Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Looking Ahead: the Post College Dilemma

As recent college graduates, we find ourselves analyzing life and pondering to answer the question “now what?” Four years of our lives that we will never get back (or however long it takes you to get a degree) have flown by, and for once, the answer to the question “what are you doing with your life?” can no longer be “Oh, I’m still in school.” It’s almost as if that phrase was a bulletproof vest of some sort that aided us in dodging the harsh realities of adulthood; but with that no longer being a valid excuse (at least for those not pursuing a higher degree right away), the pressures of adulthood hits, and strikes hard. What comes next?

Some of us have it all figured out (or at least we think we do). Some recent grads waste no time, and jump right into the pursuit of a higher degree. Others take advantage of this time to gain internship experience in the field that they one day hope to have a career in. Some go after any jobs that they can find in order to start paying back student loans. Some (like me) look for moderately paying jobs in the field that they one day hope to pursue a career in, while taking a hiatus from school. Then there is the group who is done with school for the foreseeable future, and is forced to find a job that will immediately help them embark on their careers. And lastly, there is the group who spend their college years going after a degree that they have no idea what to do with: the confused ones. Given the varying circumstances, we all have one thing in common; the pursuit of a level of success.

Success is defined differently by everyone. To some, success is marked by wealth. To others, it is marked by happiness. To some, success is attained by living up to the expectations set by our parents, family members, or even ourselves. To others, success is simply proving the doubters wrong. Whatever your definition of success may be, it must be explicitly determined before one can begin working towards it. For starters, one must have a goal. What do you want to be in life? What do you want to do in life? Once you have that figured out, you must develop a plan to work towards that result. The end goal is the ultimate motivator. Success might mean taking the highest paying job you are offered right out of college. Success might mean sacrificing a high paying job and settling for a lessor one simply for the experience that you may potentially gain, in order to obtain higher paying positions down the road. Success might mean sacrificing an income for several years, just to attain another degree that will ultimately yield twice the amount of income. Success is inevitably a subjective term; however, at the end of the day, we all want to succeed.

A variety of obstacles may stand in the way of that success; however it is important to keep in mind that Rome wasn’t built in a day. Nothing worthwhile comes easy. To achieve, one must work. To attain, one must persevere. To arrive at the top, one must start from the bottom. Success is a process; so on the days when you feel like giving up, just remember that you’ve got to start somewhere, and that you have already invested a vast majority of your time into this process. Little progress is better than no progress. One day when you’re 42 with a family, a house, and many millions (or whatever your perfect life would consist of), it will all be worth the extra effort that you put into attaining this level of success. One day when you look into the mirror and can honestly say, "I am proud of you," you will know that you have finally accomplished what you set out to achieve.  Until then, just remember, keep looking ahead. Success comes to those who go after it.   

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Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Up and Coming: Prime Hierarchy Clothing Line

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Sunday, April 27, 2014

The Donald Sterling Saga: A Harsh Reality Check

This year's NBA playoffs has been full of headlines: from the Pacer's struggles, to the rise of the Wizards, to the surprises of the Grizzlies and Mavericks, etc.  None of these headlines, however, have been bigger than the tapes released by TMZ in which Donald Sterling, owner of the Los Angeles Clippers, seemingly engages in a conversation with his girlfriend V. Stiviano about her interactions with black people.  This conversation alleged began after Stiviano took a picture with Magic Johnson at an LA Clipper game; a picture which she proceeded to upload onto Instagram.  On the tape, Sterling confronts Stiviano, claiming that someone had informed him of the post, which undoubtedly upset him.  Sterling went on to make numerous statements about societal expectations of whites to not associate with blacks and minorities and so forth, and why his association however was justified.  Although this recording shocked the majority of the sports world, some were not at all surprised as Sterling was known to discriminate in his Real Estate practices.  I am however not surprised for an entirely different reason: because I am aware that racism still exists, and will probably continue to exist as long as there is a difference in our racial identities.

Being a racist is not an ascribed characteristic; instead, one is taught to hate members of a certain race for whatever reason there may be.  Ironically enough, Donald Sterling was a victim of racism, as he was once prevented from working at a Law firm, post law-school due to the fact that he was Jewish.  It is safe to say that the experience of rejection for one's being either encouraged Sterling to adopt a life of racism in order to assimilate into the norm (of the time) of societal racial discrimination, or Sterling developed a sense of revenge and wanted to take that out on a race that he grew to consider inferior.  Whatever the reason may be, Sterling (if the voice on the tape is in fact his) is undoubtedly under the impression that blacks are not equal to his kind, at least publicly. Why then does Sterling own a basketball team with a black head coach, consisting of mostly black players?  If he is so strongly against them, why then is he involved in an industry which is vastly dominated by blacks?  To me the answer is simple; Donald Sterling has the mentality of a modern day slave owner.

Donald Sterling may personally not like black people, however it is clear that he is willing to make an exception or put up a false pretense, as long as these black people continue to make him rich.  Unlike slave owners back in the day who exploited slaves for free labor, Sterling is willing hire blacks to work for him and even share a fraction of his wealth because the success of these blacks ultimately make him richer.  Sterling is even willing to go as far as to pretend to like these blacks, by taking pictures with them, sharing jokes with them court-side, publicly proclaiming them to be friends, etc. as long as his real feelings are sheltered, and his image is protected.  With all that being said however, the audio-recording, if it is proven to be his voice, is as incriminating as ever.  The man clearly expressed his views and the way he feels about minorities, in particular blacks.  Although it is clear, to me at least, that Stiviano had intentions to one day expose him (hence the recording, and her interrogative demeanor) probably for her own fortunes, her conduct has lead to a harsh reality check for the world that racism does in fact still exist.  Minorities in the music industry can attest to this as well, as the moguls who sign their checks are mostly white males who couldn't care less about their existence, however pretend to do so because the talents of these artists make them richer in their sleep.  It is a sad reality, although one that we cannot ignore, that racism still exists today and probably always will.  The audio recording of Donald Sterling may be of his voice, but it speaks the thoughts of many in this country, and we cannot overlook that fact.  Just as the nation was progressing, with such occurrences as the inauguration of a black president, we are forced to take a step back, as this weekend has reminded us of the reality that exists in the world that we live in.  A harsh reality check indeed.  

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The Power of Love

By: Kwame Awuah

There definitely isn’t a shortage in songs, quotes, articles, etc. on the internet about love.  The fact that there is so much written about it, that even the young and the old have a lot to say about it alone proves that the effect that love or being in love with a person can have on an individual cannot be denied. Whether it is a positive or negative effect depends on the people involved and their situation. I am not here to solve people’s relationship problems or say that by believing in love, everything will be okay; nor am I writing to clarify the difference between loving someone and being in love. I am definitely not writing to tell you who to love, how to love, and how to know you’re in love, as I believe those depend on each person and the circumstance. All I am writing about is the power of love and what it can do to a person.
             Love is an amazing feeling. It is actually critical for our mind and body and in my opinion may be just as important as oxygen. I do believe that love is the most powerful antidepressant there is in this world. When a person finds himself or herself in love with someone, his or her world changes completely. It’s that deep care that you start having for another person that you thought was never possible. It's when you wake up in the morning, this person is the first person you think about. Love is when you go about your day planning how you can make this person happier. It is when your day makes you feel miserable but hearing this person’s voice or seeing them just heals the wounds of the day. Love is when you can look at someone doing the silliest things and still think it is cute. It is when you feel your day isn’t complete when you haven’t heard from them all day. Love is when under the most difficult circumstances, you and her still make things possible. It is when you are texting her and you already know what her response is going to be and she already knows yours. Love is when you think something and she has already thought it. Love is when you wish you dream about them when you go to sleep because your dreams with her are better than reality. It is when wherever you are, wherever you go you wonder where you are in your relationship with her. Love is when you make up perfect scenarios in your head about your conversations, a possible future…

            Love is when you have known someone for years and never once had this feeling about him or her. But then one day it all changes. One day you just decide to let them know your sudden change in emotion about them. Love is when you tell them your feelings; you’re just holding your breath to hear that they feel the same about you. When she is having a bad day, you’re willing to put everything aside to make sure she is okay and goes to sleep with a smile. Love is when you are willing to wait however long you need to, to make that person a part of your life. For some of us, this all sounds cheesy and maybe a bit silly, but it is possible. That person may be far away or really close. We may see that person everyday or maybe we have never met this person. For some of us maybe this person disliked us from the beginning and they finally changed to love us back. That love that you get back from that person may be one of the better feelings in this world.

Friday, April 18, 2014

2014 NBA Playoff Predictions: First Round

Eastern Conference
Indiana Pacers (1) vs. Atlanta Hawks (8)
Don't be fooled by the seedings, as this is not going to be a walk in the park for the Pacers.  Indiana, although going into the postseason with the best record in the East, is far from the best team in the Conference.  Their struggles as of late have made them a very vulnerable team, and many including the Hawks have gotten the chance to capitalize off of this.  The last time these two teams met, the Hawks pounced on the Pacers in Indy, winning 107 to 88.  At one point, the Hawks were up by over 30 points, I repeat, in INDY. The penetration and quickness of Jeff Teague gave the Pacers nightmares, and a bit of a preview as to what may happen in this series. Nevertheless, I predict that this series will ultimately end 4-2 in favor of the Pacers, as the hawks are bound to run out of gas.  I do, however, look for the Hawks to surprisingly steal game one. 

Miami Heat (2) vs. Charlotte Bobcats (7)

This series, to me, is the one most likely to be a blow out (Hey, remember LeBron's 61?).  I had initially picked Charlotte to at least win game 3 on their homecourt, due to Big Al's paint dominance; however, I reconsidered my prediction simply because one man (or even two if you include a stellar game from Kemba) is unlikley to beat the Heat.  The Bobcats don't have enough weapons to give the Heat enough of a problem to constitute a win.  The Heat simply have too many weapons for the Bobcats to deal with.  If they turn it up defensively, it's going to be a long...long series for Charlotte.  With that being said, I pick the Heat to sweep the series and proceed to rest up for the next round.  Need I say more?

Toronto Raptors (3) vs. Brooklyn Nets (6)

Upset Alert! Yes, like most people, I too believe that Brooklyn will get the better of the Raptors in what is promised to be an exciting series to watch.  The Raptors have had an excellent season, reaching heights that nobody expected them to be capable of; however, I believe that the veteran expertise of the Nets will ultimately overcome the youthful exuberance of the raptors.  I expect the Raptors to win game 1, feeding off of the energy of their playoff deprived fans.  I do, however, expect Brooklyn to silent the noise and steal game two, and ultimately win the series 4-2.  This promises to be a very competitive series in regards to scores; more competitive than the 4-2 prediction would indicate.  Expect the intensity of a 7 game series each game, as each is likely to be a nail bitter. 

Chicago Bulls (4) vs. Washington Wizards (5)

I have no gut feeling when it comes to this series.  A part of me thinks the Wizards will prevail; another part thinks that the Bulls will pull through.  If this were to go to a 7th game, I'd pick the experience of the Bulls; however I don't think this series will go that far.  I pick the young energetic Wizards to close the deal in 6. Although the Bulls are known for their dominant defense as well as their well structured system, the Wizards are simply more talented.  I have little faith in the ability of the Bulls to keep up with the scoring of the Wizards.  Although they'll most likely dictate the pace, they do not have a go-to guy if they really need a bucket down the stretch (no offense to Noah, Boozer, DJ or anyone who may take offense to this...although if anoyone Taj should be offended by this); whereas the Wizards can rely on John Wall to create plays for himself or others, or Bradley Beal to create his own as well.  I see this series going to 6 games with the Wizards winning 4-2.

Western Conference
San Antonio Spurs (1) vs. Dallas Mavericks (8)

Dallas is undoubtedly disappointed to have lost the season finale to Memphis, as that would've given them a shot at the OKC Thunder; a team that they match up well with.  Considering the turn of events nonethless, I think the Mavs have fallen into a very unfavorable match-up against the well-oiled machine Spurs.  The Mavs simply have no shot. The Spurs are just way too structured and disciplined to beat themselves; which is the only way the Mavs could win against San Antonio, as they are simply not good enough to do so themselves.  I expect Dirk and Monta to have a good series; however, those two cannot outdo the entire Spurs gang.  Considering the Mavs are not necessarily a good defensive team, I don't see them stopping the Spurs, and they're certainly not going to outscore them in 4 games.  I expect the Mavs to win game two (yes, in San Antonio); however I see this series ending in 5 with the Spurs winning 4-1.

Oklahoma Thunder (2) vs. Memphis Grizzlies (7)

Weird to say, but Memphis would have been better off getting the lower 8th seed and playing the Spurs.  I saw that as a much more favorable matchup for them as opposed to the Thunder.  Regardless, I think they'll do OKAY against the Thunder; however not good enough to win the series. The MVP will do his usual damage, and I expect Westbrook to flourish as well.  Gasol and Randolph will give Perkins and Ibaka enough trouble to get Memphis two wins at home, plus KD is bound to have at least one bad shooting night.  This will however be it for the Grizzlies; OKC should have enough to get by, winnig the series 4-2.

Los Angeles Clippers (3) vs. Golden State Warriors (6)

This series is bound to be the most exciting out of all the first round match-ups.  Just think of this: Chris Paul vs. Steph Curry, Blake Griffin vs. David Lee, Klay Thompson vs. Jamal Crawford, Andrew Bogut vs. DeAndre Jordan, Marc Jackson vs. Doc Rivers, dunks vs. 3 pointers, Lob City vs. the Splash Brothers.  So many beautiful match-ups within this heated rivalry.  I believe that this is going to be one of those series where the home team wins each game; hence the Clippers winning 4-3 in exiciting game 7 fashion.  Both teams are extremely talented and deep, which makes for a competitive series.  I do however think that the Clippers are more balanced, and the better defensive team.  The bench is really the key: can the Warriors bench produce enough to nullify the production of Jamal Crawford and Darren Collison? I don't think so.  I do however think that the Oracle Arena fans will produce enough energy to ignite some stellar shooting performances by the Warriors in at least 2 games.  Look for the series to go to at least a game 6, but hopefully a game 7 for us hoop lovers.

Houston Rockets (4) vs. Portland Trailblazers (5)

This is another series which features two evenly matched teams: both with a "dominant" inside scorer, and a host of productive peremiter shooters.  In fact, these teams are so evenly matched that I wouldn't be surprised if this series also went to a game 7, although I do not expect that to be the case.  In the first 5 games of the series, I expect the home team to conventionally defend home court; in game 6, however, I expect James Harden to go off and have a 40+ type performance and kill any chances of the series going back to Houston for a game 7.  I expect Harden to have one of those "Wow, did you see that game" type of performances that will have the whole league in awe for a couple of days.  That is what I believe it will take for the Rockets to ultimately win the series and advance 4-2.

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Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Looking Forward: Regular Season Awards

As the end of the NBA season approaches, the topic of MVP (Most Valuable Player), DPOY (Defensive Player of the Year), ROY (Rookie of the Year), etc comes up amongst the conversations of many hoop fans like myself.  Without further ado, I'd like to present my picks for individual recognition this season.

Rookie of the Year - Michael Carter-Williams

This category was hard for me to decide because I had initially picked Victor Oladipo to win this award when the season began.  MCW totally surprised me, and probably a majority of hoop fans, with his emergence ever since his season debut against the Heat.  Averaging 16.8 points per game, 5.8 rebounds and 6.2 assists per game, MCW has the best statistics of any rookie across the board.  Oladipo, averaging 13.8 points, 4.3 rebounds, and 4.1 points is a close second, with his overall versatility and impact on the Orlando Magic.  I had debated giving Oladipo a slight edge for leading his team to more wins; however considering both teams are terrible, and neither have a shot of making the playoffs, I will simply base my decision off of statistics and the impact on the court.  Neither player shoots the ball exceptionally well, with MCW shooting 39.6% from the field and 26.7% from three-point land, and Oladipo shooting 41.5% from the field and 31.6% from three.  Although these percentages could certainly use improvement, these rookies get a pass, due to the circumstances that they are in (being focal points of struggling teams, while trying to adjust to the NBA game).  With that being said, MCW has a slight edge over Victor Oladipo, hence worthy of the Rookie of the Year Award.

Most Improved Player of the Year - Anthony Davis

The leap Anthony Davis has made this season has been very refreshing to watch.  Coming into the league as a potentially dominant player on the defensive end, Davis has proven to the league that he can do a lot more than block shots and wreak havoc on the defensive end.  Going from 14 and 8 with 2 blocks in his rookie year to 21 and 10 with 3 blocks in his sophomore season, Davis has lived up to the expectations of being the first overall pick in the 2012 NBA draft.  His play this season has made him worthy of the Defensive player of the year award; however I believe that he deserves to be rewarded for more than just his defense. A healthy Davis has resulted in career highs in all major statistical categories thus far, and some outstanding individual performances like the 40-20 game he had earlier this week (the first and only in Pelican history). At this rate, Davis is bound to be a top 5 power forward in this league for many years to come.  Watch out Blake, Kevin, and Lamarcus.

Sixth Man of the Year - Taj Gibson

Taj Gibson has had an outstanding year in the absence of Derrick Rose.  Providing his team with a consistent spark off the bench, it is fair to say that Taj Gibson is the second most valuable player on the Chicago Bulls, behind Joakim Noah.  13 points and 7 rebounds might not seem significant but for a bench player on a low scoring defensive minded team, every bit of that contribution is needed.  If you had asked me this question about a month ago, I would say without a doubt that Jamal Crawford was the clear-cut winner of this award; however, with his injury and the emergence of Blake Griffin and the Clippers overall, Jamal's contributions are no longer critical to the Clipper's regular season (although his play will definitely be needed in the post season).  With that being said, Taj Gibson is the clear cut winner of the Sixth man of the year award because the Bulls will not as successful as they have been this year without his contributions.

Defensive Player of the Year - Roy Hibbert

Using the criteria that awarded Marc Gasol this award last year (anchor of the best defense in the league), Roy Hibbert deserves this year's honor for his defensive prowess.  The Pacers are number one in the league in points allowed, keeping teams to an average of 92 points a night.  Individually, Roy Hibberts blocks 2.4 shots a game in about 30 minutes of play.  His defensive impact goes far beyond the statistical value of his blocks, as he alters countless shots in the paint on a nightly basis.  Other worthy candidates include DeAndre Jordan of the Clippers, Anthony Davis from the Pelicans, Serge Ibaka from the Thunder, and Joakim Noah of the Bulls.  Considering the Clippers, Thunder and the Pelicans aren't necessarily good defensive teams, that narrows down my choices to Noah and Hibbert.  Although Noah does a lot of things that isn't credited on the box score (such as his pick-and-roll defense), his rim protection does not nearly match the impact that Hibbert does for the Pacers.  If Hibbert gets a point for his rim protection and Noah gets one for his pick-and-roll defense, the .1 difference in points allowed per game (92.2 points allowed by the Pacers, and 92.3 points allowed by the Bulls) gives Hibbert an edge (even though minimal) because it is enough to have the Pacers ranked one above the Bulls.  In addition, Hibbert's 2.4 blocks per game average is much more imposing than the 1.5 of Joakim Noah.  With that being said, Hibbert gets my vote for Defensive Player of the Year.

Coach of the Year - Dwane Casey

Before we get into this category, let's give a round of applause for the great work of a lot of the coaches this year.  From Greg Popovich to Steve Clifford to even a Mike Budenholzer, these coaches deserve a lot of credit for making the most out of the rosters that they have been assigned.  Initially, Jeff Hornacek was my pick for Coach of the Year; however, I do not think that a coach can be rewarded for his work if his team does not make the playoffs, and it looks like the Suns have permanently lost the 8th seed to the Grizzlies.  With that being said, Dwane Casey of the Raptors is my pick for Coach of the Year.  Although the Eastern Conference is relatively weak, I do not believe that anybody (probably even Raptor fans) would have picked the Raptors to finish top 4 in the conference.  Dwane Casey has made the most out of a young bunch, giving them the confidence to play at a level higher than even the players were probably aware that they were capable off.  A lot of credit has to be given to the Raptors General Manager Masai Ujiri for putting together a well balanced roster with a group of young talented athletes and a solid veteran group coming off the bench to compliment them.  Casey's ability to elevate the play of this group makes him worthy of the Coach of the Year honor.

Most Valuable Player of the Year - Kevin Durant

Finally, the cream of the crop.  The best of the best players this NBA season (emphasis on THIS season).  As a LeBron fan, it is very odd for me to make an argument for anybody besides LeBron when it comes to this award; however as an objective fan, it is my job to present the NAYked truth.  Long story short, the MVP for the 2013/2014 season is without a doubt Kevin Durant.  Although LeBron has made a late serge to reclaim what has seemingly been taken away from him, the MVP award is going to Oklahoma to Kevin Durant, unless something miraculous happens.  Kevin Durant of the Oklahoma Thunder has had a phenomenal year to say the least.  KD has always been known as a scorer; however this season he has taken that, as well as other parts of his game to different heights.  Durant is averaging 32 points, 8 rebounds, and 6 assists while shooting 51% from the floor, 40% from three point land, and 87% from the free-throw line; outstanding.  I don't know what's more impressive: the fact that his point average is the highest yet of his career, or the fact that a shoot first, shoot second player is somehow averaging 6 dimes a game.  KD has done everything possible to propel his team to  great heights, including scoring 25 points for 32 straight games (and counting), and 30 or more points for 12 consecutive games.  No argument really needs to be made here (as hard as it is for me to say as a LeBron fan), KD is the clear-cut winner of the MVP award thus far.

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Friday, March 7, 2014

The Great Debate: Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo

By: Kwame Awuah

In our modern world where everyone is obsessed with ratings and knowing who is the best and at what, the question all football (soccer) fans always argue is: who is better? Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo. For starters, let’s compare a bit of their basic statistics and honors. For Ronaldo, he is the taller, faster and stronger player. For Messi, his lower center of gravity and ball control are second to none. Cristiano’s on ball skills and his desire to run at defenders are impeccable. There is no doubt that Messi’s finishing and his passing ability are unmatched by any other player (and yes that includes the ‘Pass-masters’ Xavi and Iniesta). Lionel Messi has 3 Ballon D’or awards while Ronaldo has 1. They both have an extensive list of awards, individual accomplishments, and records that will take me all day to discuss if I were to start so I won’t.

 Let’s pick a starting point to compare these 2 giants. How about the 2009-2010 season. I picked this season because it was Ronaldo’s first with the Whites and the season Messi won his first Ballon D’or (coincidentally also the first season he played with short hair and also the departure of Ronaldinho- we all know how much that meant for him). Since that season, Messi has scored 260 goals compared to Ronaldo’s 238 with Messi having almost 100 more official appearances. Take that how you want but to me, goals are not all that determine how effective a player is. A great player not only brings in the goals, but also means so much to his team that they are lost without him (just ask David Moyes and Manchester United). Being an avid football fan, I’ve watched Real Madrid and Barcelona play for years with and without their key players. The structure that Barcelona plays on is one that strongly leans on having key players on the field in order to penetrate these tough impregnable La Liga defenses. If you replace a Messi, Xavi, Busquets or even Pique with an inexperienced player, it always proves detrimental to the team. Case in point, when Barca played against Sociedad in early February, Tata Martino decided to play Marc Batra in place of the great diver Busquets on the right side of the field. This threw off the whole team as Sociedad just pounded away on that one side with no support from Pique or Dani Alves- we all know that man does not understand the concept of defense. Sociedad went on to win 3-1 scoring 2 goals in a five-minute spell. My point is even misplacing Batra for Busquets proved detrimental; imagine not having Messi play at all. Barca had one of their worst spells I’ve seen in a long time while Messi was out injured. There is no doubt that Messi is very important to that team.

With the Los Blancos, it’s quite the opposite; without Ronaldo (out on suspension for slapping a Bilbao player) recently the whites won all their games because players like Bale, Marcelo, and Benzema do not need other players in order to perform. Ronaldo is less valuable to Madrid than Messi is to Barcelona.

But that still doesn’t answer the question of who is the better player. Arguably, I thought Maradona was more valuable to Argentina than Pele was to Brazil and yet many consider Pele to be the best. But looking at it in terms of who is more valuable to their team, Messi is an amazing football architect who without him, his team is almost nothing. Like the great No. 10 Zidane said on losing Makelele: “It’s like putting a fresh coat of paint on the Rolls Royce when you are losing the whole engine.” Without an important player on a team, that team loses its identity and the player’s absence is felt. To me that’s what makes a player great.

Although Ronaldo does hold the record for being the best player, being the stronger, more agile, more aerial ability, I think Messi’s contribution to his team at the moment would make him the better player; the player I would start a team with.