Friday, June 18, 2021
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Ronaldo (Ballon d’) Or Messi?

Cristiano Ronaldo & Ballon d'Or 2014It’s a debate that’s raged on since the dawn of football, who is the best player in the world? For the last half-decade, possibly a little longer, there has only been two possible answers. You can pick Cristiano Ronaldo or you can pick Lionel Messi. Any other suggestions are quickly dismissed. But now it seems that a favourite is emerging. And he plays in the white of Madrid rather than the blue and red of Barcelona.




For a while Messi was ever so slightly ahead in this two horse race. He won the Ballon d’Or for four years straight from 2009 to 2012. He appeared to be the neutrals favourite. There was a lot more to like about the quiet, down to earth, unassuming young man from Argentina than there was about the arrogant, sometimes petulant winger from Portugal. And of course this period was when Messi played for a Barcelona side who were considered by many to be the best club side of all time, which probably didn’t hurt his standing in world football.


Barcelona had seemingly swept through Europe taking league titles and Champions Leagues as and when they felt like it. But as Pep Guardiola left Barca faltered just a little and with this Ronaldo and his Real Madrid side assumed their mantle. Last summer Real Madrid won the Champions League with Ronaldo obviously a huge part of their success. Last year he won the Ballon d’Or for the first time since 2008, his first as a Real Madrid player. This week, he repeated this success with the 2014 award. The tide may be turning.


Messi is no doubt still a huge force in world football and if Ronaldo is number one then Messi is a default number two. But where there had always been a debate about who would win the award there was only one option this time around. Despite Messi outperforming Ronaldo at the World Cup last year Ronnie is pulling away.


Maybe it is largely a PR thing? As I alluded to earlier, Ronaldo was just a lot more difficult to like than clean cut Lionel Messi. But Messi’s reputation has been dented somewhat in the last couple of years. Firstly with his trouble with the Spanish tax office.


Messi and his father were investigated for tax evasion before the charges were dismissed and then brought up again. Maybe to the untrained public eye it just seemed that another multi-millionaire celebrity was trying to get away without a huge tax bill. Take That have survived and so will Lionel Messi. But that instant likeability factor has taken a hit.


Further to this, Messi has allegedly this season been keen to move away from Barcelona if an astronomical contract (reportedly worth over £700k per week) is on offer. We liked Messi the one club man, you don’t get many of them anymore and there was something noble and honourable about it. Messi the mercenary who will play elsewhere for the right price is not such an easy sell.


With Ronaldo, any minor character flaws that you could level at him are eclipsed by his ability as a footballer. In 2014 Ronaldo played 43 games (Messi played 53) and managed 52 goals (Messi scored ‘just’ 49). Ronaldo also matched Messi for assists despite playing 10 games less, squashing that theory that Messi is the team player while Ronaldo is just a talented individual.


Averaging a goal every 72mins is the kind of stat you see on Football Manager when you suspect that the game is not working properly and that something has gone wrong. Or likewise, if you’re playing FIFA on semi-pro level to rebuild your crushed self-esteem after getting battered online by some Spanish 12 year old. But Ronaldo takes these crazy stats and makes them real life.


In La Liga this season, whoever finishes higher out of Barca and Madrid will probably do so because their front three were the better. Ronaldo is joined by Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema while Messi is ably supported by Neymar and Luis Suárez (unless he gets hungry).


Both trios are impressive to say the least but Ronaldo’s contingent just appear to have something more about them. There is more power, more pace, more out and out physical presence. And this is maybe the difference between Messi and Ronaldo as individuals too. Ronaldo, as well as being a gifted player, is the superior athlete and it may always be difficult for Messi to compete with CR7 in that respect.



Cristiano Ronaldo is the 2014 Ballon d’Or winner. And this time there can be no doubt, he deserves it. And if he carries on as we expect he will, he’ll probably deserve it for 2015 too. But then that’s what we’d expect from the best player in the world.

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