The long reign of Cristiano Ronaldo as the king of European football has ended, and a known rival is waiting on the wings to conquer his crown.
As Ronaldo was leaving the Champions League with Juventus on Tuesday night, ending his hopes of a fourth consecutive medal in the competition, Lionel Messi was leading Barcelona to the semifinals with a star in the win over Manchester United.
Messi scored two goals – the first was a superb shot from the edge of the area, the second was a gift from David de Gea, who allowed his low shot to squirm under him and in the net.
Ronaldo also scored for the 126th time in the competition but was not enough, as Ajax came from a disadvantage to win by 2 x 1 in Turin and by 3-2 in total.
Barça are in for the last four clashes with Porto or Liverpool, keeping alive Messi's hope of winning the fifth-place medal of the Champions League to equalize his Portuguese rival – the only man in world football to be considered in the same group class as the Argentine.
Ronaldo's race ends
Ronaldo scored 126 goals in the Champions League with an incredible 65 of them reaching the last 16.
The last time he did not reach at least the semifinal stage was the 2009-10 season, when his Real Madrid side were eliminated in the knockout round by Lyon.
Ronaldo's victories in 2008 and 2014 have been added in each of the last three seasons but he will not reach a fourth consecutive final thanks to Matthijs header from Ligt to Ajax.
The striker has played 48 league games since the start of the 2015-16 season – winning 31, tying eight and losing eight. In that race, he scored 49 goals and took 14 more assists.
Ronaldo's header in the first half in Turin made him 25th goal in the Champions League quarter-finals while Messi had to end a drought against United.
While doubling Fred and passing through David de Gea, Messi secured his first goal in the quarter-finals since April 2013 against Paris St-Germain, finishing a series of 12 matches and 50 shots without a goal in the quarter- Last.
"Messi is an exceptional talent," said United manager Ole Gunnar Soslkjaer.
"He and Cristiano were the best players in the world in the last decade and it showed why we all thought about it and why he won so many titles and because that team has won so many Champions Leagues.
Messi, 31, has scored 45 goals in all competitions for Barcelona this season – 10 more than any other player in the top five European leagues.
He scored twice as many Champions League goals against English opponents than any other player (24 goals). And he can still face Liverpool in the semifinals and one of Tottenham or Manchester City in the final …
But the duel is far from over …
Juventus spent more than 100 million pounds to sign with Ronaldo last summer – and the 34-year-old was taken to Turin mainly to end his 23-year wait for his third European Cup triumph.
How long can he continue to score at the highest level?
Well, the captain of Portugal shows no real signs of slowing down. He has scored 19 goals in Serie A this season and ends the Champions League with six.
He signed a four-year contract with Juve last summer and we can expect the two to continue to negotiate goals – and titles – at the highest level.