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Messi v Ronaldo: Who is the greatest?

September 08, 2015

- Grant Whittington

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The Messi vs. Ronaldo debate has raged on for nearly a decade, to the point where it seems a shame that we cannot enjoy these two individuals for all that they bring to the game. Just as boxers are often defined by their rivalries, however, the legacy of these two players will be at least partially influenced by the performance of the other. Regardless of which metric you use to measure these two greats, there is a genuine sense that Argentinian forward Messi is the superior player.

Messi v Ronaldo: Why Leo has the Edge

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Despite being two years younger, Messi has the edge in almost all of the statistics. Although Ronaldo has scored 436 career goals, Messi has a far superior strike-rate with 410 strikes in just 480 appearances. Messi has also delivered a greater number of assists, while his unprecedented haul of four Ballon d’Or titles (with a fifth likely to follow this year) supersedes Ronaldo’s three. It is the philosophy of Messi and his impact on the team that is most noteworthy, however, and this is arguably the factor that distinguishes the Argentine as a player.

Messi is first and foremost a team player, aided by his incredible vision, selflessness and hunger for collective success. Contrast this with Ronaldo, who serves as the fulcrum for his team and is inclined to hog possession and create room for a strike at goal rather than feed or create space for others. While he is incredibly good at this (as his strike-rate proves) and his relentless quest for self-improvement has yielded incredible results, Messi’s greater footballing intelligence and humility has contributed to far greater team success for Barcelona and to a lesser extent Argentina.

The Issue of Longevity

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When you consider this alongside the fact that Messi still manages to boast the better individual statistics, the Argentine is clearly a more gifted player. His reliance of guile and craft rather than raw pace is also likely to deliver a greater level of longevity, while Ronaldo’s power may well begin to decline slightly now that he has turned 30. Certainly his success is based on pace, fitness and power, and a lack of vision could well see him struggle as his career progresses. This means that, barring injury or unforeseen issues, Lionel Messi is likely to be remembered as the single most skilled and gifted player of his generation (and maybe of all time).

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