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.


  1. Stupid blog. A better player is someone who plays better, not somebody more important to the team.
    I'm a Madrid fan and although I'm a Ronaldo fan, I consider Messi to be equally good if not better. The reason would be his better dribbling skills and goal conversion ratio. Ronaldo is better from set pieces and headers and is much faster and we must remember that Cristiano is essentially a winger.
    Stats, as you correctly stated are misleading, simply because Barca has a team oriented play style whereas Madrid still depend more on individual performances. Messi is nowhere as good with his national team. I daresay even if we put somebody like Negredo or Suarez or RVP in messi's place, it might not make such a huge difference. Replacing Ronaldo is a lot tougher and few players like maybe Gareth Bale are the only ones with similar playing style.
    The place where Ronaldo loses out is that he is a bit selfish and resorts to too many tricks at some times.

    1. Thank you for reading my post. You made some very good points. The whole point I was trying to make was that seeing a team play with either of those players is a good indication of how good they are. I am a Madrid fan as well and I do agree that both players have their strength and weaknesses.

  2. I don't think it's fair/reasonable to compare players according to their teams' performances in their absence. in that case we might as well say Sergio Aguero or Yaya Toure is better than Christiano because Man City struggle without them. statistics would be a better measure although seemingly misleading. I can safely say that statistically speaking Christiano is superior coz he has achieved what he has achieved in a team that is not built around him, unlike Messi who is every ball aimed at him from his mates.

    1. Thank you for reading and that was a good point about Aguero. I do think Aguero is an excellent player when he is around the ideal players. And I think the point you made in a way supports my blog because Barca do depend on Messi a lot and that is partly due to their style of play.