At the climax of ‘The Dark Knight’, Batman ensnares the Joker and hangs him upside down several hundred feet above the streets of Gotham.
Rather than begging for his life, the Caped Crusader’s mortal enemy soliloquises about the pair’s complex relationship.
“This is what happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object…
“I think you and I are destined to do this forever.”
I would never risk the wrath of the internet by suggesting which one of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo is the Joker and which is Batman, but the dynamic between the rival pairs have their similarities.
Two halves of the same soul, long since separated and each with their own identity, ultimately bound together.
Both Messi and Ronaldo have previously expressed the idea that their decade-long rivalry has helped them reach the stratospheric standards of their peaks.
Without the other, one would have been the undisputed standalone best player in the world since 2008.
While that would have done wonder for their reputation, perhaps complacency would have set in?
45 goals a season instead of 50, a few braces in place of hat-tricks.
The relentless pressure of the other has been a constant source of motivation.
Both are better off for it.
If the ultimate goal among football’s highest elite is to establish yourself as the greatest ever then these rivals lack definitive purpose without the other.
So how will Ronaldo’s transfer to Juventus impact Messi’s season?
The Portuguese superstar’s motivations are obvious — proving himself in a new league, a new country, delivering the Champions League to a team desperate for it.
Messi will of course be focused on retaining the title, the cup, and improving Barcelona’s recent fortunes in Europe.
But with his great nemesis having left Gotham, will his league exploits suffer from a lack of perspective?
The Argentine No10 sent out a message of intent in Barca’s first league fixture of the season.
He scored twice in a 3-0 win at the Nou Camp over Alaves, opening the scoring with an audacious free-kick slipped under the airborne wall.
Last season’s European Golden Boot winner is likely to operate on a level above every other player in Spain for the next nine months — it’s what he does.
However, without Ronaldo for comparison, it’s possible that admiration for Messi’s talent (outside of Catalonia) may give way to contempt for the standard of La Liga.
Messi and Ronaldo simultaneously tearing up the league was a mouthwatering slugging match.
Messi performing solo may induce big fish, small pond metaphors.
The Champions League is now the only competition in which the five-time Ballon d’Or winners will be in direct competition.
Without the the weekly duels, Messi’s brilliance may become distorted.
Messi and Ronaldo’s duopoly has been accompanied by toxicity in some parts.
Those blinded by bias have somewhat soured a golden age with petty arguments.
But for those who have enjoyed them as a double-act, a solo venture may be doomed to underwhelm, no matter how impressive.
Just Batman stalking through Gotham, thrashing anonymous henchman, in futile search of worthy competition.