it is because they were the two best players for a decade. The WTA rankings were established in 1975, and it wasn't until 1987 that the number one ranking in the world went to a player other than Evert and Navratilova in a single season; in this case Steffi Graf, another tennis legend.
Over the first 12 seasons of the WTA rankings, one of the two champions has been the leader 592 times out of the 615 total weeks. If the German Graf will manage to surpass the number of Grand Slam titles, she will not have shared her dominance with another player, which makes the performances of Evert and Navratilova even more impressive. Between 81 and 85, the two players won 15 consecutive Grand Slam titles. From 82 to 87, they obtained 21 Grand Slams out of 24, a feat that even Nadal and Federer have not managed, with "only" 20 out of 24 between 2004 and 2010.
They are still a reference in the tennis world, both on the men's and women's circuits. Christine has won 154 WTA titles, including 18 Grand Slams; Martina has won 168 singles titles, including 18 Grand Slams. Martina has also had a successful doubles career, adding to her already impressive record. Of the 80 meetings between the two champions, 60 were finals, including 14 Grand Slam matches. Navratilova has the most wins and titles against her rival. Despite the achievements of Steffi Graf in the next decade, and later Serena Williams, Evert and Navratilova still hold some records of the Open era: Chris, for example, still holds the number of women's victories at Rolland Garros and Martina the Wimbledon. Never has women's tennis seen such an opposition between two legends. Christine the righthander against Martina the left-hander. The American from Florida against the naturalized Eastern European. The defensive player from the back court against the offensive player who likes to play serve-volley. They took up the torch from Margaret Smith Court and Billie J King to propel women's tennis into the Open era with great success. After Navratilova became a naturalized citizen, they even played together in the Fed Cup in American colors, with great success. The two Hall of Fame members have always acknowledged that their immense rivalry on the court was matched only by their friendship off the court, a friendship that continues to this day

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PROST vs SENNA, Fratricidal war
PROST vs SENNA, Fratricidal war (4:58)
Between the Lauda-Hunt duel and the more recent Lewis-Verstappen, Formula 1 has seen an unprecedented rivalry with two of the greatest drivers in its history, Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna. The particularity of this opposition is that the two men evolved together in the same team. The technological domination of McLaren-Honda led Prost and Senna to compete for the championship title in the late 1980s.
When Senna joined McLaren-Honda in 1988 - the leading team at the time with Williams-Renault - he was a young driver who had had a very good second place with Lotus the previous season. Prost was already a seasoned driver, already a double world champion with his victories in 85 and 86. Together, they will certainly dominate the discipline, but above all they will engage in an intense duel going from public declarations to very tense racing situations. Senna is the speed, the instinctive driving, while the Frenchman is nicknamed the professor because of his tactical sense and his regularity. This theoretically complementary pair will finally generate a poisonous climate in the team in spite of the successes in races. As soon as he arrived at McLaren, Senna brilliantly won the championship but not without some clashes with his teammates, which earned him several statements from Prost criticizing his lack of fair play and his obsession with him. The season 89 marks a turning point in the rivalry between the two pilots, the Frenchman estimating that the Brazilian is advantaged by his direction. Senna leads in the standings, but a risk-taking at the first turn during the San Marino Grand Prix provokes the anger of Prost. Gathered by the director of the team to alleviate the tensions, that will finally be worsened when Prost will say then in the press that Senna was sermonized at the time of this meeting and cried: the Brazilian pilot is furious of this declaration.
This season 89 will be marked by an accident between the two pilots at the time of the GP of Japan, for which Senna is declared responsible and acts the victory of Prost. The following season, the Frenchman leaves for Ferrari, but the rivalry between the drivers persists. Dissatisfied with the position on the grid of the car in pole position, Senna voluntarily causes a collision with Prost, again at the time of the GP of Japan, entraining their double abandonment but acting his victory in championship. Then in 1991, Senna becomes triple world champion, overtaking the competition of Ferrari and its French pilots Prost and Alesi, as well as the Williams-Renault team more and more competitive. In 1992, Prost is fired from Ferrari, and in t h e absence of his rival, Senna fails to win the title in a team on the decline. He even declared that he was ready to compete for free for Williams, the best team on the circuit. But the following season, it is Prost who signs at Williams, and puts its veto with an arrival of the Brazilian, relaunching their rivalry on the public place. Ayrton Senna renounces to a sabbatical year and continues at McLaren despite the end of the collaboration with Honda. This season 93 sees Prost becoming again champion of the world, in front of Senna. The Frenchman then retires, and that starts the appeasement of the relations between the two pilots.

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JOHNSON vs BIRD, The Golden Age of the NBA
JOHNSON vs BIRD, The Golden Age of the NBA (3:17)
If the NBA has a real boom in the 80s, it is particularly driven by the rivalry between Larry Bird and Earvin "Magic" Johnson. First opposed at the university, the two players landed in the NBA for the 79-80 season. The first joined the Boston Celtics while the second was drafted by the Los Angeles Lakers. Both will make the entirety of their career in a single franchise, and their personal rivalry will extend to that of the two teams. The West Coast versus the East Coast. The flamboyant play of the Lakers versus the methodical play of the Celtics. The energetic AfricanAmerican city boy versus the quiet white country boy. But despite this multi-factorial opposition, and a very pronounced sporting rivalry, the two players became friends and were even co-captains with the USA at the head of the 1992 Dream Team that would win Olympic gold.
Larry Bird will win three championships in 81, 84, 86 and will be named three times best player of the NBA in 84, 85 and 86. Magic will be champion five times with the Lakers, in 80, 82, 85, 87 and 88, for three titles of MVP in 87, 89 and 90. Thus, between them they dominated the NBA for a whole decade with their team, before the advent of the Chicago Bulls in the early 90s and their rivalry with the Detroit Pistons double winner in 89 and 90. The Celtics and the Lakers remain today two mythical franchises, which have known success regularly since the creation of the NBA. It is therefore not insignificant that the opposition between Bird and Magic has been so long and intense, and offered such beautiful pages of history in basketball. Since the end of the rivalry between Bill Russell's Celtics, Jerry West's Lakers and Wilt Chamberlain's Warriors, which animated the 60's, the NBA has lost its superbness and its audiences have fallen sharply. That's how much impact Bird and Magic had as soon as they arrived in the league, becoming the locomotives of basketball and propelling the NBA internationally thanks to their popularity.
After having been adversaries throughout their careers, playing with his greatest rival in the colors of the United States at the Olympic Games is a magnificent way to close this rivalry. By jointly leading such a dream team with the greatest talents of t h e time (Michael Jorden, Scottie Pippen, Charles Barkley, Karl Malone, etc.) Larry Bird and Magic Johnson sign the ideal last chapter for what remains today the most prolific rivalry in the NBA
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CRISTIANO RONALDO vs MESSI, The classico (4:33)
Two of the greatest players in history have fought a battle of statistics, collective titles and individual awards relegating other players to second place for many years as their dominance has been exceptional. The best period of this competition took place from 2009 to 2018 when Cristiano Ronaldo played for Real Madrid, in the same league as Lionel Messi, the idol of Barcelona.
Even today, despite their relative decline, and their departures from Spain, the debate on who is the best of the two animates soccer fans. Ronaldo the arrogant, with the sculpted body, work machine and goal machine, against Messi the discreet, the child with growth problems who became a soccer giant, with technique and collective sense beyond the norm. The left winger versus the right winger. At least at the beginning, since the Portuguese twirler turned into a killer of surfaces, scoring more than dribbling, while the little Argentine showed a colossal volume of play, playing both on the side and as a playmaker, unzoning happily during the end of his Catalan adventure and capable of making impossible passes while exploding the records of goals.
Whatever our favorite, it would be wrong to present Cristiano as the worker and Messi as the talent: if the reputation of the Portuguese as a hard worker is right, he is still a player of great talent, just as the genius of Messi could translate into a career as legendary thanks to his great professionalism. If Ronaldo is an icon in his country, with which he won the Euro 2016, Portugal's first major title and set records for goals in the national team, the image of Messi is different in Argentina. In the country of Maradona, Messi has always been an outsider since he left very young in Spain: certainly, he did not evolve with the best generation of Argentine players, but for a long time his inability to make his country win will be reproached despite excellent individual performances. Messi failed in the final of the 2014 World Cup but still offered the Copa America 2021, 28 years after the last won by Argentina and after three lost finals.
At club level, both have dominated European soccer. For Ronaldo, it is notably three English, two Spanish and two Italian championships, five times top scorer of his championship for four titles of Golden Boot (that is to say the best scorer in Europe), and especially five Champions League, the first one with Manchester United in 2008 then four with Real Madrid in 2014, 2016, 2017 and 2018. To this record, we must add a flurry of goals in the league and Champions League, as well as five Ballon d'Or. Messi has known almost exclusively Barcelona, which he joined as a child. With the Blaugrana, the Argentinean nugget won ten La Liga titles and finished top scorer eight times, winning the Golden Boot award six times. In the Champions League, Messi won four times with Barcelona, in 2006, 2009, 2011 and 2015. It is difficult to separate the two players on their record of achievements or their statistics as they have each experienced what other soccer legends would have taken two careers to know! In any case, their rivalry will always be manifested on the sporting level, in a respectful climate even when the classicos were stormy. Both men appreciate each other and recognize that the prowess of the other has pushed them to excel. However, Messi stands out in the collective imagination as the genius of his sport, capable of hundreds of dribbles, passes and goals that few can boast of being able to achieve several times. 
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NADAL vs FEDERER, The giants of the small yellow ball
NADAL vs FEDERER, The giants of the small yellow ball (3:24)
If Novak Djokovic is going to beat many records in tennis and is for some years the best player in the world, the great rivalry of tennis in the 21st century does not concern him. Yes, it is the matches between him and Rafael Nadal that have taken place the most in men's tennis, but the greatest rival of the Spaniard is the Swiss Roger Federer, whom he has faced nine times in the final of Grand Slam, as much as the Serbian. Both have dazzled the tennis world since the beginning of the 2000s, while Djokovic revealed himself a little later and really imposed himself at the highest level from 2011.
If at the end of 2021 the three players have 20 Grand Slam titles each, the Swiss has been in physical decline for a few years and the current duel is between Nadal and Djokovic, the "Fedal" duo - a contraction of Federer and Nadal - is one of the most beautiful and impressive rivalries in the history of the sport Without the slightest animosity, the two men pushed each other to surpass themselves. The Swiss symbol of elegant tennis, with superb technique, facing the hard-working but talented Spaniard, tireless machine and undisputed master of the clay court. In fact, one of the most beautiful matches between the two men was at Wimbledon, his rival's favorite tournament.
In 2008, while Federer was trying to break Bjorn Borg's record with a sixth consecutive victory in the tournament and hold on to his position as the world's No. 1 for the fifth year in a row, Nadal played a match of anthology and won a legendary match in one of the most beautiful finals in the history of tennis. Nearly ten years later, in 2017, while Federer has not won a Grand Slam since 2012 nor beaten Nadal in these tournaments since 2007, and both players are coming off a bad period due to injuries, here are the greatest rivals who face each other in a historic final. After an excellent fifth set, the Swiss player won again and gave a new impetus to his career with a disconcerting longevity.
At the end of 2021, Nadal and Federer have played each other 40 times, with the Spaniard's advantage due to his unchallenged domination of clay courts (14-2), while the Swiss has a better record on all other surfaces (14-10). Since the tournaments are seeded according to the ATP rankings, 24 of their encounters have been finals, including nine previous Grand Slam finals. Although they are not friends in life, the two men have immense respect for each other and genuinely like each other. Between them, they have written one of the most beautiful pages in the history of sport, and the arrival of Djokovic to form a "Big Three" does not diminish the prestige of their sporting rivalry, which has made every sports fan dream. 
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Carl LEWIS vs Ben JONHSON, Olympic Duel
Carl LEWIS vs Ben JONHSON, Olympic Duel (4:45)
Athletics will never know such a rivalry. In the 80's, the two fastest men in the world were fighting for the domination of the 100m race, in a poisonous atmosphere. The American Carl Lewis, world star, facing the sulphurous Canadian Ben Johnson, it is a confrontation on and off the track that has fascinated athletics for many years.
At the 1984 Olympic Games, Lewis repeated the feat of Jesse Owens 48 years earlier, winning gold in the 100m, 200m, 4x100m and long jump. Because of his performances, records and popularity, he was logically elected athlete of the year, with a considerable contribution to the media and the professionalization o f athletics. But in the following years, the rise of Ben Johnson shook up the hierarchy. From bronze medalist in 84, the Canadian became the main challenger and then the world number one in the 100m, multiplying exceptional performances while Lewis stagnated.
At the 1987 World Championships, Johnson confirmed that he was the new king of sprinting, winning the final and setting a new world record, while Lewis finished second, equalling the old record. Unaccustomed to losing, the American accused his opponent of being a cheat, and in particular of doping. Before the Seoul Games in 1988, Lewis beat Johnson, showing his return to the top, and accentuating the rivalry between the two athletes who do not hide their hatred of each other. The whole world has its eyes riveted on the 100m final during this summer 88, and it will not be disappointed... After an absolutely titanic start, Ben Johnson concludes his sprint with a clear lead, takes the Olympic title and explodes the world record with 9'79. But the euphoria will not last: three days later, the Canadian is tested positive for steroids, suspended for two years, stripped of his title and his record. Lewis thus becomes the new Olympic champion. Ben Johnson will never return to the highest level, while Lewis will continue to shine and divide public opinion that finds him selfcentered and arrogant. In 1991 at the World Championships in Tokyo, the American achieved one of his best competitions with a new world record in the 100m, but the following year at the Olympic Games he could only qualify in the long distance and the 4x100m relay, where he kept the gold. He retired in 1997, hailed as the athlete of the century but not appreciated by his opponents and the public.
During the heyday of Usain Bolt, Lewis will accuse him of doping, drawing the wrath of the athletics world, providing that his own case is questionable. In addition to Johnson's team, which claimed that Lewis was protected by the anti-doping authorities, several specialists claimed that the American star was doped during the majority of his career and that the evolution of the morphology of his jaw is a proof. In 2003, a report is revealed according to which several American athletes of which Lewis would have been controlled positive in 1988 in races preceding the Olympics, but that the American Olympic Committee managed to prevent an exclusion of the competition. In the end, six of the eight sprinters of this final in Seoul will be controlled in their career, such as the American Dennis Mitchell and the English Linford Christie. Officially clean, a shadow hangs over the legacy of Lewis, and this makes even more fascinating the opposition he maintained with Johnson, publicly accusing his rival as soon as this one started to beat him on the track. Their duel at the 88 Olympics will remain the culmination of one of the greatest rivalries in the history of the sport. We can however estimate that Johnson was the scapegoat of a generation of cheaters, sacrificed to the profit of the American stars of which Lewis... 
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TYSON vs HOLYFIELD, A rivalry with teeth!
TYSON vs HOLYFIELD, A rivalry with teeth! (3:20)
Of this heated rivalry, we remember most Mike Tyson's bite on Evander Holyfield's ear. However, this is only a symbol of their immense rivalry; and if the two men reconciled a few years ago, knowing who is the best of the two remains a heated debate among fans of the noble art.
Iron Mike, a precocious knockout machine who has had a sulphurous career, including a stint in prison, is no longer in the news. Holyfield, one of the best of his generation, to this day the only one to have unified the heavy-lightweight and heavyweight belts. Nicknamed The Real Deal, Evander Holyfield is also controversial after accusations of doping when he changed categories. The long-awaited clash between Tyson and Holyfield, the two heavyweight giants of the 90s, finally began in 1996. Mike is out of prison, while Holyfield is coming off a titanic trilogy against another rival, Riddick Bowe.
In fact, both could have faced Lennox Lewis, the third big name of the time, but would only fight him after their war. Indeed, the two men were determined to settle their account in the ring after years of distant rivalries. This highly anticipated boxing summit represents both the most challenging sporting event and the most lucrative one possible. The first Holyfield versus Tyson fight of 1996 was extremely competitive, and while Iron Mike was the favorite, The Real Deal won by technical knockout in the 11th round. In everyone's eyes, it's the fight of the year, and everyone is looking forward to the rematch the following year. Tyson is more vengeful than ever and the tension between the two fighters is at its highest.
For the rematch, Mike is once again the favorite. The first rounds are to his advantage, and Holyfield discreetly and viciously throws several headbutts. In the third round, an excited Tyson bites his opponent's ear for the first time, resulting in a penalty, but the fight continues after a break. Tyson bites Holyfield's ear again and is disqualified. The tension is at its peak and Mike is furious and wants to go after his rival again despite the fight being stopped. The security of the hall tries to calm the situation, but incidents in the public will take place in the following hours. Tyson will be suspended for one year and ordered to pay 10% of his salary for the fight, making it one of the largest penalties in the history of boxing. This double victory will give a new impetus to the career of Holyfield while that of Mike Tyson will decline. The two champions would reconcile nearly 15 years later. In 2020, both have resumed boxing in exhibition fights without sporting stakes, and negotiations for a trilogy are on the table... 
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HUNT vs LAUDA, Fast and Furious
HUNT vs LAUDA, Fast and Furious (3:23)
It's no coincidence that this famous rivalry has given rise to a Hollywood film, as the characters and the scenario of this page of Formula 1 history are so unusual. On the one hand, the Englishman James Hunt, who does not hesitate to party the night before the races, wanders around the paddock with a cigarette on his lips and women on his arms, a virtuoso of the circuits.
On the other hand, the Austrian Niki Lauda, nicknamed "the computer", much more reserved, from the Viennese bourgeoisie and presented as more rigorous than talented. In 1975, Niki Lauda signed with Ferrari and won the World Championship. The following season, James Hunt, who had revealed himself in the Hesketh team, was recruited by McLaren. This year was one of the most impressive in the history of Formula 1. Lauda, the reigning champion, was the logical favorite, and Hunt, despite some good performances, fell behind in the standings.
But the Austrian suffered a serious accident during the German Grand Prix: he spent several weeks in hospital, his face was partially burned and his lungs damaged by the toxic fumes caused by the fire in his car due to the crash. During his recovery, Hunt made up for lost time and became a title contender. To everyone's surprise, Niki Lauda returned to racing less than two months after his near fatal accident, which left him with both internal and external injuries. In a gesture as heroic as it was unconscious, Lauda confirmed his desire to defend his title against his rival and finished the following races in good positions despite his physical condition. In the last race of the season, he was only 3 points ahead of James Hunt, but the bad weather conditions made him abandon the first lap for fear of another accident. Hunt then became Formula 1 World Champion.
It was nevertheless the only title for the Englishman, who was far too whimsical for this sport in which he was never really at home, and whose performances on the circuit were declining. As for Lauda, he became champion again in the 1977 season, but left Ferrari following internal disagreements. He then spent two seasons with Brabham without success and retired before returning in 1982 to McLaren. In 1984, he won his third title, before having a more discreet final season in the shadow of a certain Alain Prost the following year. After his career, James Hunt became a brilliant commentator for the BBC where he operated for 13 years until his death from a heart attack. Lauda will return to Formula 1 much later, and was a strong man of Mercedes from 2012 to 2018. He will die in 2019 of a lung infection, 43 years after his accident in Germany. 
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CRUYFF vs BECKENBAUER The enemy brothers
CRUYFF vs BECKENBAUER The enemy brothers (3:14)
Johann Cruyff, who passed away on March 24, 2016, is probably the most influential person in modern soccer. Through his immense career as a player and then as a coach, from Ajax Amsterdam to Barcelona to the Dutch national team, the Dutch striker had a profound impact on the game. As a player, he was a legend of the 1970s, winning numerous titles, including three times the Champions Cup, the forerunner of the current Champions League.
As a coach, he revolutionized the style of soccer, managing to sublimate a total soccer from which the greatest are still inspired today, and bringing Barcelona into a new era in the early 90s. The only thing missing is his record with the national team, since despite the golden age of the Netherlands, of which he was the figurehead, he could not do better than a finalist place in 1974 when they were widely favored. That final, Cruyff and his teammates lost it to West Germany and its captain: Franz Beckenbaueur. The Kaiser, a Bayern Munich legend, was the other star of European soccer in the 70. He was a playmaker, but he would retreat into defense throughout his career, while remaining a leader of men, captain for both club and country. Beckenbauer was the link between a cold and rough Germany and a collective machine with a dazzling domination.
Unlike the "Flying Dutchman" he won everything with Bayern but also with his country, including Euro 72 and the 74 World Cup. And if Cruyff was a revolutionary coach, Beckenbauer also managed to win major titles. Cruyff won the Champions League in 1992, Beckenbauer the World Cup in 1990. It was not until Didier Deschamps that someone won the World Cup as a player and as a coach. Three golden balls for Cruyff, two for Beckenbauer, the two men shone on the fields and on the bench. But this rivalry turned into a friendship. On hearing of Cruyff's death, Beckenbauer referred to him as a brother. Rivals on the field, the two men were very similar in many ways. Two leaders and two geniuses of the game. These exceptional leaders of men both had a feared ego in the business, and contributed to the development of modern soccer both in the game and behind the scenes: the German was the first to have an agent, while the Dutchman stood up to Adidas as sponsor of his national team. Before their transition to coaching, both men would briefly play for the same team, the New York Cosmos, once again at the forefront of modern soccer. 
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John McEnroe vs Ivan Lendl, Johnny and the Colonel
John McEnroe vs Ivan Lendl, Johnny and the Colonel (2:56)
MCENROE vs LENDEL Johnny and the Colonel John McEnroe had several great rivalries in his immense career. We could have talked about the tension that opposed him to Connors, the other big mouth of the circuit, or of course Borg, the world star of modern tennis who made the discipline pass a milestone. But the rivalry between McEnroe and Ivan Lendl was really the most striking, because of its intensity and longevity...
For a long time it was even the most competitive match of the Open era in men's tennis! The two men dominated the 1980s, which McEnroe started as the world tennis leader before being overtaken by his European rival. They faced each other in one of the greatest finals of Rolland Garros, in 1984, where Lendl reversed the match and won his first Grand Slam title while depriving McEnroe of this tournament forever. John the temperamental was overwhelmed that day, and let slip a victory that was nevertheless in his grasp... Until 1985, the whimsical American player was the better of the two, but from the US Open 85 conceded at home to the Czechoslovakian, the rivalry between the two players turned in favor of Lendl with a clear domination.
McEnroe himself would recognize the considerable contribution of his rival to tennis: with his very professional approach, Lendl - nicknamed the Colonel - laid the foundations of the modern player, both in the game and in his work off the court. Their opposing styles have fascinated fans of the yellow ball for more than a decade: Ivan the methodical, backcourt soldier versus John the fiery, bold player. Yet McEnroe felt that Bjorg was the best he had ever played against: it's easy to understand this point of view since their short rivalry from '78 to '81 propelled the American to the top of tennis, while Lendl came to dominate.
Stuck between his two illustrious opponents, John had to watch both of them impose themselves as the best of the 70's for one and 80's for the other. In his autobiography, McEnroe recalls the 1984 Rolland Garros final as the worst memory of his career. For fans, the outcome of this match changed the face of tennis in the 1980s, and turned the careers of both players upside down. This multi-factorial opposition will have deeply marked tennis and remains to this day one of the most important rivalries in the history of the sport
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OVECHKIN vs CROSBY, Neighborhood battle