Last night as Cristiano Ronaldo bagged his 600th career goal and Real Madrid lifted their 12th European Cup/Champions League trophy. Many saw this as the peak of footballing achievement. 12 months ago, Ronaldo fired his homeland to Euro glory. Meanwhile Lionel Messi, Ronaldo’s arch rival has suffered the indignity of losing out on the Ballon D’or to Cr7 and Barcelona has struggled to make an impact on the Champions League since their win in 2015. As Barcelona stagnated, Real Madrid has excelled. An argument could be made that the current Real Madrid side is the best of a generation. On a parallel with the all-conquering 2011 Barca side. What has dominated the rivalry between Real and Barca are the individuals that define them. Ronaldo v Messi.
These factors are endemic of the players at the centre of the debate. Messi has been a one club man and dedicated himself to making Barcelona successful. By himself, the Argentine has revolutionized football tactics, Pep Guardiola introduced the Dutch born 4-3-3 to Messi and it worked wonders. Messi had the freedom to flit between the front free but what has made many marvel at Messi’s talent is his consistency at the top level. Messi has scored at least 40 goals in every season since 2010. Messi has seen off and played with some of the best attacking talent in world football, Villa, Henry, Eto’o, Sanchez, Ibrahimovic and Ronaldinho. The sheer brilliance of Messi should never be underestimated; every football fan should bask in his ability to play the game. The man is so iconic, his last-minute winner at the Bernabeau will live long in the memory after curling the ball into the net Messi was the essence of tranquillity, sprinting to the crowd removing his shirt and holding his name on the back aloft to the on looking Madrid faithful.
What about Ronaldo? I hear you cry. What about his enormous power and stature? Ronaldo is the perfect footballer. If scientists were tasked with making the best footballer ever, Ronaldo would be damn near close. Ronaldo is incredibly strong and is excellent in the air. At Manchester United, Sir Alex Ferguson saw Ronaldo dominate the left-wing position, setting up and scoring all types of goals. Lately, Ronaldo has transformed his role within the Real Madrid side, now playing as “9” where his physical attributes are a significant advantage in front of goal. In Cardiff, Ronaldo showcased his ability on the biggest stage against the toughest defence in Europe, his late run for his second goal is nothing but a masterpiece, Chiellini and Bonucci stood motionless as Real Madrid’s number 7 tapped home. The glory was all his, Ronaldo’s fourth champions league winner medal. An astonishing achievement, for an equally astonishing athlete.
The rivalry between Messi and Ronaldo has become so entwined with the football discourse; it has its own Wikipedia page. Asking someone “Messi or Ronaldo” can determine if they’re style or substance, brute force or cultured brilliance, loving the game or dominating the game, pass or shoot. Why choose? A lot is made of the Ballon D’or award, for the best individual in football. Yet football remains a team sport, where each player is as important as the next. Ronaldo is determined to win as many individual awards as possible, team achievements are just a means of improving his chances of winning the coveted Ballon D’or. Football fans everywhere should put aside the petty internet slagging matches and enjoy two phenomenal footballers at the peak of their powers.