What a way to return from the international break.
First, we must begin with Ronaldo. Not only did the Portuguese tally an astonishing five goals in Real's 6-0 hammering of Espanyol, but he did so with a hat trick inside the first 20 minutes and in record-setting fashion. The handful of goals pushed Ronaldo past Raulon Real Madrid's all-time La Liga scoring chart, with Ronaldo now at 230 goals to Raul's 228.
Even more impressive was the speed with which he achieved the feat. While it took the current New York Cosmos striker 550 Spanish league matches to reach his number, Ronaldo needed just 204 encounters on the Iberian Peninsula to claim the No. 1 spot.
As for Messi, he found himself in an odd spot at the start of Saturday's Atletico Madrid-Barcelona match. Bench, meet Messi. Messi, meet bench.
Barcelona boss Luis Enrique elected to rest his superstar after Messi had participated in Argentina's 2-2 friendly with Mexico on Tuesday in Arlington, Texas, and celebrated the birth of his second son, Mateo, three days later.
After serving the role of spectator for an hour, with Barcelona locked in a 1-1 draw with Atletico, Messi stepped into his telephone booth, and Superman came out to play the final 30 minutes. It didn't take long for the super-sub to leave his mark, as Messi collected a Luis Suarez pass and fired in his first league goal of the season to give the proud papa's side a 2-1 win.
Ratings and review
Here's what our Real Madrid and Barcelona bloggers had to say about each man's performance.
Rob Train on Ronaldo: 10/10 -- The No. 7 scored a hat trick on the same pitch last season and went two better this time around. The stats are ominous: seven shots, five on target, five goals. Ronaldo also teed up Karim Benzema when he might have had a go himself for Real's fourth. "Crisis" averted, and a 28th La Liga hat trick for the Portuguese goal machine.
Lee Roden on Messi: 8/10 -- He came on for the last 30 minutes of the game after missing training due to the birth of his second son. Almost inevitably, he lifted his team immediately. He stormed onto Suarez's short pass in the Atleti area to dispatch the winner in the 77th minute, then showed some style with a few nutmegs and dribbles in the time remaining.
Make it five goals for Cristiano Ronaldo today! He's the first player score five goals in a game TWICE for Real Madrid.
- ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) September 12, 2015
Messi is the FOURTH player to score 20+ goals vs. the same opponent (in his case vs. Atletico) in La Liga history.
- MisterChip (English) (@MisterChiping) September 12, 2015
Possibly important to note Luis Enrique said he'd spoken with Messi about decision. Not that they'd both agreed Leo to be sub.
- Dermot Corrigan (@dermotmcorrigan) September 12, 2015
- Real Madrid C.F. (@realmadriden) September 12, 2015
What did you think of the weekend's games? Let us know using the hashtag #ESPNFCMessiRonaldo. Plus, tell us who will win this season's scoring battle in our poll.
The next game
Following Champions League encounters this week, Ronaldo and Real Madrid host Granada on Saturday, while Messi and Barcelona welcome Levante on Sunday.
The Messi vs. Ronaldo goals projection model
Here's an explanation from the model's creator, analytics specialist Zach Bradshaw:
"These projections account for the historical performance (goals scored and minutes played) of the two players since 2010, strength of opposing defences faced (measured by SPI defensive rating), game location and the potential for injury or missing games. Based on the these inputs, the predictor will estimate the chance of each player scoring any number of goals for each remaining game. From this, we can project the total number of goals scored, hat tricks and the chance of each player accruing more goals than the other over the course of the entire Liga season."