There were contrasting fortunes for generational greats Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo in the UEFA Champions League as the Argentine guided his Barcelona team into the semi-finals while Ronaldos Juventus crashed out.
Football is, of course, very much a team game, but Messi and Ronaldo have bestrode the sport to such an extent in the past decade that much of the Champions League focus had been on the pair setting up a potential final showdown in Madrid on June 1.
That seemed a distinct possibility when Barca and Juve were kept apart during the quarter-final and semi-final draws, although any hopes fans had of the pair meeting in Madrid have now ended.
Messi kept his end of the bargain, producing a masterclass as he scored a brace before being involved in Philippe Coutinhos sublime third as Barcelona swept past Manchester United 3-0 at the Nou Camp to win their quarter-final tie 4-0 on aggregate.
It was smooth passage into the last four, where they will meet either Liverpool or Porto, as Barca seek a first Champions League title since 2015.
Messi is a man on a mission for a fifth Champions League title in total – which would put him level with Ronaldo.
Watching Messi live makes life worth living.
— Gary Lineker (@GaryLineker) April 16, 2019
It looked as if Portuguese star Ronaldo had put his Juve team similarly on course for the semi-finals when he powered in a header to open the scoring against Ajax in Turin, which was his 25th goal at this stage of the competition and 126th in total in the Champions League.
But a fearless Ajax side had clearly not ready the script, hitting back with goals through Donny van de Beek and Matthijs de Ligt.
The impressive young Ajax team duly held their nerve to dump Juve out 3-2 on aggregate, meaning Ronaldos personal grip on the Champions League trophy after winning it for the past three seasons with Real Madrid will also come to an end.
Incredibly, it will also be the first time in nine years that the Champions League last four is played out without Ronaldo present.
Juve's defeat also meant that Ronaldo had lost a first Champions League quarter-final at the 11th time of asking.
Cristiano Ronaldo in the UCL quarter-final
Real Madrid 17/18
Real Madrid 16/17
Real Madrid 15/16
Real Madrid 14/15
Real Madrid 13/14
Real Madrid 12/13
Real Madrid 11/12
Real Madrid 10/11
Man Utd 08/09
Man Utd 07/08
Man Utd 06/07 pic.twitter.com/DLb3GrhE7I
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