Let me start off by recognizing the greatness of Cristiano Ronaldo. Cristiano is one of the most influential players of this generation and one of the most impressive goal scorers in history. He evolved a lot throughout the years. He did not necessarily get better but he always found a way to stay in the spotlight. He knew he lost the ability to dribble opponents, but he made up for that with a continuous and massive goal scoring record. He was never the man to execute the most difficult pass that no one else saw coming but when the ball was up in the air in the penalty area his opponents were definitely in big trouble. Because of his ability to adapt to how he changed physically and how skilled he actually is, you can say Cristiano always found a way to appear as one of the best even when he wasn’t. In his own way, Cristiano is a genius(or someone around him must be). For years, he managed to put himself on the same level as a man who is far ahead of him in most aspects of the game. The Cristiano-Messi rivalry was good for El Clasico, marketing, and the sport in general but that does not mean that it really made any sense.
It made no sense because for an actual rivalry to exist, the two players involved should at least provide the same or similar services. No Real Madrid fan in the world considers Cristiano Ronaldo the team’s playmaker. There are two reasons behind this:
- He is far from being a player with exceptional vision, passing accuracy, and dribbling technique which gets him out of tough situations.
- There are several players on his team who can be far better playmakers.
So, Cristiano is excused from one of the major tasks in attack.
On the other side of the table you have possibly the best playmaker in history. Lionel Messi has Youtube compilations which last for hours. 90% of the passes in those videos leave you thinking three things:
- Wow! That’s an impressive pass.
- How on earth did he see that?
- How can he always pass exactly to the player’s feet?
One of the least talked about skills of Lionel Messi is his ability to chip the ball from one place to another while maintaining a ridiculous accuracy rate. This same chip is something that Cristiano does not do. He does not really know how to. When was the last time you’ve seen Cristiano chip a ball perfectly to his teammate or basically chip a goalkeeper?
He does not have the technique for it and for big parts of the world this seems pretty fine. Yet, they continue to somehow compare the two while disregarding the major difference in skill.
Another skill-related aspect is dribbling. I think this will always be the worst aspect of Cristiano’s post 2012 career. Cristiano’s goals that came from extreme dribbling talent are so few that fans actually remember them. One of them was actually against Galatasaray a few years back. It was a pretty good goal just like the remaining five or six.
On the other hand, you have a footballer who scored several goals by dribbling all the way from midfield to the opponents goalkeeper dropping 3-4 players in the process. And if he didn’t score, there is a big chance he provided a clear cut chance to his teammate. The thing is, this often happens 3-4 times per match as well depending on the opponent.
Do football fans anticipate the same from Cristiano? No, because he literally has Youtube compilations of himself falling to the ground trying to dribble. There is nothing shameful in him not being able to do that. What is shameful is watching the game for years yet somehow claiming that they both have the same effect on a football team.
You have a player like Lionel Messi who can drop to Busquets’ position, take the ball, pass, dribble two players, create space, find a teammate in an impossible position, then either start over if the ball is intercepted or score himself. He does that for 90 minutes. He operates and controls the entire field. He sees everyone all the time, he has the ability to get past anyone, and his passing and finishing are second to none.
So where did this debate truly come from? It came from one aspect of the game. It is an aspect that had been blown out of proportion to fit certain footballers. These are footballers who simply do not provide more. I am talking about goal scoring.
Cristiano Ronaldo is definitely one of the most prolific goal scorers in history. I am often impressed by the things he does. His positioning for those “tap-ins” is always on point. He jumps higher than any human being alive for a header. He is a very unique forward. He earned people’s respect by continuously finding a way to score.
But even when it comes to scoring, there is one thing that doesn’t make any sense as well(keep in mind that their numbers are close and blah blah).
Lionel Messi can get out of horrible situations and manage to score. This is something that Cristiano is not capable of doing. Cristiano’s argument stopped at “he scores headers” because frankly this is the only argument that stood a chance and actually seems valid.
The scope with Lionel Messi, however, is far bigger than “he scores headers”. Fans would not be surprised if Lionel Messi dribbled half a team and scored. Every freekick by Lionel Messi is a threat to the goalkeeper. His ability to curve the ball and find the goal out of an inch of space is breathtaking. But there is one goal which sums up how impossible Lionel Messi is.
During Barcelona’s match versus Bayern Munich in 2015’s Champions League, Lionel Messi scored one of his best goals ever. On paper it said: “dribbled Boateng and scored”. On your television screen it said “impossible”.
To explain what happened you need to look at the dribble first. The element of tricking an opponent truly describes intelligence. In Lionel Messi’s career, he has dribbled to his left way more than he has dribbled to his right. Well, obviously, since right is his weak side. He did not trick a random defender. As a matter of fact, he tricked possibly the best defender in the world at the time. That was difficult to execute but not as difficult as what happened next.
I want you to grab a ball and go outside. Kick the ball slightly towards your weak foot and then, as the ball is moving, try to chip the ball the way Messi did. Go ahead, try it.
You looked like a moron and failed drastically? I thought you would.
This is one of the most difficult things to do in football because the body is never prepared for something like that. It is simply against physics. Then again, Lionel Messi owns physics.
Messi chipped the best(and one of the tallest) goalkeeper in the world using his weak foot right after that dribble. How did he have the audacity to do that? He knows he has the ability to do that. Just like he redefined physics, he redefined what the human body can do.
Cristiano’s argument stands at he jumps high and scores headers because frankly every other argument, big or small, falls against Lionel Messi.
It’s 2017 and people continue to dwell on this. Barcelona fans become very cocky for a reason. They watch both players week in week out. What their mind anticipates from Lionel Messi has nothing to do with what their mind anticipates from Cristiano Ronaldo. At the end of the day, people expect Cristiano to score a lot and that he does pretty well. On the other hand, people expect Messi to score, dribble, create, entertain, and do what’s physically impossible.
Thing is, Barcelona fans are not alone in this. You have at least 4-5 Real Madrid supporting friends who would’ve taken Messi in for Cristiano in a heartbeat. Because similar to the Barcelona fans who prefer Isco and Modric over Barcelona’s midfield, those Real Madrid fans simply respect what football is about and that is footballers performing at their absolute best, in every aspect of the game, in order to help the team out.
Those Real Madrid fans are enough indication that the debate never existed but it was generated by the people who make the most profit out of it. It was generated by goal obsessed football fans. These are the same fans who won’t recognize players like Iniesta and Zidane for what they provide because they often weren’t the last people to touch the ball before it hits the net. These are the same fans who magnified Cristiano’s goal scoring record in order to minimize everything else a great footballer is supposed to do or at least have the skill to do.