Did You Know?
Ronaldo has the player rating of 92 in the popular video game FIFA 14. Messi is the highest ranked, with 94.
All statistics accurate as of June 20, 2014.
Football fans today are blessed to be enjoying an era filled with legendary players such as Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, Luis Suárez, Arjen Robben, Robin van Persie, Sergio Agüero, Yaya Touré, Gareth Bale, Neymar, Andrea Pirlo, etc. However, two names always come up in football debates as the best two players in the world right now. Ronaldo and Messi occupy the footballing ionosphere, lying heads and shoulders above everyone else. Breaking each other's records comes as naturally to these two as pretending to not care about the rivalry between them.
Both are the undoubted stars at their respective clubs, Messi at Barcelona and Ronaldo at Real Madrid. Between them, the two have won the last 6 Ballon d'Or / FIFA World Player of the Year / FIFA Ballon d'Or awards, underlining their supremacy over the rest of the footballing world. At least one of the two has also been part of the winning team in the UEFA Champions League for four of the last seven tournaments.
Here's a look at their individual careers.
Full Name: Cristiano Ronaldo dos Santos Aveiro
Birth: February 5, 1985, in Funchal, Madeira
Position: Right Winger, Left Winger, infrequently Second Striker
Clubs: Sporting Lisbon (2002-2003), Manchester United (2003-2009), Real Madrid (2009-present)
Honors: English Premier League: 2006-07, 2007-08, 2008-09; FA Cup: 2003-04; FA Community Shield: 2007; League Cup: 2005-06, 2008-09; UEFA Champions League: 2008-09, 2013-14; FIFA Club World Cup: 2009; La Liga: 2011-12; 2010-11, 2013-14; Spanish Super Cup: 2012
Ronaldo shot to fame as a precocious youngster in the famed academy setup of Sporting Clube de Portugal, known outside Portugal as Sporting Lisbon. Manchester United's manager, Sir Alex Ferguson, bought Ronaldo to replace the outgoing David Beckham, and played a very influential role in his development into one of the world's best players.
Slowly blossoming into the all-conquering superstar, Ronaldo came into his own in 2007-08, topping the Premier League scoring charts with 31 goals. The next year, he scored in the Champions League Final to give Manchester United the lead against Chelsea. After winning the 2008-09 Champions League with United, Real Madrid came calling for the star, like they had for Beckham. He became the undoubted ace at Madrid, and has scored at a rate of more than a goal per game since joining the Spanish giants. It was mainly his move to Spain to the rivals of Barcelona, Lionel Messi's club, that has led to constant comparison between the two.
Ronaldo is famous for his exacting fitness regimen. He is one of the most supreme athletes on the planet, let alone the footballing world. He has received sprinting lessons from 100-meter World Record holder Usain Bolt. Many retired players, such as Zinedine Zidane, have praised his hard work ethic, and former professional bodybuilder Arnold Schwarzenegger has expressed praise for Ronaldo's physique. His pace and strength are major factors in his game, allowing him to hold on to the ball under challenges and slip away from markers, while he also has an unusually strong heading ability for a player in his position. He has been called "the complete player" by his former coach and mentor Sir Alex Ferguson.
His array of skills is just as famous as his physique. He is renowned for his free-kick taking, passing, dribbling, heading, and shooting abilities. His powerful shooting is a big part of his game, which often centers around cutting in from the left wing and shooting at goal with his right foot. However, he is remarkably ambidextrous, comfortable passing or shooting with his left foot; he has, on occasions, even taken free kicks with his left foot. Since arriving in Madrid, where he became the prime focus of the team's attacking play, he has scored 252 goals in just 246 appearances! In just 5 seasons at Real Madrid, he has already jumped to #4 on the all-time scoring charts at Real.
Full Name: Lionel Andrés Messi
Birth: June 24, 1987, in Rosario
Position: Striker, Right Winger
Clubs: Barcelona (2003-present, including spells in Barcelona 'C' and 'B' teams)
Honors: La Liga: 2004-05, 2005-06, 2008-09, 2009-10, 2010-11, 2012-13; Copa del Rey: 2008-09, 2011-12; Spanish Super Cup: 2005, 2006, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2013; UEFA Champions League: 2005-06, 2008-09, 2010-11; UEFA Super Cup: 2009, 2011; FIFA Club World Cup: 2009, 2011; Olympics Football (with Argentina): 2008; FIFA U-20 World Cup (with Argentina): 2005
The star of Lionel Messi came close to being extinguished before it could even light up. Diagnosed with a growth hormone deficiency, Messi came close to having to quit his football career because he was simply too scrawny for the game, however outrageously talented. Fortunately for him and millions of football fans, Barcelona reached out to him in his native Argentina, and signed him up, agreeing to pay for his medication.
Under manager Frank Rijkaard, Messi played as a right winger so that he could cut in on to his stronger foot instead of having to constantly cross for his teammates. Though he was initially unhappy about the positioning, Messi became known as one of the world's best young players, playing as a right winger alongside Ronaldinho. It was under Pep Guardiola, though, that Messi started to achieve legendary status. Guardiola converted the skimpy Argentine into a 'false nine', charged with nominally leading the line but regularly dropping back, creating space for his teammates due to the movement of defenders following him upfield. This led to a massive boost in his performances, and he was soon knocking down numerous scoring records.
At the age of 26, he is already the record goalscorer in the history of Barcelona. He has scored 354 goals in 425 appearances and 243 league goals in 277 appearances for Barcelona's senior team. He leads Barcelona's historic scoring charts in total goal scored, total competitive goals scored, total league goals scored, as well as total European goals scored.
Messi is renowned for his close control, dribbling, and deadly finishing. Though not the ideal athlete a la
Ronaldo, Messi's low height is beneficial for his style of play, as his low center of gravity allows him to change directions swiftly. His finishing and passing abilities were also honed by his unique role in Barcelona's system. Though he lacks the height of Ronaldo, he has an excellent heading technique, perhaps most famously seen in his goal in the 2009 Champions League Final against Ronaldo's United. His style of play and short height have drawn inevitable comparisons with Argentine legend Diego Maradona.
Both these players are remarkably durable; Messi's fitness was boosted through meticulous planning and attention from Guardiola, while Ronaldo is rarely ever injured. This is crucial in today's hectic football calendar.
Both are known for their finishing and dribbling abilities, as well as being dead ball experts. Ronaldo has adopted a 'knuckleball' technique on his freekicks, whereas Messi's freekicks are more regulation-action; both are equally prolific on free kicks. Both take their respective team's penalties, and both are the focus of the team's attacking play.
The main hurdle left in the way of both players is a lack of major achievements on the international stage. Though Ronaldo has finished as a UEFA Euro runner-up and bronze medalist with Portugal and Messi has won the Olympic football tournament with Argentina, both players remain lacking in major, influential performances in the World Cup. It is a widely held theory that the two need to win or dominate a World Cup in the fashion of Maradona or Pele to be considered the best of all time.
As mentioned before, either Messi or Ronaldo has won the prize awarded to the best player in the world for the last six years. Messi has won it four times. He also holds the record of scoring the most goals in a calendar year, breaking Gerd Müller's record of 85 by scoring a scarcely believable 91 goals in 2012. He also equaled Jose Altafini's record of scoring 14 goals in a single Champions League campaign in 2011-12.
Where Ronaldo's greatness lies is having a comparable scoring ratio in spite of having played as a winger for the early part of his career, and not being the prime attacking outlet for his team for much of his career. Ronaldo really became the goalscoring machine he is now when Ferguson allowed him a free role in his United side around 2008. Since joining Madrid, Ronaldo has broken countless scoring records and has more than kept up with Messi. He also broke Messi and Altafini's 14-goal record in the Champions League in 2013-14, scoring 17. In the same Champions League campaign, he also became the first player to score a goal in the Champions League final for two winning teams, also having scored in United's 2008-09 win.
As far as popularity is concerned, Ronaldo's frighteningly regular goalscoring exploits have made him one of the most popular sportspersons in the world, but Messi's humility and easy charm has made him more likable. While it's a bit unfair, given the high number of assists Ronaldo usually registers, it is Messi who is lauded as being a team player.
As former Real manager Jose Mourinho once said, the two would undoubtedly have won ten Ballon d'Or awards each had they been born in separate eras. The two have different attributes, different roles, and different temperaments, which makes comparing them pointless. In this case, the numbers are so ridiculously close that in the end it comes down to personal choice, and this writer falls in the Ronaldo camp.