After covering the Barcelona versus Real Madrid topic, it is only logical if Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo were discussed due to their pivotal role in both teams. The two wingers are currently playing for two of the best clubs in Spain and two of the most popular outfits in the world.
Barca’s Lio Messi is a graceful and diminutive yet extremely skilled and fast player while Real Madrid’s Ronaldo is a well-built player who relies on sheer speed and power allied with a plethora of tricky moves up his sleeve to torment defenders. The Messi - Ronaldo comparison cannot be limited to just elegance against brute efficiency since the Portuguese player can showcase a catalogue of nifty moves. Though both can score from free-kicks, Ronaldo normally opts for power and precision at the expense of curling and placement of the ball which seem to be the preference of Messi.
The Argentine prodigy actually has a scoring ratio that surpasses that of the Portuguese star. That might come as a surprise to many but statistics cannot be argued with. Lio has scored 55 goals in 110 league appearances for Barca while Ronaldo registered 84 goals in 196 league matches for Manchester (he played for Sporting Lisbon prior to that). While Ronaldo’s exploits in the Premier League cannot be marginalised, Messi’s footwork and stunning contribution to the Barca cause is sometimes overlooked due to the presence of Samuel Eto’o (now with Inter) and Thierry Henry.
Make no mistake, Messi was the driving force behind the Catalan club’s record-setting treble season despite Eto’o being the team’s top scorer. Ronaldo toyed with EPL defenders the past few years and in 2007-08 season had a remarkable 42 goal tally in all competitions for the Red Devils. Legendary United manager Alex Ferguson did not want to let go of his Portuguese kingpin last season because he realised how invaluable his input had been to bringing success to Old Trafford. Sir Alex finally had to let go this summer after Los Blancos offered a mind-boggling world record fee of $132 million for Ronaldo.
In their professional career both have won the Champions League and multiple titles in one season. The experience factor might not favor one over the other and actually becomes less of an issue when you consider the talent on hand. However, one crucial element might be age since Messi is the younger of the two (By a couple of years and that can be significant for a player who is attack-minded) and still has time to improve and enter Argentine folklore along football greats such as Diego Maradona while Ronaldo is less likely to do so given the age of some of Portugal’s established players.
One more advantage for Messi is that he has been with Barca all these years while this will be Ronaldo’s first season with Los Galacticos. The onus is on Ronaldo to deliver following his record move which, by itself, could turn out to be another factor working against him. If the burden of being the most expensive player, the pressure of having to live up to his exploits in England, and Portugal’s failures all begin to catch up with him then Ronaldo’s season could gradually fall below expectations.
The match-up between both squads could turn out to be uninspiring- just check the much anticipated Inter-Barca game which resulted in a scoreless draw, albeit not the worst one to watch with some neat moves from Xavi and Messi. The star who ends up winning La Liga or the Champions League and who ends up contributing more on route to victory will most likely prevail as the best in the world. Both superstars have a plethora of skilled players supporting them such as Kaka in the case of Real Madrid.
The presence of Kaka with Los Blancos might tip the balance in Ronaldo’s favor since the Brazilian maestro is better in comparison to Barca’s other star players. Upfront Real’s Karim Benzema and Barca’s Zlatan Ibrahimovic will probably struggle to deliver given their hefty price tag since both tend to struggle in big games. ‘Ibra’ has never scored against the top teams in Europe and has not left his imprint on the international level and the same applies to Benzema. That will leave more for Ronaldo and Messi to do though Cristiano can rely on the creativity and vision of Kaka.
The two league games between Real Madrid and Barcelona could very well boil down to Ronaldo versus Messi though Kaka will likely have a big say. There will be a parade of stars if those two teams end up playing in the Santiago Bernabeu for the Champions League trophy come May 2010. Records and trophies aside, who would not want to have Messi or Ronaldo on his team?