All is fair in fashion and football.
Whenever Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo face off each other in the pitch, the world seemingly stops. The two football icons did it again when fashion house Louis Vuitton posted an Annie Liebovitz photograph of them locked in battle—but this time over a game of chess (the position is from Carlsen-Nakamura, Norway Chess 2017), using a Louis Vuitton Damier attaché case stacked on top of a trunk.
The timely photograph coincided with the start of the FIFA World Cup 2022, where the two stars and their home countries are in contention. There is a tantalizing possibility of them playing against each other later in the tournament, but for now fans can be content to see them in the photo, which has so far racked 5.6 million likes on the brand’s page, but earned 29.2 million likes from Messi and 38.1 million on Ronaldo’s account, making it one of the most liked on the social media platform.
Messi and Ronaldo have been longtime opponents on the field. Messi captains the national team of Argentina and has won over 35 senior trophies, including seven Ballon d’Or awards, six European Golden Shoes, and a gold medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, while Ronaldo captains the national team of Portugal and rivals Messi with 32 senior trophies, including five Ballon d’Or awards and four European Golden Shoes.
Both players have been touted as the best in the world, though they have yet to win the coveted World Cup for their respective nations. As the competition opens in Qatar this week, the Louis Vuitton campaign paints a picture of solidarity and sportsmanship, despite standing on opposite ends of the field. The photo was shot by another legend, award-winning photographer Annie Leibovitz, proving that against all odds, fashion is a means to unite.
The campaign broke records ahead of the Qatar World Cup, which is expected to be the “last dance” for both athletes. After Ronaldo shared the photo, he became the most followed person on Instagram, while the post became one of the most liked photos on the platform. Messi followed as the second most followed. Stars from various sports like cricketer Virat Kohli, sprinter Marcell Jacobs, and martial artist Khabib Nurmagomedov took to the footballers’ posts to share their support.
A behind-the-scenes video revealed that the pair were in fact not in the same room when the photoshoot happened. The two footballers, who are both about to embark on their fifth-ever World Cup, posed separately before their images were spliced together.
The idea for the shoot came about as a follow-up to the seminal Core Values campaign in 2010, which saw football heroes Pele, Diego Maradona, and Zinedine Zidane engaged in a spirited game of foosball. The tagline read, “Three great journeys, one historic game.”
This time around, Leibovitz has captured the legendary pair, who marks a new generation of sportsmen, engaged in a match of chess. Both Messi and Ronaldo have seemingly set aside their cleats for a civilized game together.