There is an endless debate over who is the better player Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo. This had also led to the debate of who is the greatest player of all-time, despite the likes of Pele, Diego Maradona and Johan Cruyff all holding good claims.
For me, the perceived battle for supremacy used to be like Luke Skywalker v Darth Vader. Now it is more like Batman v Superman. They both have their fans, but they also both have their detractors.
However, like Batman and Superman, I find it hard to talk about one without the other one. The last two World Cups have been seen as battles for supremacy between the pair. In truth, I enjoy watching both players, but they are very different in personality, which is why there such a massive divide.
Both players are desperate to inspire their nations at this summer’s World Cup. However, Ronaldo seems more suited to carry the team on his shoulders.
He comes across as more arrogant and charismatic than his counterpart. The 33-year-old also seems to thrive on the fact that he is the main man for Portugal. His four goals in two goals in Russia have proven that. His 85 international goals also illustrate his determination to do well for his country.
While Ronaldo has thrived in Russia, Lionel Messi kicked off his campaign by missing a penalty and enduring an all-around off day in a 1-1 draw with Iceland. The diminutive forward does not have many bad days, but that was one of them. He is more introverted and quiet than his Portuguese rival.
While Ronaldo’s Portuguese teammates obviously love and admire Ronaldo, they do not seem to hold him in awe, as the Argentinian players do with Messi.
Everybody in the Portugal teams knows Ronaldo is the leader, the main man, yet his teammates still attempt to do their own thing. The fact Ronaldo is now playing as a central striker has made a major difference in his game.
His teammates know that if they create chances for Ronaldo he will score them. For some reason, though he does not receive the same special treatment Messi does when it comes to marking.
Messi spent much of the Iceland game with at least two men around him. It was difficult for him to create or produce much. The 30-year-old is far different from Ronaldo in the fact that he also attempts to create, rather than just score goals.
He drops deep in an attempt to orchestrate the Argentinian attacks. Whether that is his arrogance or just him feeling like he needs to help the team because nobody else is producing is unclear.
However, against Iceland, he needed his teammates to stop respecting his reputation and attempt to do something themselves. Messi is a special football, but even Superman needed help sometimes from lesser mortals.
It is not as if Messi is playing with a load of dross. Argentina’s attacking options are arguably the strongest in the competition. La Albiceleste boss Jorge Sampaoli has the likes of Sergio Aguero, Paolo Dybala, Gonzalo Higuain and Angel Di Maria in his squad.
These players have been highly consistent in the European game for a long time. However, they fail to shine as a team because they are always looking to Messi to produce something magical.
The player who looked the most dangerous for Argentina was young substitute Cristian Pavon, who showed pace and directness when he came on against Iceland. The youngster looks set to start against Croatia this evening, in a game Argentina are odds of 23/20 to win.
Neither will win the World Cup
Both players are probably participating in their last World Cup. Neither has ever lifted the World Cup. The lack of World Cup win seems to be the main argument for the Messi doubters, who claim Portugal winning Euro 2016 makes Ronaldo a better player.
In reality, both players are special and brilliant to watch. However, it seems two of the best players ever to grace a football field will finish their careers having failed to win the biggest international prize of all, the World Cup.
Argentina has already shown their vulnerabilities in Russia. La Albiceleste may even fail to get out the group if they lose against Croatia.
Portugal has a knack of winning ugly, as they did against Morocco on Wednesday night. However, Fernando Santos’ team even with Ronaldo does not seem to have enough quality to win the World Cup.
The Ronaldo v Messi debate will continue forever. However, to decry Messi’s ability and influence on the back of one game would be churlish. If Ronaldo had failed to start the tournament in such form, then Messi’s off-day would not have been highlighted so much.
If Messi hits the heights we all know he can against the experienced Croatians tonight, then people will no doubt be back to praising him. Football is a funny old game eh!
Has Ronaldo’s World Cup displays added to the criticism of Messi?
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