Both Wayne Rooney and Leo Messi have four goals in the Champions League this season and both wear the number 10 shirt for their respective clubs but which of these stars should be chosen ahead of the other one? The word “world class” gets branded far too quickly in football but there is no doubt that both of these players are in that category.
There is so little to choose between the pair at the moment as it is represented by the fact that both seem to be mirroring each other this season. They have both had a massive say in their team’s domestic hunt for trophies and of course both Manchester United and Barcelona find themselves at the quarter-final stages of the Champions League this season. Both Rooney and Messi will once again come under the spotlight because of the tough draw their own team has received. There are many players that come in the world class bracket but what is it that is setting Messi and Rooney away from their peers? It is their excellence in every part of their individual game and both possess that ‘X’ factor that Sir Alex Ferguson and Pep Guardiola will be thankful that they have. When talking about their attributes it seems that both have hidden talents that are not hidden anymore- that his heading. Rooney is scoring goals with headers for fun and of course Messi settled last year’s Champions League final between the two teams with a superb header, and in a game where he outshone Rooney.
With football being so much more than just what happens inside a stadium today, identifying whether you would want Rooney or Messi in your team, by judging their on-the-pitch talents, is not the only thing to consider. With off-the-field activities and role models constantly linked with footballers then is it fair to say that both of these players are classic examples? Barring a couple of wrongdoings by Rooney in the past, both he and Messi are not ones for the limelight and they are great ambassadors for England and Argentina. One slight advantage Messi has over Rooney is if it comes down to temperament. Rooney, although not like previous seasons, still occasionally gets caught up in the ugly side of the game, whereas Messi must be a dream to officiate. If it came down to choosing an ideal world 11 then little issues like this might come into it.
So with both players seemingly even in their status, for the good in their off-the-pitch actions and the way they have become the star man of their team where does one have any advantages over the other? Even though both have tremendous aerial ability there is a sense that Rooney’s is better but it would be hard to argue against Messi being the better dribbler with the ball. When it comes to scoring goals then Rooney is on course to break Cristiano Ronaldo’s record of 42 goals in one season, and the way Messi cuts in from that right flank and bamboozles defenders with his trickery before unleashing either a powerful shot or starting and finishing a typical Barcelona move is testament to the way his team do the “beautiful game” title justice. Both players are driving their team forward but a way of finding out who is better would be to determine how effective United or Barcelona would be if Rooney and Messi was taken out of the team for a sustained period of matches. This could be judged on how both teams progress in their absence and if a team-mate, or the team in general, can make up for their scoring ability along with their other skills.
When the former Liverpool player Graeme Souness was talking about these two talents he underlined how far both can go in their careers. He said: “We are still talking about potential here. Messi is 22 and Rooney is 24 and to be considered a great longevity has to apply. You need to spread it over a 10-year career. The two of them have the opportunity to underline how far they’ve come this summer at the World Cup.” The recent last-16 ties in the Champions League further highlighted just how far both players have come. Question marks remained about Rooney delivering on the European stage and he answered those questions in the most emphatic manner with his performances against AC Milan, whilst Messi took Stuttgart apart. In addition to that the consistency and improvements both are showing in their game is frightening, and with two of the best managers in European football coaching them, they look set for a long spell at their teams- arguably one that could last the rest of their playing career.
Fate has it that the next time Rooney and Messi can potentially meet is the Champions League final this season, or a mouth-watering World Cup clash between England and Argentina somewhere in South Africa this summer. Putting the qualities of both players together would create, undisputedly, the best player in the world but that is not going to happen so it appears that the way to determine who the better is could be made easier by judging who comes out on top over the next crucial phase of their career- now that the eyes of the football world are on them.
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