by Ifreke Inyang
There’s one debate I’ve always dodged. Even as an avid football fan, with a good knowledge about practically anything related to the sports, I never got into an argument over who is better between Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi. But after a season where both soccer maestros surpassed even their peaks, I feel more comfortable to weigh in with my opinion.
Ronaldo was absolutely sensational. Brilliant. Amazing. The Portugese winger is one of those players who possess a God-like arrogance about them and match it with superb performances on the football pitch. Ronaldo had an outstanding season with Real Madrid scoring 53 goals and in the process, breaking the long existing record of 38 league goals by any player in a season. One of the goals he scored this season ensured that his team won the Copa De Rey at the expense of Barcelona.
That Barcelona team paraded a certain Lionel Messi. Although Jose Mourinho’s men successfully stifled him that night, he still went ahead to match Cristiano’s 53 goals, spreading the goals in every tournament he played in. That included matching Van Nistelrooy’s record of 12 Champions League goals in a season. That last of the 53 came in the final of the competition against Manchester United. And it was a crucial one as well as the game was evenly poised at 1-1. Talk of big game players.
Don’t get it twisted. Ronaldo is extremely talented just like Messi. The reason people are comparing them is simply because they are a similar age, but they are very different. You may as well compare Pele with Platini. One of Ronaldo’s greatest attributes is his physique. As a manager you need your quota of 6ft-plus players to attack and defend at set pieces. At 6ft 1in Ronaldo is outstanding in the air, which is an ability that he has over Messi. Ronaldo also has fantastic pace and explosive shooting power and is a good crosser of the ball but he is not as clever as Messi in terms of his passing.
In possession of the ball, Messi is much more perceptive. The little Argentine can open teams up very intelligently and has great vision. Ronaldo prefers to dribble in bigger spaces while Messi is better in tighter areas — at times it appears as if the ball is stuck to his foot. I’m sure if he ran across a puddle of water, he would not cause any ripples. He can suck in two or three players and teams always have to have at least one covering player on him. In tight areas he can get past the first player and then either do the same to the next or beat him with a pass.
In my humble opinion, Messi is ahead of Cristiano Ronaldo at the moment. Ronaldo had a great season but I don’t fall into the trap of believing that because he had a good nine months, he is suddenly better than Messi. I completely love Ronaldo as a football player. And the lethal mix of power, pace and technique he has is rare. But when you need a player who comes to the party when it matters, you can bank of Messi. He seems to reserve his magic for such occasions. And yes, he is very capable of putting Real Zaragoza to the sword as well as he would run past Real Madrid and Arsenal players as if they didn’t exist. In this long running battle of Genius vs Genius, I think Messi edges it, even if it’s slightly.