Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, the two greats who will go down as two of the best players in football history. The Federer-Nadal version of football, who have always challenged the supremacy of each other, and in the process pushed each other to the unprecedented heights in the game.
These two footballing monsters have been at the top of the pile for almost a decade, and an even more ridiculous thing is they have shown no signs of slowing down to this day. It is almost embarrassing for other football players (or soccer players, whatever you prefer!) that no one has challenged the duo’s supremacy solidly in more than a decade. But to be fair, they should not be embarrassed at all. It is not their fault that both Messi and Ronaldo are playing in their generation, and deliver the extra-terrestrial performances week-and-week out.
“Messi and Ronaldo are the two monsters, legends,” said Antoine Griezmann, who many believe is the best player in the world after the duo.
“In the last 10 years, the world means that no one was able to equal them,” concluded the Frenchman.
Like every year since 2007, the limelight belongs to the Argentine and the Portuguese.
“It’s my best season, no doubt about that.”
Ronaldo said the above when asked about his chances for the Ballon d’Or 2016, as per Spanish newspaper AS.
“I’ve done everything for this season.”
“We won the Champions League, I won the Euros with Portugal. The vote [for the Ballon d’Or] doesn’t depend on me and I don’t want to be obsessed with it.
“But if you ask me if I want to win the Ballon d’Or, I’d say yes. This year has been amazing for me, with all the trophies.
Ronaldo, finally, won a major international trophy with his nation, Portugal, this summer after they beat France in the European Championship final. About a month earlier, Ronaldo had lifted the Champions League trophy, arguably the highest level of club competition in football, with Real Madrid.
In the Euro 2016, Cristiano scored three goals and assisted another two for his teammates. However, his best football came in the Champions League last season as he scored incredible 16 goals to lead his team to glory.
Ronaldo also performed well in Spanish La Liga last season as the Portuguese ended his league campaign on 35 goals, another phenomenal achievement for the former Manchester United superstar.
In overall, Ronaldo has scored 51 goals this year and further set up his teammates 17 times in appearances. Of those goals, 38 were scored for Real Madrid while 13 of them were netted with Portugal.
Now turning our attention to the Argentine wizard Lionel Messi who is having a stunning year of his own. The Barcelona ace lifted La Liga and Copa Del Rey trophies with his club and reached the final of yet another continental championship with Argentina.
Unfortunately, Argentina lost the final, and a heart-broken Messi announced his retirement from the international football despite being at the absolute peak of his powers. Later, the decision was reversed following his conversation with the new manager of the national team.
Let’s analyze the performance of the La Pulga this year. He was the division’s top provider with 16 assists and registered further 26 goals to help Barcelona win the La Liga. Messi also had a brilliant Copa Del Rey campaign, and he was awarded man-of-the-match in the final as his two brilliant assists delivered the trophy for Barca
Now moving onto Messi’s Argentina performance, he was arguably the best player of Copa America Centenario 2016, although the official award was given to Alexis Sanchez. It was probably due to Chile having won the title. But make no mistake about this, Leo Messi was head and shoulders above everyone else in the tournament.
For the first time, Messi was playing a competitive match in the States, and his performances left everyone buzzing. Nations major newspapers were describing Messi as someone out of this planet due to his magical performances. For the first time in Copa America’s history, a player was given much hype than the entire tournament.
Messi missed the first game of the tournament due to an injury, but when the screens showed Messi’s face in the stadium, tens of thousand of football fans used to erupt with joy and start chanting his name. One notable thing was against Chile in the first game, when even the goal by Angel Di Maria was cheered less by the fans’ who cheered wildly when shown the wizard on the screen!
From the second game Messi was unleashed by Argentina, and the football fans got what they came to see — magic.
Messi’s hat-trick against Panama despite coming off the bench and another two goals each against Bolivia and the USA paved Argentina’s way to the final. The free-kick goal against the USA was so good that it is nominated for this year’s FIFA Puskas Award.
Only half of the story is finished since we have only talk about the goalscoring side of Lionel Messi. But everyone knows that when Messi is not scoring, he creates goals. This is what many football fans around the world believe what makes Messi better than Ronaldo. There is nothing in attack that Messi can’t do. He can score, assist, and dribble, like a fish in water. Everyone agrees these are three of the most important qualities of an attacker. Messi can be the best in everything if he wants and he has shown that time and again.
The maestro provided four crucial assists in the Copa America. No players created more than him for their teammates.
However, the final game’s penalty shootout saw Messi miss his penalty, which didn’t help Argentina to win the final. And once again, Argentina returned from a final without a trophy which has happened in last three consecutive finals.
The start of new season 2016/2017 has seen Messi hit new goalscoring heights as the Barcelona man has already scored 19 goals to Ronaldo’s 12.
Ronaldo’s claim for the Ballon d’Or comes from him winning the Champions League and the European Championship. There is certainly a strong argument from his side.
But if you have to be critical of his performance, one can say that none of his goals in the Champions League came against stronger opponents. Real Madrid faced PSG, Shakhtar Donetsk, Malmo, Roma, Wolfsburg, Manchester City, and Atletico Madrid in last year’s UCL. The better teams of this lot are certainly PSG, Manchester City, and Atletico. However, Ronaldo didn’t score a single goal against these relatively stronger teams, and his all of 16 goals have come against the remaining teams, none of which have qualified for this season’s Champions League!
In Euro Cup, Ronaldo played six games if we ignore the 25 minutes he played in the final. In the six full games, Ronaldo didn’t score or assist four of those games.
In the first two games, he was poor as he missed a lot of chances to score which meant Portugal struggled to qualify from the group. After the Austria game, he was so frustrated that he even threw a reporter’s mic when asked about his lack of goals at the time.
In the final, unfortunately, Ronaldo couldn’t continue the game after a tackle from a France player left his knee injured. This meant Portugal were without Ronaldo for more than 90 minutes. However, they won the game.
Here is the point — Portugal didn’t need Ronaldo to win their most crucial and the biggest match of the tournament. This is a bare fact. No one can argue about this. Granted that he inspired his teammates from the touchline, which is what a captain should do. And he did that brilliantly. Credit goes to him. He rallied his teammates and encouraged them in a way that Messi has not been able to do for his national team.
However, it cannot be argued that if Ronaldo didn’t shout from the touchline, Portugal wouldn’t have won the game. They, probably, would have lost the game, or won with a bigger margin. Who knows? However, the fact is that on that night, Portugal beat France with Ronaldo contributing almost nothing on the pitch.
Later, the best player of the tournament was awarded to Antoine Griezmann, and rightly so.
On the other hand, if one was asked to choose the best player of Portugal, it would have been Pepe, which even Ronaldo agreed upon. However, what Ronaldo might not agree with is that players such as Renato Sanchez and Rui Patricio had a better tournament than him.
Messi and Ronaldo both have an amazing year regarding individual performances, but Messi has arguably played better than his nemesis this year. Ronaldo’s bragging rights come from the European Championship win, but just imagine, had Eder not scored that amazing goal after coming off the substitute, Ronaldo might not have the opportunity to lift the trophy.
On the other hand, if Gonzalo Higuain had scored a goal from that clear-cut chance in the final, Messi might have his hands on a trophy. Only small details decide the final in football, and luck certainly was on Ronaldo’s side on that night.
Ronaldo’s more team success should not outshine Messi, who has better 2016 on an individual level.
In the Ballon d’Or 2013 ceremony, Franck Ribery, who was the third finalist after Messi and Ronaldo, said, “There is Messi, and there is rest. Messi is on another level but the award is given to best performer of a calendar year.”
Of course Frank, Messi’s is on another level. But this time, he has been the best performer of this calendar year, and he has been as classier than ever.
[Featured Image by Matthias Hangst/Getty Images]