Never before has there been such dissent in the soccer world. Ask any fan, any expert, anyone who their favorite is, who they believe is better or simply who they prefer, and you will never, ever reach consensus. It is the never-ending argument that speaks volumes and goes beyond the sport. When the best Spanish teams, FC Barcelona and Real Madrid, meet the biggest story of the match is Lionel Messi vs Cristiano Ronaldo. But the question remains, who is better?
After comparing Messi and Ronaldo’s total career statistics it’s clear that Messi has the better point per game average, and maybe deserves the right to be called the greatest player of his generation. Not just because of his scoring records but for the dozens of trophies and awards his won and most importantly his individual influence and impact towards the sport. Both of these athletes have had remarkable careers and probably be two of the best players to ever play the game. But who truly deserves to be recognized as the most talented player on the planet? Looking over every aspect of each star’s game such as scoring ability, physical attributes, talent, and team play is the best way to decide who the best player in the world is.
Since the appearance of Messi and Ronaldo on the scene, La Liga’s trophy for top scorer has only been about two players. The two stars have taken scoring goals to a whole new level. The numbers barely separate them. Messi has netted 315 goals in 381 games for Barcelona, since making his debut back in the 2004/05 season. Ronaldo averages a perfect one per game in, with 201 in 201. This would appear to give the Portuguese a slight edge, but take into account that Messi’s total includes the first four seasons of his professional career, even as a precocious teenager he was still learning his trade. Ronaldo is the consummate poacher in front of goal and strong enough to make him a fearsome prospect for any defence. Messi’s ability to score from across the pitch, however, and coolness in defining shots, means that he comes out as the best goalscorer.
Ronaldo began life in football as a lanky teenager often thrown off the ball, but he began an incredible metamorphosis in his time at Manchester United. At 6’1″ and with an imposing presence, he blends pace and power to mark himself as one of the most perfect physical specimens in world football. This characteristic is not the most fair to compare considering Messi was diagnosed at 11 with a growth hormone deficiency, but the diminutive forward at 5’7 had a low centre of gravity and a strong core that allows him to shrug off challenges from even the toughest of defenders. There is no doubt, though, that in purely physical terms, he trails his towering rival. Watching videos of as teenager playing for his old clubs Sporting and Manchester united was illuminating. Ronaldo appeared equipped with fearsome dribbling skills which, allied to his pace, made him a prospect to watch very closely. In truth, however, the striker was never a Ronaldinho or a Maradona or indeed, a Messi with the ball at his feet. It was only when the stepovers, lollipops and attempted dribbles followed by theatrical dives were cut out of his game that he really became one of the best in the world.
The Barcelona man never uses his dribbling abilities when there is no need; a quick flick here, a lightning turn there and suddenly he is clean through on goal. This talent for dribbling, and most importantly the foresight to know when to use it best, puts him ahead of CR7. Lastly team play which is arguably the most important part of the game. A man blessed with all that electrifying talent, Messi is really something special in the world of football. For many reasons, Messi provides almost as many assists as he does goals and that shows the type of player he is on and off the pitch, meanwhile Ronaldo has been burdened with the reputation of being an egotistical player who likes to make the headlines all about himself in interviews, while his rival goes to great lengths to put the team above his own performances, the Portuguese star has no problem with highlighting if things went his way or not. In some ways, Cristiano Ronaldo suffers from bad luck. Strong, quick, deadly in front of goal and with the ability to do the spectacular and clean up from close in order to score, in most generations he would undoubtedly be lauded as a cut above the rest. Unfortunately for him, he shares the credits and La Liga with Messi. Both the Argentine’s talents and his humble approach put him slightly above the Madrid star and leave no doubt that he is the best player on the planet.