Since 2008 there has been a consensus that two players in world football stand alone from the rest of the bunch, battling it out on an annual basis to be crowned the unofficial ‘Best Player in the World’. Those two, are of course Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. Officially too, the footballing world has recognised this. From 2008 to present, both players have won the FIFA World Player of the Year, Ballon d’Or, or the FIFA Ballon d’Or as both awards have now become known. A rivalry of sorts developed, and became even more intriguing since both players are now in direct opposition of each other, lining up for bitter club enemies Barcelona and Real Madrid, in Spain’s La Liga. But if you were the manager of a Premier League club and had the opportunity to sign just one of those players, who would you, choose?
Having either of these world greats in your Premier League team is the stuff of fantasy football – or Football Manager! Although they are the attacking fulcrum for their teams, both are distinctly different from one another, each having their own unique characteristics. The difference is even more apparent when you consider the personality traits of the two.
Many now consider Messi to stand alone as the world’s current best. He has won the FIFA and Ballon d’Or award, two years running. But does that mean he would automatically succeed in the infinitely more physical Premier League? Would he really be a better fit than Cristiano Ronaldo? We’ve all heard the (arrogant) jibes from the British media; ‘he may be great, but could the little Argentine do it on a cold Wednesday night at Stoke City?’ A figure of speech, inferring that many believe Messi couldn’t hack the physical nature of the Premier League, coupled with the bitter cold and boisterous atmosphere the stadiums produce. Up to now, it’s hypothetical. But this is one area to make a case for Cristiano Ronaldo – he has done it.
As a manager of a football team, gambling on player selection at one time or another is inevitable. So if presented with a ‘sure thing’ over the ‘unproven’, which would you choose? It sounds ridiculous to refer to Messi as ‘unproven’ but the point is valid – Ronaldo is proven in the Premier League and the Argentine isn’t.
After a slow start to his career with Manchester United many quickly dismissed him as just a ‘show pony’ – full of pointless tricks with no end product. Yet he grew into his massive potential, terrorising defences up and down the country, culminating in an amazing 2007-2008 season which saw him score 42-goals on-route to winning the League title and Champions League, before being crowned both World Player and Ballon d’Or winner.
Thunderous shooting, fantastic skill and lightening-footed, Ronaldo’s speed is a major attribute both with and without the ball. As a specimen he looks more of a fit to the Premier League. Taller, he is better in the air than the little Argentine, and physically appears stronger. Yet appearances can be deceiving. As many Premier League fans remember, the Portuguese was (and still is) keen to go down with the slightest of contact – then display a full act of histrionics and scowling. Messi on the other hand receives just as much contact, if not more rough treatment from the opposition, but diving isn’t a part of his game. If felled, more often than not he bounces up, keen to get on with play. No fuss, no drama, no petulance. Out of those two characteristics, which is the most Premier League-like?
The major difference between the two however, is their egos. Ronaldo’ unquenchable thirst to be the worlds greatest has led to him to become an individual in a team game, where the matches are ‘his’ show. Shooting from all angles and distances when team-mates are better positioned, consistently demanding the ball then preferring to charge-off in favour of a more considered team-approach, and his overly-dramatic free-kick routine – that’s without mentioning his constant on (and off) field preening and petulance. It’s no wonder he’s been rumoured to hire an ‘image’ coach this season, in hope of changing his perceived public persona.
Messi, by vast contrast, is very much a team-player. However, with such unique and immense talent he stands out as the individual. Whilst he can seemingly dribble round an opponent at will, if a team-mate is in a better position, he will pass. His outrageous technique makes the ball appear glued to his foot, whilst his outstanding vision, calmness and finishing are almost second-to-none. A Maradona-like clone, at the age of just 24 he is already considered one of the greatest players ever.
So, who would you choose for your Premier League team? The man who’s already been there, seen it and done it? Or the man who is currently considered the best, and could quite possibly be regarded as, the greatest player of all-time?
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