Football

Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo are both the best ever

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Lionel Messi's latest injury set-back proves once and for all he is human (yeah, that old cliché). Meanwhile Cristiano Ronaldo's blistering start to the current campaign shows he may well, after all, not be.

But is their brilliance being taken for granted given their unexplainable ability to deliver match-winning performances on a weekly basis?

I was in the pub on Saturday when CR7's latest exploits were being screened on Sky Sports News. Another day at the Santiago Bernabeu, another hat-trick for the Portugal superstar. When he bent in the umpteenth free-kick of his career, my friend and I turned to one another and laughed. It appears that's all you can do these days when you're marvelling at his brilliance.

Moments later, it was almost forgotten, because that is simply the norm nowadays. 

His goal-scoring record this term is embarrassing, in a frighteningly-good kinda way. 27 goals in only 19 appearances for club and country, as well as four hat-tricks since September. If you offered that return to a Premier League manager, or any manager for that matter, from one of his strikers at the start of the season, you may well have to retrieve both of your hands from his mouth. 

His latest treble came against Real Sociedad. The common argument when discussing just how brilliant this pair are is that La Liga's quality of opposition is below-par on most occasions. 

That for me is a misconception because despite the ineptitude of some of the teams they face in Spain, they still face 11 professional footballers when they step onto the field of play. 11 professionals hell-bent on stopping them, at any cost. 

Sociedad are certainly no push-over, as David Moyes' Manchester United side found when they were held to a stalemate in their recent Champions League encounter. And yet, Real Ronaldo swept them aside when they faced each other in the Spanish capital. 

His latest trio of goals took Ronaldo's goal-scoring record at the most illustrious club on the planet to 225 in 215 appearances. After the game, Real Madrid manager Carlo Ancelotti described his Portuguese match-winner as "out of this world." Can't disagree with you on that one, Carlo. 

How, at any level, let alone elite, can you have a higher amount of goals scored than appearances made? 

By hard work, yes. But, moreover, because of the talent he possesses in every part of his body. Not only can he score with both feet and make it look easy, he can head, chest, back, neck, you name it, he's scored with it. 

His tremendously-powerful physique makes him a constant threat to anyone he faces. He is perhaps the most complete, rounded footballer that there has ever been, or ever will be. 

And then you remember Messi, a little Argentinian fella that has on no-less than four occasions stopped Ronaldo from claiming the prestigious Ballon d'Or - the ultimate individual accolade for any professional footballer. 

He is different to his nemesis in the way he plays the game, but that doesn't make him any-less prolific. In fact, somehow, it makes him more. 

Since making his debut for La Masia, he has gone on to break records at an alarming rate that will undoubtedly culminate in there being no more left to beat once he hangs up his shooting boots. 

His current injury predicament will see him miss the next two months of Barcelona's season after he suffered a hamstring injury in Sunday's 4-1 thrashing of Real Betis. That means we're unlikely to see him add to the poultry-by-his-standards total of 42 goals this calendar year. That's a staggering 49 less than the 91 he managed during, yes, another record-breaking year for Messi.

Poor little Lionel has only managed, on average, a goal a game this term. 14 in 14. Brilliant by anyone else's standards (bar you know who), but below the precedent set by Argentina's greatest achievement in previous years. 

However, all is not lost, and with Barcelona already securing their passage to the knockout-phase of Europe's elite competition, he may well break another record this term. His last goals in claret and blue came against a declining AC Milan at the Nou Camp that left him six shy of Real Madrid legend (nope, not Cristiano - although he's not far behind, either) Raul's European haul of 71 goals. It's not beyond his powers to surpass the Spaniard's total in the 2013/14 campaign. 

He became Barcelona's record goal scorer last season at the age of 26, and has since improved his goals-to-game ratio to 327 in 333 appearances. That type of statistic leaves me asking how is it possible? This is all before he has reached his supposed peak, with footballer's best years said to come between 27 and 30. 

You hear tails about Diego Maradonna's brilliance, you hear legends about Pele's goals and how key he was to Brazil's ample World Cup successes. He even wades into the Messi-Ronaldo argument by proclaiming they cant be the Greatest of All Time without success internationally. 

I, respectfully, disagree with that theory. It is neither Messi's nor Ronaldo's fault they are living in an age where their compatriots cannot compete with their standard, or Spain's international dominance. There are limits to their powers, believe it or not. 

There are others who could build a worthy case for themselves for being the best player to have graced the game, Zidane, Brazilian Ronaldo, Best et al. 

But, for me, these two magicians currently plying their trade in Spain's top division are the best there ever have been, ever will be. So the next time you look up from your pint to see Messi or Ronaldo celebrating yet another hat-trick, breathe it in, soak it up, because who knows how long we have left to enjoy their magic? Messi's injury is a timely reminder that neither will be around forever. 

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Topics:
Football
Ronaldo
Lionel Messi
Cristiano Ronaldo
Barcelona
Real Madrid

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This article has been written by a member of the GiveMeSport Writing Academy and does not represent the views of GiveMeSport.com or SportsNewMedia. The views and opinions expressed are solely that of the author credited at the top of this article. GiveMeSport.com and SportsNewMedia do not take any responsibility for the content of its contributors.

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