“If being an egomaniac means I believe in what I do and in my art or music, then in that respect you can call me that… I believe in what I do, and I’ll say it.”
― John Lennon
Cristiano Ronaldo eh? The ultimate in marmite footballers. On one hand you can hold him in the same esteem that one may hold your Cruyffs, your Beckenbauers, your Peles, and on the other you may hold him with the same disdain that one may with your Bartons, Savages, or Terrys.
Let’s get one thing straight, Ronaldo is an excellent footballer, there’s things he can do with his feet that many can’t do with their hands. He’s the spark, the ingenuity, the ‘x-factor’, that footballing demi-god every team wishes they had in their side. So, why the derision? Why the hatred? Does Messi get this much stick from all quarters? Never.
Why do the two players get compared so much anyway? Is it too hard to just enjoy the two players at the height of their games? Maybe this is a rivalry borne from brand identification more than anything. Messi; Adidas, Barca, El Mundo Deportivo. Ronaldo; Nike, Real Madrid, Marca. Is this why the two are locked in this never-ending rivalry? Possibly…
Recently at a press conference before the recent Portugal/Netherlands game Ronaldo was asked about Denmark’s fans chanting ‘Messi’ towards him, which obviously annoyed him no end and brought out a few childish giggles. “You know where he was at this time [last year]? Do you know? He was being eliminated in the Copa America, in his own country,” Ronaldo said at the post-game press conference. “I think that’s worse, no?” Strangely it reminded me of that scene from Happy Gilmore where ‘Shooter’ McGavin was dismissing questions about Adam Sandler’s character.
“Trying to reach the green from here, Shooter?”
“I’m afraid that’s impossible, sir”
“I beg to differ. Happy Gilmore accomplished that feat no more than an hour ago.”
Even at the Czech Republic game a banner was unfurled with the message that “Messi is still better”. It seems wherever he goes, and whatever he does, he is constantly compared to the diminutive Argentine master.
The two players couldn’t be more different either. One is a 5’7″ scruffy looking chubby faced kid who wouldn’t look out of place at a skate park or a garage band, the other is a 6’1″ muscular, athletic, good looking, tanned, Adonis with a string of model girlfriends. One looks very much a Rolls Royce player, the other a KIA. Both are very much aware of how good they are, it’s a pre-requisite for a world class talent to never have doubts about your ability, however one is as humble as a lamb, the other thinks he’s a popstar.
Maybe it has a lot to do about the environmental and social upbringing of both players more than anything. There’s a story doing the rounds about Alexander Hleb during his time in Cataluña asking Xavi Hernandez what sports car he should get, the reply “You can drive what you want in your spare time but don’t bring it to the training ground, it’s not the type of thing we do at Barcelona” Maybe it’s this ethos taught to Messi during his early formative years has had an effect of keeping his feet on the ground and being thankful for what he has. Ronaldo however, well, there’s only so many sports cars, supermodels and lavish lifestyle choices one can make. Whilst Messi is engaged to a girl from his home town of Rosario in Argentina. Meanwhile Cristiano can be seen having a boozy vodka-fuelled night in Paris (Hilton).
There’s been a few times it’s been mentioned that Ronaldo needs to be the centre of attention, he’s had accusations of being ball-greedy, not being a team player, being very much an individual, a ‘total fucking rock star from Mars’ to put it mildly. It was noted in several media outlets than when Silvestre Varela scored the last-gasp winner for Portugal against Denmark during the Euro 2012 group stages, he was the only player not to celebrate with the goal scorer despite being the closest to him; almost as if he was pissed off he wasn’t the one who got the winner.
Messi on the other hand is not only the greatest individual talent in Barcelona’s long illustrious history, but also one hell of a team player. If he wasn’t a team player, he wouldn’t be in that Barcelona side at all (the reason Ronaldinho was tossed on the scrap-heap, well… that and the pies). It’s the way they’re bred apparently.
On a recent interview with Time Magazine Messi was asked about comparisons to Cristiano Ronaldo.
“I never really fixated on him or compared myself with another player. My mentality is just to achieve more each year, to grow both as an individual and as a team, and if he wasn’t there, I’d be doing the same thing.”
In comparison Ronaldo recently said in an Interview;
“It’s like comparing a Porsche to a Ferrari. We push each other in competitions. Some people say I’m better, some people say it’s him. People try and decide who is best at the moment; I’m thinking it’s me”.
Although he said that with his tongue firmly in his cheek you can see from the 2 interviews that one player is definitely thinking about the other. You can just imagine him coming off the pitch at Mallorca or somewhere like that after bagging a hat-trick to run straight to the nearest TV and then curse his luck as Leo sticks 4 past a hapless Villarreal and the headlines head north to Barcelona again, like an evil villain repeatedly getting thwarted by super human heroics.
Both have had awful times at international level however. Football purists will say 60-80 goals a season will mean very unless an international tournament is won by either of them. In this instance I believe Ronaldo has finally bested Messi. Only one player is ever going to drag his international team-mates to glory, through his sheer bloody-mindedness, arrogance and that “give me the ball attitude” rather than his humble, team playing counterpart. Argentina look to Messi for answers, Portugal already know the answer, give the ball to that guy in the number 7 shirt, he’ll do the rest.
Interestingly since that post-Denmark press conference Cristiano has upped his game significantly with 2 virtuoso displays in 2 games, netting 3 (could been 17) and winning games for his country. He’s finally showing his Madrid form for his country, something he has been slated for by certain sections of the Portuguese press.
With Messi successfully bogarting the #1 spot for FIFA Ballon D’or for 3 successive seasons, the most famous footballer to ever be named after Ronald Regan (I hope that’s true) has finally got the chance to put one over his Los Culés arch-nemesis. An international tournament with the blistering brand-mark of CR7 on it would secure that, surely? 2 games, 2 wins, and he can thank his Portuguese team-mates in his acceptance speech in Zurich in 2013.
Or will it be a case of him running up to the podium and running away with the Ballon D’or trophy the way ‘Shooter’ McGavin did with Happy Gilmore’s winner’s jacket?
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