Heading into Sunday's El Clasico, there were two images from the build-up that appeared to sum up the contrasting fortunes of the two highest-profile clubs in the world and the two best players.
The first came last Sunday when Real Madrid beat Levante 2-0 - and the petulant reaction of Cristiano Ronaldo as his bicycle kick resulted not in a goal for him, but for Gareth Bale. Ronaldo angrily waving his arm was about himself, not about the team.
The second image was the joy in Lionel Messi's face as he congratulated Ivan Rakitic after the Croatian had smartly collected Messi's wonderful chipped cross-ball to score the goal that beat Manchester City at the Nou Camp.
That image was quickly followed by the Messi nutmeg, which left James Milner on his backside. It came during a 20-minute spell before half-time in which the Barcelona striker moved into a different stratosphere of awareness and ability to every other player on the pitch.
"It's a real luxury to watch him," Pep Guardiola, the former Barcelona coach, said of Messi.
Messi completed 72 passes, 12 more than any other Barcelona player - Andres Iniesta was next in line with 60 - and was in the kind of form which makes redundant not just the argument of who is better - him or Ronaldo - but who is the best of all-time.
It has been a season of two halves for the pair. Ronaldo was in astonishing form in the early months as he racked up the goals and Real Madrid recorded a record-breaking 21 consecutive victories and won their first Club World Cup.
Messi's Barcelona were struggling under Luis Enrique, which brought talk of a crisis that could lead to the player even leaving the club or, more likely, the coach being dismissed.
That is a distant memory now and it is an interesting consequence of the power that Messi holds at Barcelona - far greater than Ronaldo at Real Madrid - that maybe it has led to him realising he has to take responsibility to spark a revival to maintain that dominant position.
It appears, also, that such is their force of personality that it almost seems impossible for Messi and Ronaldo to thrive at the same time. So, going into El Clasico at the Nou Camp, it is Ronaldo's physical and mental state that is dominating the agenda.