Lionel Messi is a freak of nature, an extra-terrestrial, and it’s almost impossible to find new words to describe his genius. That is unless of course unless you actually invent new dictionary excerpts to describe the electrifying Argentine.
Yesterday’s Champions League round of 16 first leg tie against holding Premier League champions Manchester City served to enhance the legend of arguably the finest footballer to ever take to a football pitch and while it didn’t really come as a surprise to anyone that Messi was once again the man to seize the moment in a massive game, the fixture played the role of a stark reminder of the differences between him and his supposedly eternal rival Cristiano Ronaldo.
Messi vs ronaldo
Real Madrid’s Ronaldo and Barcelona’s Messi have been somewhat of an obsession for the media over the last few years given the alarming and unprecedented rate at which both have taken to scoring goals.
This obsession with their goal scoring ratio essentially created a realm of comparison where the better player fundamentally had to be the one who scored more goals over the course of the season, or year depending on your metric of choice.
Messi vs Man City
Against the Citizens however, Messi reminded the world for probably the millionth time why he actually is the best player on the face of the planet, and how his game stands out from Ronaldo’s.
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The clash made for a perfect sample, because it highlighted all his flaws, as well as his unbeatable best. As if we all needed a reminder of the blatantly obvious, Messi showed, and not for the first time this season, that he is not as good a penalty taker as his Portuguese counterpart.
His follow up header, screwed wide from 5-yards out also reminded us that the favourite son of Argentina cannot use his head as well as Ronaldo, who coincidentally scored a bullet header against Elche last weekend.
While Messi’s header was an uncharacteristic miss, it highlighted an essential difference between Messi and Ronaldo. Messi opted for precision on the header, choosing to bury it to the far left and far away from a Joe Hart stuck to the far right of his goal.
Sure, it failed this time, but this is the kind of instinctive precision that has come to characterise Messi’s career and one which separates him from Ronaldo’s preferred element of choice; power.
The way Messi dictated the game however, was the key component of what puts him above any player on the planet. While he may have not recorded a goal or an assist, Messi was the man of the match in many people’s eyes, including on Whoscored.com, and even in the most biased set of eyes was at least the second best player on the pitch.
Light work of City
The way he made easy work of City defenders Martin Demichelis, Vincent Kompany, Pable Zabaleta, and especially Gael Clichy was simply elegantly magisterial, as he created space and chances for teammates.
This is the level of dictatorship that has come to symbolise Messi’s game. Almost everything productive that Barcelona does starts with Messi’s brilliance or more often than not ends with his brilliance.
And while Ronaldo can boast of having the latter aspect of the game nailed down, he certainly cannot claim to be the kind of move initiating force that is Messi, and that is where the former's game eclipses the latter's.