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Cristiano Ronaldo

Should Ronaldo and Messi Be Considered All Time Greats, Even Without International Success?

There is little doubt that both Ronaldo and Messi have been the best two footballers on the planet the last five years. So, why do many followers of the beautiful game, especially those over the age of 30, myself included, bristle at the “he may be the greatest ever player” comments periodically laid, particularly at Messi’s feet?

Yes, both players are coming off of yet another brilliant goal-scoring season with their respective clubs but Real Madrid and Barcelona are laden with 10 other superstars on any given weekend, something Maradona never had at his successful stint at Napoli. As this current Barca side goes down as one the greatest club sides ever, one could argue that would have been possible, even without Messi, and with La Liga increasingly becoming a two team league; it’s not hard to see why both Messi and C. Ronaldo have struggled at times, to impress outside of their Spanish based comfort zone.

Ronaldo and Messi have been underwhelming at football’s ultimate acid tests – The World Cup and The Copa America/Euros respectively.  Neither player has yet to individually grasp an international tournament by its neck with moments of sheer brilliance, as Van Basten did at Euro 88, with “that goal”,  or by willing his teammates, almost single handedly to glory, as Maradona did in Mexico 86 –  a feat he almost repeated in Italia 90, as the Argentinean – a mere shadow of his former self, with pieces of an ankle held together by screws, still managed to get Argentina to the losing side of the final, albeit a dreadful one. There are of course other football gods who’ve solidified their legacies on the international stage:  Cryuff, Matthäus, Beckenbauer, Moore, Charlton, Rossi, Baggio, and of course – the great Pele.

Two more recent examples: Brazil’s Ronaldo, a prospect, too young to factor in Brazil’s USA 94′ World Cup win, then as a superstar, only to falter at his coronation at France 98′ – with a ghost-like performance at the final, filled with pre-match, conspiracy tinged rumors of hotel room seizures and sponsor influenced team selection.    What a difference four years made, in 2001, Ronaldo, struggling with career threatening knee injuries and an indifferent club form, was considered washed up and surplus requirement to Brazil’s 2002 world cup squad by some. Expected by many to play at best – a peripheral role in Korea/Japan, not only did Ronaldo inspire Brazil to their record 5th world title, he ended up top goal scorer, in spite of that haircut. There is also Zidane, coming out of international retirement, to take France to their 3rd major final in eight years.

There are many great players who, can legitimately use their country’s lack of footballing pedigree as a hindrance to true, all round greatness: Kenny Dalglish, George Best, Ryan Giggs, The Laudrup brothers, Roy Keane, to name a few.  With Portugal and Argentina however, neither Ronaldo nor Messi can use history or team quality as excuses. To put it bluntly – in order for either player to truly cement a lasting legacy amongst the footballing gods, they must at some point, repeat their club form to propel their country to a major final.  Ronaldo, after yet another quiet start to a major tournament, has steadily imposed himself on Euro 2012 with inspired performances in Portugal’s victories against both The Netherlands and the Czech Republic. Later today, the Portuguese superstar will play one of the most important matches of his career, when his country faces an imposing Spanish side.  Will Ronaldo, with another brilliant performance, stay on the path to immortality, or will he and Portugal squander their chance yet again, to make footballing history?

Will you still consider Messi and Ronaldo, two of the greatest players ever, even without success at the international level? What are your thoughts?

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  1. Gift

    December 22, 2012 at 12:59 am

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  5. Chris Pena

    June 28, 2012 at 4:45 pm

    Well in all honesty honestly kaka and ronaldinho are more
    successful then either of these players both winning the champions
    league, league titles, domestic cups, and world cup, sure they
    break records, but isn’t that kind of like lebron james in
    basketball ?( sorry for cross referencing) does it really matter
    who scores the most goals a season? which messi does, and does it
    matter who is the most entertaining to watch? which in my opinion
    ronaldo is much more entertaining to watch.just an opinion though.
    What really matters is who has that trophy, ask ronaldo or messi
    they would much rather have a trophy and shut up their critics then
    be breaking stupid records. messi does score more consistently
    however doesn’t really awe me with trickery which is the true
    beauty of football. With Ronaldo it’s always a big question how is
    he gonna score a goal? where I am 90 percent sure that messi is
    gonna drive from the right to the left and slot it in (not to take
    away the amazing skill it takes to do that but messi is
    predictable) and when he’s not making people around him better at
    barcelona he fails to do so internationally, ronaldo is also very
    much horrible at making players around him better internationally
    as well, and to be honest he doesn’t make people better at madrid
    either he just seems to take pressure off if anything since he’ll
    draw multiple defenders. But to my main point. If you watch the
    defenders and the midfielders and the forwards back then, and you
    see how much more intelligent faster stronger pele, maradona,
    cryuff, matthäus, beckenbauer, moore, charlton, rossi, baggio were
    and how crap the competition was back then, it could be possible
    that it is harder to dominate completely nowadays? Players all
    around in general are better nowadays, in fact so competitive that
    in order to be competitive and win world cups and euros , what have
    you, you just have to have a better team as a whole, germany spain
    netherlands, teams that have great players who work and compliment
    each other amazingly, Argentina sucks together and same with
    Portugal.So yea those are my two cents.

  6. yadunath bhandari

    June 28, 2012 at 10:20 am

    I can’t compare Messi and Ronaldo. Because Messi is the world’s
    best player.

  7. Salako

    June 28, 2012 at 8:28 am

    Messi won FIFA under 2005; olympic gold medal with his country in
    2008. Ronaldo can never achieve that again. So Messi is better than
    Ronaldo even at d country side.

  8. wildan sholihin

    June 28, 2012 at 8:14 am

    good luck messi

  9. wildan sholihin

    June 28, 2012 at 8:10 am

    messi is the best football player in the world

  10. Dee

    June 28, 2012 at 8:03 am

    Have you ever seen a player (I will give some credit to Maradonna)
    as exciting as Messi? When he gets the ball, you just know he is
    about to make something happen. His goal scoring prowess speaks for
    itself. Anyone watching Spain and Portugal in the Euro 2012
    semi-final or any game in Euro 2012 for that matter will see that
    the soccer is several levels lower in ability and intensity than
    most LaLiga games or Euro club matches. When you assemble the best
    players in a country, who get together once in awhile, don’t plan
    on seeing the “best” soccer. Many international games disappoint.
    So when Messi scores 72 goals in Europe including the best league
    in the world (look how many Spanish teams dominated the Champions
    League and the Europa Cup…two in the final of Europa and two in
    the semis of the Champions League … then you can see how Messi
    can be considered the greatest player ever .. if not now, by the
    time his career ends … world cup or no world cup … since it
    usually takes more than one player to play a team sport although
    Messi often does it singlehandedly. Maradonna might be the only
    exception, but even he considers Messi to be a better player than
    himself. Ronaldo is a distant second or third or fourth … even
    according to the Balloon D’or voting.

  11. Frank S

    June 28, 2012 at 7:26 am

    The fact that you can’t spell ‘Maradona’ lessens the credence of
    your entire piece I’m afraid. Oh, and by the way, Brian Laudrup won
    the Euros with Denmark in 1992.

  12. EuroWatcher`

    June 28, 2012 at 12:03 am

    Barcelona did not win the Liga title and crashed out of the
    Champions League, Argentina has been replaced by Uruguay as the 1st
    or 2nd nation in South America. Messi has already started his
    decline and been found out. Messi’s talent was more of something
    freakish from youth, Ronnie keeps on going and going!

  13. shamal

    June 27, 2012 at 11:35 pm

    ronaldo is the best ever he is more complete than any other player.
    messi only good with barcelona. barcelona is great team they help
    messi alot to score goals but ronaldo is a mach winner

  14. Matthew

    June 27, 2012 at 8:38 pm

    Ronaldo is a great player and amazing to watch when he is in full
    swing but Messi…He is on another level. How can he not be
    considered with Maradona and Pele? Messi is now 25 and already has
    the world record for scoring the most amount of goals in a single
    season. He is the all-time leading goalscorer for Barcelona. Only
    player to score 5 goals in a Champions League match. World Player
    of the Year 3 times in a row and maybe a fourth which will then
    outshine Michal Platini. He has done this all at the age of 25! He
    has another good 5 years left in him where he can create more
    history. It’s impossible to compare past generations of footballers
    as the rules have changed, the condition of the pitches are
    different, defending has become much better since Gerd Muller’s
    era, In today’s football the players are all athletes in top
    physical shape with very good lifestyles. Either way Messi’s legacy
    will on and I wouldn’t be surprised if he is giving the privilege
    of being considered the best of all time.

    • patrick salvador

      March 22, 2014 at 10:48 am

      Lionel messi is the best soccer player in the world and Lionel Messi is good more then ronaldo and have more ballon d’or more then ronaldo so how can you compare Lionel messi with ronaldo when you that messi is too good and ronaldo is twice in messi.

  15. dienel

    June 27, 2012 at 7:29 pm

    messi just 24,he still young.

  16. Dominic

    June 27, 2012 at 6:45 pm


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