Comparisons aside: Let's appreciate Messi and Ronaldo

2014-12-29 13:04

Nothing divides football fans as much as the Lionel Messi/Cristiano Ronaldo duel. Some might even rank it above the Mohammad Ali-Joe Frazier, Roger Federer-Rafael Nadal, and the Larry Bird-Magic Johnson rivalries. What makes this one especially enterprising is that, in spite of your allegiance to Real Madrid, you cannot deny the genius of the diminutive Argentine. Similarly, you cannot ignore the dynamic talents of the Portuguese, even as a fan of the Catalan giants. It is clear that comparisons between the two are unavoidable.

Not long after the Argentine demigod had burst onto the scene, comparisons with Maradona followed him. He was to be one of the many "new" Maradonas, following in the esteemed footsteps of Riquelme, Ortega, Aimar, and Saviola. Many wondered whether he would live up to such great expectations. Virtuosic performances en route to becoming the highest scorer in El Clasico history have solidified his surge towards greatness, leaving naysayers cringing in awe. Such is his genius, world media houses have deserted new Maradona tags in favour of new Messi ones. It remains to be seen whether Croatian prodigy Alen Halilovic and Norwegian marvel Martin Odegaard will live up to the hype. Former Barcelona manager Pep Guardiola was heavily criticised for letting go of Ronaldinho. Messi, as Barça's new talisman, lead the Catalans to a multitude of silverware as part of what some have dubbed the greatest club side in football history. In 2012, Messi broke Gerd Mueller's 40-year old record for most goals scored in a calendar year. He has continued to break previously out-of-reach marks, including topping La Liga's all-time scoring chart. All of this at the age of 27.

Few can claim to have been greater than Manchester United legend George Best. So when the Irishman said that it was a compliment to him that Ronaldo was heralded as the new George Best, it surely spoke volumes. The precocious Portuguese was signed by Sir Alex Ferguson in 2003 as a reported replacement for Madrid-bound David Beckham. Initially prone to meaningless showboating, the dynamo soon found his rhythm and began to terrorise defences across Europe. His rise to prominence coincided with one of United's most successful periods, culminating in a third European crown for the English giants. Often seen as a specimen of what one can achieve through relentless hard work, Ronaldo has gone on to become an unstoppable record-breaker. When he moved to Madrid in 2009, cynics believed that he would not be a success. He has countered the harrowing scepticism with astonishing heroics, none more prominent than his record-shattering exploits on the way to La Decíma [Madrid's 10th European crown].

With the Ballon D'or ceremony about two weeks away, Ronaldo seems to be the favourite. While Messi had been out-of-sorts, Ronaldo had been destroying all defences placed before him. Messi eventually picked up some devastating form. However, his record-breaking exploits [two hat-tricks to top all time La Liga and UEFA Champions League scoring charts] came after the Ballon D'or voting had closed. FIFA went on to state that there would not be an extension this year, as was the case last year. Speculation suggests that last year's voting was extended to accommodate Ronaldo's game-changing performance against Sweden [a hat-trick that sealed Portugal's qualification for the 2014 World Cup].

FIFA's decision was based on a lack of votes, a spokesperson said.

With that in mind, it seems that Ronaldo indeed has the edge over his arch-nemesis. It cannot, however, be ignored that Messi won the Golden Ball at the World Cup with goals that lead Argentina to the final. Even though some say he did not deserve the accolade, it may still have an influence on who will add to his awards cabinet.

One thing cannot be denied: these two greats push each other to unfathomable limits. It can even be said that they cannot exist in their true greatness without one another. Ultimately, they are different players who offer so much to football. As Ronaldo once said, "you cannot compare a Ferrari to a Porsche because it's a different engine."

Tweet me @uncle_uhuru

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