BARCELONA

Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo to sign with Real Madrid and Barcelona

Real Madrid and Barcelona are trying to tie down the two best players in the world, contract extension number two for Ronaldo and the eight renewal for Leo Messi.

Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo to sign with Real Madrid and Barcelona

2016 is a key year for Real Madrid and Barcelona, but then every year is a key year for Real Madrid and Barcelona. Their eternal enmity never sleeps, and every title deepens the appetite for more titles. The debates rage on: Madrid vs. Barcelona, Barça vs. Real, the league and cup double vs. the 11th European Cup, Messi vs Ronaldo.

Most generations would be lucky to have one or the other player around, our generation has both, two players who have broken all the records and continue to challenge the boundaries of the possible with a ball at their feet. Messi and Cristiano have brought the game to another level, blazing parallel trails through footballing history that the rest of us mere mortals can just stand and watch.

Real Madrid need Cristiano Ronaldo and Barcelona need Lionel Messi, and in a way they need each other. Their greatness has been forged in the ferocity of their rivalry, without equal or near-equal opposition, there is no contest, no competition, no reason to exceed expectations and better what has already been done.

The appetite that both players show for constant self-improvement is perhaps the thing that surprises most, having won it all at club and personal levels, both work like they're facing into their debut seasons, hungry for more.

Barcelona face contract negotiations with key players Sergio Busquets and Neymar while Real Madrid have already extended captain Sergio Ramos' terms, among others, but there is no doubt about which contracts both clubs want signed and sealed as soon as possible: Leo Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.

El madridista arrived in 2009 and has signed just one contract extension, that was on September 15 2013, and took a couple of months to finalise. His contract stretched to 2015 and was lengthened to 2018, but now Real want an even longer commitment, tying the Portuguese right up to the day he hangs up his boots. Luckily for them, it's mutual, Ronaldo has stated "I'm going to retire here at Madrid when I'm 40-something".

If all goes to plan, the second extension should reflect the desires of both parties without any foreseeable obstacles, and pen will be put to paper soon. Messi's case is a curious one, this will be his eight contract renewal since 2005, suggesting the club and the player both like to keep their options open. The most recent renewal was on May 19 2014, a contract that will come to an end in 2018.

This summer will see the opening of negotiations on both fronts, two talismanic leaders in their own rights who have come to represent their clubs, almost eclipsing the eternal rivalry between these monolithic Spanish institutions.

Both players want to stay, both clubs want them to stay, now it's just a matter of numbers.