It is one of the most commonly asked, controversial, yet interesting questions inside and outside the world of football; it can even break a placid man into a heated argument - so, who is the better player, Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo?
I'm sure the majority of you, whether you are football fans or not, have already firmly locked in your answer to that question - if you distinguish them by stats or if it is down to the fact that you prefer who Messi plays for as opposed to Ronaldo, the truth is, there are many ways to compare and contrast them.
The first, and foremost way to try and draw a line between these two players is the honours that they have received. Messi clearly outshines the number seven here; whether it be individual accolades or team trophies, the Argentine reels in prize after prize as opposed to the one or two Ronaldo receives.
In fact since the Portuguese international has arrived at Real Madrid, Messi has claimed 13 trophies, whereas Ronaldo could only scoop a measly three.
You may think this is down to the teams they play in and you may well be right, but Messi has won the prestigious Ballon d'Or award for the last four consecutive seasons, since Ronaldo's sole victory in 2008.
The infamous statistics can also be used too; the Portuguese attacker has notched 201 goals since joining Real Madrid up until the beginning of this season, however the Barcelona maestro has clocked 233 in the same space of time.
Lionel's 79 assists completely outweigh Cristiano's 47 too. Stats can't answer every question however, and they definitely shouldn't be solely used to gauge a player's performance.
The players' individual qualities that they bring to the game are an important factor too. The physical presence that Ronaldo offers is second to none compared to that of Messi's. At 6 ft 2, the number seven's strength, speed and aerial threat can quite often lead to him single-handedly destroying a team.
Ronaldo is also probably one of the most feared dead ball specialists in the game today, the sheer power and ability to move the ball in all manner of directions is a trait that few players can match. He can even make the most confident keeper feel giddy in the legs as he takes up his trademark stance over the ball. Cristiano's skill and technique cannot be questioned, however he can be guilty of making one step-over too many or a bit of flamboyance and showmanship that wasn't necessary at all; consequently leading to his team loosing possession.
Messi on the other hand has a near perfect combination of speed, balance, intelligence and technique which gifts him with the uncanny ability to sprint into a crowd of players and emerge the other side with the ball still at his feet; it's like the ball was born at his feet. It may be the setup of each team or the fact that Ronaldo feels too big for his boots as team play seems to be minimal with the number 7; often guilty of trying to do too much on his own when using a team mate might have been a better option. Messi on the other is rarely criticised of holding onto the ball, although the environment in which he plays in is rich in passing.
Recent performances, however, can boost Cristiano's credentials, and may suggest that the tide is turning in his favour. It did seem that anything Ronaldo can do, Messi could do better, but this may not be the case anymore. Currently, Ronaldo is ahead in the statistics with 10 more goals than his rival in all competitions. The Madrid star has been sensational for his club and country while Lionel Messi has been finding goals hard to come by after only managing 2 goals so far this month as opposed to Ronaldo's 9. As Ronaldo continues to glow after netting his 14th goal in the Champions League, which breaks Messi's record of most goals in a calendar year in that competition, and scoring all three goals to take his country to the World Cup finals in Brazil next year, many are warming to the idea that Ronaldo is in fact right now, the best player on the planet.
It has long been argued that Ronaldo is the better all-round player, with more strength, aerial ability and variety in his game. Though it can be countered by the fact that it does not matter to be well-rounded as you only have to play in one position. The Portuguese international also has the advantage that he has proved that he can compete in more than one division as he has been so impressive in the Premier League, which is arguably the hardest league in the world, with Manchester United. But then again Messi has delivered in the Champions league against many of the top clubs and is the second all-time top scorer in the competition.
Finally there is also the factor that Messi is given goals on a plate as the players he has around him are world class, whereas Ronaldo has to create a lot of his own chances and score from harder positions as some of the players in his team do not possess such abilities as Iniesta or Xavi. This could possibly point to a reason why Messi can be seen as a better player than Ronaldo as the Argentine plays with better players. It may be down to his kind-nature but Messi always attributes the Ballon d'Or award he has won for the past four seasons to his team-mates, Xavi and Iniesta, suggesting that without them he would be nowhere.
If we want to settle this debate once and for all Messi may need to move abroad to play in another league in order to silence his critics, or produce the goods on the world stage next year in Brazil. Barcelona's number 10 is the younger of the pair and there is no denying over what a sensational player he is. There may never be a definitive answer, as when one player performs superbly the other one delivers an even better performance, however at this moment in time, the recent form of Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo is outweighing the efforts of his rival and is drawing attention; consequently making people re-think their initial decision, as the debate continues over two of the greatest players of this generation.
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