Say Cristiano you get the response Leo. Hear Messi someone thinks Ronaldo. The best two players in Spain – well let’s face it the world – are somewhat intertwined through no fault of their own. Last week Messi reached the goal mark of 200 for Barcelona, being only the second player in their history to do so. Ronaldo then replied with a hat trick on the weekend to send Real three points clear at the summit of La Liga – incidentally his twelfth hat trick so far in the Los Blancos shirt.
So who would make the cut in your dream team? It would be easy to sit here and do a comparison of stat after stat and see who provides the most assists or goals, and who has a better win percentage in the team – yet no matter how many pages of data someone can provide you with, if you believe one is better than the other, there will be no dissuading you.
Both players are head and shoulders above everyone else in the world – there is no player past or present who could boast such impressive records and performances week in week out, with improvements always being made. No one else in Europe can touch either player – imagine Fernando Torres if he went just three matches without a goal – it would be like his birthday and Christmas’ for the next decade all rolled in to one – yet Messi went three games without a goal and the media were asking if he was in crisis. Due to the goals he has banged in since, it seems safe to assume that is not the case.
Where Messi may have previously had the edge over Ronaldo is the way he plays for the team. Ronaldo, and rightly so, in seasons gone by could have been accused of only being interested in the Cristiano show, and whilst prolific, he did not give enough to the team as a whole, whereas Messi did. However, under the guidance of Mourinho, Ronaldo has evolved as a player, and the entire approach to his game is now much more about the team and what he can give to them. Not only does he still score at a phenomenal rate – 103 goals in 106 games to be precise – but he has now adopted more of a team mentality and this can clearly be seen in his game.
This is both blatantly obvious when watching Ronaldo as an individual, but also when watching Real as a team you can clearly see how they function more effectively and fluidly, with Ronaldo adding more assists to his game, and a harmony not seen at the club before.
One thing Ronaldo does have in his locker that Messi does not and will never have is the ability to track back and defend when the team is under pressure. When at United, this was not one of Ronaldo’s strong points, yet under Mourinho you learn to defend and you learn sharpish. Ronaldo has done this and is again adding to his all round game, becoming a stronger player for it.
Neither Messi nor Barcelona really subscribe to the art of defending – playing Mascherano and Busquets as their centre back pairing being a personal favourite to illustrate this – yet Messi is never expected to track back or should he lose the ball – rare I know – and Guardiola would prefer Messi further up the field waiting for his team to retain possession.
Although in Spain reliance on corners and free kicks is not as prominent as in England, when in Europe, defending set pieces becomes a vital task. Again this is something Ronaldo is able to do, being strong, tall and powerful not just scoring but also defending said situations. Can you really imagine Messi defending a set piece away at the Allianz arena? In a word – no.
Ronaldo has also proven he can cut it in the Premier League – Messi, whilst brilliant at Barcelona under the whistle happy officials has never played his trade in another league, and it is doubtful if he is really cut for the style of English football. Ronaldo however has proven he can withstand the kicks and the rainy away nights over the winter period – whilst Messi was on his winter break on a beach in the Caribbean. That is not to say Messi could not perform in England, I am sure he could, but on a Monday night at the Britannia I know who would make my starting line-up.
The Messi supporters amongst you will now be ready to point out to me that to win the Champion’s League, you have to play teams from countries other than Spain. Yes, I realise this, but even so the referees in Europe are somewhat softer than in the premier league – hence the well-used commentators phrase ‘well in Europe that’s a yellow.’ Again there is substantial protection from officials, and let’s face it even if it isn’t a foul on a Barcelona player, 9 times out of 10 they get the free kick anyway, and the opposition player can count himself lucky not to be sent off – Pepe anyone?
Another little point here is their performances for their respective national teams. Messi has had roughly the same level of success with Argentina as Balotelli had when trying to have a bonfire in his bathroom. Ronaldo on the other hand has become the talisman for Portugal, and is surrounded by players of much less quality than Messi.
One reason why Ronaldo is seemingly less loved than Messi around the footballing world is undeniably the way each comes across as a person. Whilst Messi appears to be Mr Approachable, humble and just like the average man on the street just with a gift from god, Ronaldo is flashy, very in touch with his metrosexual side and knows it.
Not to mention the fact that Ronaldo, when asked why some people are less than kind about him felt the need to reply that it was certainly jealousy, as he is rich, good looking and talented. Well he is not wrong there – he just missed out the fact he also has a girlfriend who is a super model to boot. However, this is no reason to dislike Ronaldo as a player or even to prefer Leo Messi. As much as I hate to break it to pundit Gerry Francis, you can’t prefer Messi as a player just because ‘he plays the game with a smile on his face.’
They may both feel that due to the other, they do not get the plaudits they deserve – Ronaldo certainly feels that due to the fact Messi plays for Barcelona, who can be seen to do no wrong in UEFA’s eyes, he can lose out in voting at certain times, and there is some truth to this. After receiving the Golden Boot, when asked about his chances to win the Ballon D’or, both Ronaldo and Mourinho replied that the golden boot was done on ability and hard fact, not votes and emotions – clearly alluding to the fact they feel had the Golden Boot been decided in the same way, it would have been on its way across Spain to Cataluña.
Whatever the case, due to the existence of the other, neither can coast on the tag of ‘best player in the world’ and both have to improve their game on a constant basis, almost to the extent that when in form, they become unplayable. Come the 11th of December, all eyes will be on the most watched footballing game in the world – El Classico, and with so many scintillating match ups and wealth of talent on both sides this may be the best one of all, and may mean that for once, the match can be remembered for all the right reasons. If this will be the case remains to be seen, but what is certain is that the two best players in the world will be on display – both at the very top of their game, but who do you think is better?
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