by Waleed Irfan
One topic that has kept the football world busy in the past decade has been the debate over who is the better player, Messi or Ronaldo? No one seems to find the perfect answer to this question; not even individual accolades. One year it’s the Portugese Ronaldo and the following year it’s the Argentine Messi. The race to be the best just keeps going on and there’s no stopping these two giants of the beautiful game.
It all began in 2008 when Cristiano Ronaldo won his first Ballon D’Or, termed by many experts as the most prestigious individual award, at Manchester United after being signed by Sir Alex Ferguson from Sporting Lisbon. Lionel Messi finished runner up that year and won the Ballon D’Or in the following year of 2009. Since then, it has been nothing short of a two horse race between the two; Messi winning five and Ronaldo winning four.
Ronaldo transferred to the European giants Real Madrid in 2009 for a world record fee at that time and didn’t fail to impress at any stage. Messi on the other hand started his professional club career at the Spanish greats Barcelona in 2004 and has since then been a loyal servant to the club; breaking records over records in contention with Ronaldo.
Both the players have dominated the football world to such an extent that only they share the top spots for almost any record there is in the football world. From being the two all time top scorers in the Spanish La Liga to being the Champions League top scorers of all time, these two have done it all.
With differing physiques and playing styles, the two are a treat to watch for anyone who has even the slightest interest in football. Ronaldo, an extremely industrious player, uses his head very well because of a decent height and a very high jump; uses both his feet very efficiently and dribbles well with those lightning fast step-overs that make it extremely easy for him to get past defenders. Ronaldo has worked his socks off to achieve immense power in both his feet that enables him to score long range goals as well. Messi, on the other hand, is a naturally gifted player with loads of talent in his locker. His dribbling ability, vision, body feints and exquisite finishing are some of the traits that are second to none.
Personally, in the past 15 years or so, I have not seen anyone use his body as effectively as Messi does. And the little magician has such a perfect grip on it that he makes it look like a piece of cake in successful attempts of getting away from defenders.
Messi has since long been the driving force behind Barcelona’s recent success and Ronaldo has not left any stones unturned for Real Madrid as well but in my opinion, the former is the better of the two by the slightest of margins. Honors and records hardly differentiate the two for me it’s the playing style, involving the team and having an impact, an influence, on the game, finding those key passes and turning the momentum upside down. Being a Manchester United fan and idolizing Ronaldo since my childhood, it’s difficult to admit, but Lionel Messi, in my opinion, has the greater impact as compared to Ronaldo when it comes to those attributes that I mentioned above.
I’ve watched Messi humiliate the best defenders and the best goalkeepers in the world. He has, at innumerable occasions, rescued Barcelona and Argentina from losing positions. At times, he has come off the bench and turned the game upside down. Football’s greatest ever players like Johan Cruyff, Paolo Maldini, Diego Maradona and Thierry Henry have all been full of praise for the little maestro. “Is Messi a real player or a PlayStation character?” asked Colombian Captain Radamel Falcao. And that is exactly what I feel when I watch him play; it’s hard to believe at times, the things he does with and without the ball. Taking nothing away from a great player in Ronaldo but Messi, for me, is a player that only comes once in a lifetime.
Opinions are meant to vary and so will this; Messi or Ronaldo? No one has found the perfect answer. Both are immensely talented and hardworking individuals and it is always a treat to watch them grace the football field. It’s a pity that we won’t be watching them play as they do in five or six years time as both are now aging. Regardless, we must consider ourselves very lucky to be alive in an era that has gifted us with two of the greatest footballers of all time.