In a recent post, I have preached Messi as the best most talented footballer to ever tie up the laces. I stand by that statement even though I am on the other side of this rivalry as a Ronaldo supporter. I think when it comes to footballing ability Ronaldo isn’t even close to Messi. He is a ridiculous athlete; off the ball, he is quicker and with his jumping prowess being over level 9000 he is better in the air. But literally everything else Messi is just so much better and more impactful. It’s not that Messi can score or make a good pass here and there. The way he moves to create space, the way he sees every run from his teammates and plays inch-perfect passes every time, it’s like he is playing a video game and controlling every facet of the game.
You can play him on the left, on the right, through the middle it doesn’t really matter. I guess his most flashy skill is his dribbling as in his heydays he literally took the ball at the halfway line and dribbled past the whole opposing team and scored a goal. His dribbling with his left foot was just magical. If Thanos’ left arm with the Infinity Gauntlet is the most powerful body part in the universe, Messi’s left foot comes in at a close second. He made opponents look like practice cones as he just ran past everyone like a cheat code. Many people think of Ronaldinho when it comes to dribbling, as his flashy moves, feints, turns, and stepovers were so entertaining to watch. But Messi showed us, why do 20 stepovers when you can just run past everyone with one move. There is Messi, and then there is everyone else. He is the best passer, finisher, playmaker, dribbler, striker, winger, midfielder of all time and has the highest IQ for the game. The greatest minds of football called him a genius and that he was an Alien disguised as a human to play the game of football. I think you’re getting the point.
Ronaldo on the other hand has also broken all kinds of records, he scores a ridiculous number of goals and has won almost all trophies there are to win. But this isn’t the argument for Ronaldo. Messi did the same. There is always the argument that Ronaldo proved himself in many leagues and Messi only played in La Liga. Oh yes…this triggers Messi fans. However, I also believe that this is utter blasphemy as everyone who watches Messi knows he would dominate no matter where he plays. I think one could argue that Messi had the luck of being scouted at an early age and that he grew up with the best facilities in La Masia. He also happened to be part of the greatest La Masia generation ever with the likes of Iniesta, Xavi, Busquets, or even Pique. Additionally, the greatest tactical manager in Pep Guardiola happened to be there at the right moment when Messi was starting to truly blossom. In this period the team achievements matched Messi’s individual performances where they dominated all of Europe for four years. But is that really a dent in Messi’s argument? It is not his fault for being born at the right time and he was the biggest reason for the success. Furthermore, on an individual basis he proved himself no matter who his manager or his teammates were even up to this day even when the team achievements didn’t quite reach the same heights.
So, the question again arises if Messi is the most gifted genius that has also won almost everything why does the name Ronaldo keep coming up. There is no Messi article without a Ronaldo article, no Messi statistic without Ronaldo’s, no record of Messi without Ronaldo’s right next to him. And although Messi is so clearly better at football, whether you use advanced statistics or just by eyesight, Messi can’t seem to shake off the presence that is Ronaldo. What is it with Ronaldo that Messi isn’t comfortably the GOAT when he is so clearly the best? You may say only the Ronaldo fanboys preach on the internet for Ronaldo, and that may be true but if Messi is truly and comfortably the greatest, there wouldn’t even be a debate. Is it Ronaldo`s astonishing eight-pack and his good looks that just make him more popular? Most certainly not. Ronaldo has a weapon for himself that Messi never had and will also never have. Something that is so simple yet in Ronaldo’s hands so powerful. Something that everyone who played with him knows. Something every one of us can also actually possess to maximize our potential. That power is the sheer determination, dedication, and work ethic to be the best and an absolute unrivaled mentality.
Ronaldo doesn’t have the God-given ability of Messi. He is not naturally the most gifted footballer. His first touch or passes aren’t even that accurate even compared to the likes of Neymar or Iniesta much less that of Messi’s. But Ronaldo truly has worked his way up to the absolute top of the footballing pyramid by working relentlessly and believing in himself no matter who says what. The famous stories of shooting thousands of long shots after the practice, doing stepovers with ridiculous weights attached to his legs, him being the first to arrive and the last to leave the training, his dedication to recover his body to always stay in peak condition… These things piled up one after another to create the Ronaldo we know. All the tap-ins aren’t luck for Ronaldo, he smells a goal and becomes a mad man to get to the ball no matter what. The 40-meter-long range bangers aren’t luck, the thousands of hours poured into his shooting resulted in these goals. His jumping prowess, his speed, his durability are all part of his dedication that make it possible for him to keep up. Additionally, his unrivaled mentality. When Ronaldo steps onto the field, he truly believes he is the best and that he can win. You just see it in his face. Every time he steps up for a penalty, he knows he will score. He doesn’t know fear as he is always so convinced of his abilities. He doesn’t know pressure; in fact, it just makes him stronger. Juventus bought Ronaldo for the Champions League trophy however in the Round of 16 Juventus lost to Atletico Madrid 2–0 in the first game of the tie. Ronaldo was heavily criticized and if there is one team that can lockdown a defense and keep a score it’s Atletico. In the second game, Ronaldo scored a hattrick catapulting Juventus to the next round. It’s not that he had the best game to be quite honest. But one rebound and he is there to tap in, one long cross, and Ronaldo jumps over the Atleti defense to head it in, one penalty chance, and Ronaldo bangs it top corner… There is just something to it that is just so admirable and cool to Ronaldo. The more pressure and hate the better he becomes. And that is where Messi falls short of Ronaldo.
In the biggest stages, Ronaldo thrives. Messi also of course has great games in important games but when the burden, the weight becomes too much, Messi starts to crumble. Messi always gets criticized for falling short with Argentina, and the peak of that was when Argentina actually reached the final of the Copa America but Messi missed his penalty in the penalty shootout resulting in a loss against Chile. Messi got all the hate and of course, it is unfair. Football is a team sport and Argentina never had a manager that utilized the unbelievable talent Argentina had. However, Ronaldo would have used this hate to fuel his motivation, do even more stepovers, and come back even stronger. But Messi? He just retired the next day of international football saying he is sorry that he couldn’t do it for all the Argentinians. I actually really felt bad for him. He eventually retracted retirement to come back but we have yet to see a trophy. Ronaldo won the Euros with Portugal in 2016 being basically the underdog the whole tournament but Ronaldo’s goals brought them to the final. However, for the first time, I saw Ronaldo come off injured in a game. And that game happened to be the final of the Euros, he was so devastated. But he didn’t stop, he started screaming and giving commands and motivation from the sidelines. You could see his passion. Portugal eventually won against France which were massive favorites. Ronaldo did not contribute because he was sidelined. But I just can’t stop thinking that Ronaldo’s mentality rubs off his teammates making them also believe. Of course, Messi also works hard on his games no doubt. But there is just something else to Ronaldo’s determination.
If we compare Messi and Ronaldo’s rivalry to a race through the Safari dessert, Messi shows up in a fully equipped Pick-up truck and Ronaldo shows up with a horse. During the day when the race starts Messi is clearly ahead, as his car (football-talent) is just that much better. It becomes night and Messi turns on his heater to sleep and continue the race tomorrow. He wakes up, stretches, and when he wants to start his engine, he sees a dust cloud in the back mirror… Out of the dust cloud Ronaldo appears fully soaked in sweat, riding his horse through the night like a mad man probably screaming like in an Anime face-off: MEEEEEEEESSIIIIIIIIIIIIIIII!!!!
That is the nature of Ronaldo. Messi probably wins the race but being able to compete with a horse is what makes Ronaldo so great. His clutchness, confidence, and his will are just unfathomable.
Now to end it I want to give you a scenario. Aliens come down to earth and challenge us to a football game to save the world. We must win, a loss or a draw means the famous Star Wars laser beam destroys our beloved planet. The score is tied at 0:0 in stoppage time, humanity plays it around the box, we can’t find an opening, all our tricks and tactics don’t work against the advanced Alien technology and drones. So player XY of humanity just plays a ball recklessly into the penalty box out of pure desperation.
The player to stretch out his pinky toe to tap in, the player to jump higher than ever to head it in, the player to win a penalty and step up to take it, the player that carries the weights of all of humanity… Who did you just now imagine scoring that goal? Let me take guess…
Did he rip his shirt off and celebrate screaming: “SSSSSSSIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUU!!!!!!”
Both Messi and Ronaldo are extraordinary. Both of them pushed themselves to their absolute limits breaking every record possible. I will miss both for their own rights. It is the greatest rivalry in the history of sports and I was there to witness it. When they retire it will truly be a sad day for everyone. Those two are the greatest in history and for me, there is no debate about it.
So you ask who is the greatest of the two?
I will keep that for myself but I laid out all my thoughts so you decide for yourself. Just make sure you appreciate both before it is too late.