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The Great Debate: Messi vs. Ronaldo

September 07, 2015

- Grant Whittington

If there is one contest that has raged incessantly in recent times, it is the battle for supremacy between Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi.

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If there is one contest that has raged incessantly in recent times, it is the battle for supremacy between Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi.

Arguably as intense as any club rivalry in modern times, these two players have a combined list of achievements that are hard to believe. They have won the last six Ballon d’Or’s between them, for example, while they have also scored more than 700 top-flight goals as a pair during the last decade. Throw in four Champions League medals, multiple League titles and countless treasured memories; they are undoubtedly the two best players of the current generation and continue to perform at the highest level of competitive sport.

Messi vs. Ronaldo: Who is the better Player?

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While this is beyond dispute, however, the debate surrounds which of these two players is superior to his rival. This is a challenging question to answer, especially for neutrals that rely heavily on statistics to forge such opinions. There is also the issue of loyalty to consider, as fans of the Premier League often articulate the merits of Ronaldo due to his performances in England for Manchester United. In contrast, fans of La Liga who live outside of Madrid tend to have a preference for Messi, celebrating his loyalty in addition to his undoubted skill.

Despite being two years younger, Messi also has the edge in terms of statistics. He won more club honours with Barcelona, recorded more assists and even achieved the unique feat of winning four consecutive Ballon d’Or’s. Even though Ronaldo has scored slightly more goals in his career, these have come at a far less impressive strike-rate and may also be owed the fact that the Portuguese is the older player. This is still not enough to confirm which player is better, however, as statistics can easily be manipulated to suit agendas.

Searching for an Indefinable Quality

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Despite this, there is one more, almost indefinable quality that sets Messi apart from Ronaldo. More specifically, the Argentinian wizard is first and foremost a team player, blessed with outstanding vision and a quality of pass to unlock even the tightest of defences. He has also demonstrated incredibly unselfish movement on numerous occasions, drawing opposition defenders out of position to create space for others.

In contrast, Ronaldo is relentless in his drive for personal development, using his own, on-the-ball ability and hunger to help his team succeed. While this is not as self-serving as it sounds, it offers an insight into a player who lacks peripheral vision and the willingness to pick out team-mates in better positions. This is ultimately the key difference between the two, and it is also a factor that will enable Messi to enjoy a longer career.

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