Is it Messi or Ronaldo?

Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo will compete for the FIFA Ballon d'Or. Picture: Manu Fernandez/AP
Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo will compete for the FIFA Ballon d'Or. Picture: Manu Fernandez/AP

Little master is untouchable

Argentinian national skipper and FC Barcelona star player Lionel Messi is favoured to take home the 2016 Fifa Ballon d’Or award for World Player of the Year in Zurich tomorrow night for a fifth time.

Despite his 1.7m frame, the 28-year-old remains untouchable, having made a sensational turnout in 2015 by winning almost every trophy going.

In the period under review, Messi played 4 793 minutes of football, scored 48 goals and made 21 assists. That translates to a goal every 100 minutes and an assist every 200 minutes, making him a worthy contender.

Statistically, he is way ahead of the other players on the short list – Real Madrid rival Cristiano Ronaldo, who has won the award three times; and his team-mate, the Brazilian superstar Neymar, who has taken the Spanish La Liga and European scene by storm.

In this period, Messi has been an integral part of the Barcelona team that won the Copa del Rey, the La Liga championship and the Uefa Champions League trophies.

Football fans worldwide have used phrases such as “poetry in motion”, “the greatest footballer ever” and other superlatives to describe this diminutive yet powerful forward.

Just when you think you have seen his best, Messi delivers the kind of brilliance that gives football its moniker, “the beautiful game”.

Was it not Shakespeare who opined: “Some people are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them.” Messi has possibly done all three.

He was a soccer whizz kid practically from birth, despite the hormone growth deficiency he suffered in childhood and which was countered with treatment in his teens. He went on to stellar heights in adulthood.

A private person, he is something of an enigma and effortlessly attracts sustained public interest in his life on and off the pitch.

Just this week, YouTube went viral with a video of him nutmegging (kicking the ball between the legs of an opponent) Argentinian team-mate Javier Mascherano while training in Barcelona.

Some of the text accompanying the video included: “What’s the point of being the world’s best footballer if you can’t use your talents to humiliate your friends?

Barcelona’s Lionel Messi took some time in training to consider how best to trick his Argentina team-mate Javier Mascherano, and decided to go for the old-fashioned nutmeg.”

Well, that’s the kind of player he is, and he does it all in the name of good-natured camaraderie.

As a prelude to the Ballon d’Or, Messi was this week named World Playmaker of the Year by the International Federation of Football History and Statistics.

The big guy will do it again

There is no doubt that Cristiano Ronaldo deserves his third successive Fifa Ballon d’Or award tomorrow.

Ronaldo, who has won the previous two editions of the Ballon d’Or, should get it again to tie the awards at 4-4 with his nemesis Messi.

It was a one-man show for Ronaldo as the Portuguese superstar carried Real Madrid on his shoulders after scoring 52 goals and assisted a further 18 for Los Blancos even though he ended up without any team silverware last year. But the fact that he did not win any trophies should not stop him from walking away with the individual award.

He was in his element, despite his team-mates failing to show up when it mattered most on the park.

Last year, “CR7” became the fourth man to join the exclusive club of winning the Ballon d’Or back to back.

Earlier last year, he took his goal haul for the campaign to 48, good enough to land him his third Pichichi trophy as La Liga’s leading marksman.

His overall tally also brought him the Golden Shoe as Europe’s top scorer, the fourth time he has won the accolade.

The 30-year-old became Real’s all-time leading goal scorer last year, with 324 goals in 308 matches, which he has since bettered. The feat took him past that of the previous wearer of the No 7 Blanco jersey, Raúl González, who racked up 323 goals in 741 appearances for Madrid.

He might not have anything to show for his efforts, but individually Ronaldo has achieved a lot and deserves the award.

Let’s also not forget that although many believe the award is a clear battle between the two former winners, Neymar is not on the list by mistake. Having developed into one of the key cogs in the Barcelona machine, the Brazilian has enjoyed a dream year at club level after finishing second in the Catalan giants’ scoring charts behind Messi during their treble-winning season (La Liga, Copa del Rey and Uefa Champions League).

Watch the awards on SS3 on DStv from 7.30pm to 9pm

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