Joy Division: an attempt to pull the Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo debate apart… again

Approaching a comparison between Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi with any sense of objectivity in mind is an exercise in bland futility. The facts, stats, analysis and been reviewed, recast, recovered and overdone to a point of utter tedium, ending way the same obvious conclusion. How boring. Why would you want to be boring when discussing the two most exciting players of their generation? Boring…

Ronaldo vrs. Messi: a battle of footballing titans

The conflict between Messi and Ronaldo is one of subjective tastes, embellished back stories and a focus on their preened and presented ‘personalities’, the likes of which are exaggerated and enhanced in a manner that borders on the creepiness of fan fiction online.

For the sake of this article, entertainment and fairness, each player’s case will be represented by a specific writer. Don’t worry, no ones died and neither of football’s most mercurial talents are standing trial. You, reader, are the jury however, so please leave us your final judgement at the bottom of the page in the comment box provided. Please use the options Messi or Ronaldo, rather guilty or not-guilty to avoid confusion and embarrassment. We thank you.

Enter David Hillier who will be representing Critstiano Ronaldo.

The perfect footballing athlete?

Ronaldo is arguably the greatest entertainer in the modern game.

I have been lucky enough to see him play 4 times at Old Trafford. Each time, during the pre-match warm up, Ronaldo trained alone. Cutting a solitary and yet exuberant figure, he would perform ‘mad skillz’ for the pleasure of the crowd, whilst his team mates stretched and focused on their warm up.

This sums Ronaldo up perfectly; a player more concerned with pleasing the crowd than doing mundane stretches; a player so individually gifted that he desires to stand out from the pack. This does not always translate into victory, and the greater good is obviously negated, but we must not forget that people watch football to be entertained by athletes of the highest calibre. Watch Ronaldo in full flight, and ask yourself: are you not entertained?

Contrast this with Messi, a player of remarkable talent, granted, perhaps a talent insurmountable (because of his dwarfism, but that’s another article), but a player who is perhaps, arguably, over-reliant on his team-mates Xavi and Iniesta to help him explore his full potential. This is obviously highly debatable but it does explain Messi’s lack of International ruthlessness. Ronaldo needs nobody.

Ronaldo's freekick is a fear some artillery piece for Real Madrid

Ronaldo is, physically, the perfect footballing athlete. He can jump higher than the average NBA basket-baller. His dead-balls, especially the trademark “knuckle” strike, are generally regarded in the world of sport science as being the most efficient power-energy exchange in sport. Remember the 40 yard rocket against Porto? Nobody else could do that. I mean the ball goes 80mph for crying out loud! It can shatter three layers of double-glazing. Watch the ‘Ronaldo Tested to the Limit’ documentary where he scores 3 volleys and a shoulder, followed by a pirouette, in total darkness. He’s almost as fast as an Olympic sprinter (0.3s slower over 25 metres, but faster by over half a second when corners are introduced), and has less body fat than the average supermodel.

All in all he is an iconic athlete; a pure-breed specimen, a veritable Olympian of the classical order. And he wasn’t just born with these advantages (Lionel), he worked slavishly in order to attain this level of physical excellence.

An iconic figurehead rather than a team player?

You can argue that football is a team game, and that an Individual who thinks he is above the team has no place in the modern era, no matter how ludicrously talented they are. However I believe that without players like Ronaldo, Football would lack a certain transcendental quality. Ronaldo, selfishly or not, aspires to be the best footballer in the world. The highest scoring footballer, the most entertaining footballer; the most idolised footballer; the most expensive footballer. More importantly he aspires to immortality through greatness, the perfection of technique and of human athleticism.

Ronaldo is the pure competitiveness of human sport embodied, an idol forged from ego and desire, and consequently a man who has arrived at the zenith of physical condition. He has set the benchmark by which all future athleticism should be judged. Messi was born lucky.


Greg Johnson will be putting forward the case for Lionel Messi.

Lionel Messi - the ultimate skill player?

Messi born lucky? Ronaldo is a genetic freak. You don’t become that pure a physical specimen by exercise and diet alone. Messi is the player whose road has been the hardest travelled. Be it moving across the Atlantic as a pre-teen or overcoming his childhood growth hormone deficiency he has battled against the grain to become the player he is today.

The greatest thing about Messi is that he is very much a footballer first and foremost, with his athleticism a far off secondary but necessary complement to his incredible intelligence and skills. I don’t see the wonder or joy in Ronaldo’s machine like efficiency and power-housing, especially in comparison to the consummate brilliance of Lionel Messi. Have you honestly ever seen someone so comfortable on the ball? Whilst Ronaldo was once a hyperactive flurry of skills, tricks and man-beating agile dribbles, he has turned into a blocky tank in recent years, losing much of his mobility and guile in favour of pure bludgeoning strength.

You say that Messi relies on Xavi and Iniesta to get by, and his international form is proof of this. I say you give Ronaldo too much credit. At Real Madrid he has become their frontline finishing poacher, snatching tap-ins and stealing the glory of his team mates who work had to deliver him chances on a plate. I guess for £82M you’d want your golden poster boy to be the closer, but Ronaldo has lost much of the magic he once had in a game situation. No doubt he can probably still pull off his fancy tricks as an exhibition juggle under no pressure, but there’s a reason we don’t see more of his footwork in matches these days in the slower, more open Spanish league.

Messi's dribbling proficiency second to none. 'Playstation football' indeed!

Whilst Ronaldo, in his role as Madrid’s premier poacher, may have scored more goals in La Liga last year, if you compile both players’ stats for all competitions (including internationals) from the 2010/11 season, Messi ties with Cristinao on 53 goals. Meanwhile, in terms of assists, Messi is streets ahead with 24 to Ronaldo’s 15. Rather than Messi requiring playmakers to make him shine, he is a playmaker himself, working hard for the team, dropping deep, closing down and setting up chances for his fellow Blaugrana.

Football is increasingly becoming a team game. Barcelona are incredible because they play as a unit. Real Madrid have a personnel roster arguably equal to their Catalan rivals on paper, but they lack that hard-drilled coherency and fanatical commitment to the team and its principles. Individual self-servers such as C Ronaldo will increasingly become marginalised as the sport developments further. The greatest players are, and will be, those, like Messi, who are individually superb but also completely compatible within a team setting. Ronaldo is far too driven by his own sense of destiny and glory to play for a club such as Barcelona, but Messi could play for any good footballing team in the world.

The big question remains though: can Messi ‘do it’ on a rainy Thursday night in Stoke? He’d at least make a contribution to the match be it in an assist, lithe dribble that sets free his comrades or a penetrating shot from just outside the area. Hell, if Nani can manage, why can’t Lionel Messi?!

From L-R: Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo (hair dye is model's own)

Ronaldo on the other hand would play for Stoke. He is the Ivan Drago to Messi’s Rocky Balboa, the stunted kid from the dusty streets of Argentina who came good. Tony Pulis has inappropriate dreams about what he’d do if he had Ronadlo the flat track bully at his disposal.

Cristiano is the quintessential film bad guy. He  is the Iceland team from Mighty Ducks 2, Shooter McGavin from Happy Gilmore, Biff from Back to the Future… he is the silver spooned, perfectly formed demi-god with a superiority complex who always slips up at the final hurdle, usually through some cunning, heart and creative smarts from the underdog. You could imagine Cristiano Ronaldo, with his test-tube grown children and personal megalomania, attempting to take over the world as some ridiculous super villain. His powers would be the ability to behead little children with his over powered freekicks and inexplicably brainwash half the world into entertaining the thought that he’s even in the same league of Lionel Messi. In truth, at this present time in football, nobody is. Messi is a league unto himself.

So good even Ronaldo is beneath him?


2 thoughts on “Joy Division: an attempt to pull the Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo debate apart… again

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