It’s the eternal question that every top player has been asked at some point over the last 15 years.
Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo?
The Argentine has finally edged ahead of the Portuguese in Ballons d’Or (six to five, courtesy of his 2019 award) but that’s hardly settled the debate once and for all.
There are international trophies (or lack thereof), style of play, playing across different leagues, and goal tallies to take into account.
And that’s before you start to weigh up Messi’s startling resemblance to an extra-terrestrial on the football pitch.
However, those who are in the best position to weigh in on the argument are those who have graced the pitch alongside them, either in the same team or against them.
Wayne Rooney has become the latest to throw his opinion into the ring and surprisingly, he’s opted for the Barcelona forward over his former teammate.
Given that he spent five years playing with Ronaldo at Manchester United, Rooney might well be expected to have been overawed by the Juventus star’s transformation at Old Trafford into an all-time great.
Instead, the trauma of his United sides trying to stop Messi in the Champions League has evidently stayed with the former England skipper and won him over.
“Ronaldo wasn’t as focused on goals when we started playing together but you could see that all he wanted was to be the best player in the world,” Rooney writes in The Times.
“He practised and practised and began to produce. Cristiano has become an incredible scorer and he and Messi are arguably the best two players the game has seen.
“But despite my friendship with Cristiano, I’d go for Messi. It’s for the same reason I loved watching Xavi and Scholes: it’s the different things in Messi’s game.
“I’ve talked about composure and I can’t remember seeing Messi score when he has hit the ball as hard as he could. He just rolls them in, makes it so easy.
“Ronaldo is ruthless in the box, a killer. But Messi will torture you before he kills you. With Messi you just get the impression he is having more fun.
“Those two have completely changed the game in terms of goalscoring numbers and I don’t think they’ll ever be matched.”
That’s exactly what Messi did in Barcelona’s victory over the Red Devils in the 2009 Champions League final. The little magician was voted Fans’ Man of the Match and scored the second goal, a leaping header that he still names to this day as among his very best.
Two years on, he found the back of the net in the showpiece once again after Rooney had cancelled out Pedro’s opener.
Dropping deep and receiving a layoff from Andres Iniesta, he needed just a handful of touches – during which no United players could get near him – before firing under Edwin van der Sar from outside the box.
Rooney is quite right; there was no other word for it than torture and almost a decade on, Messi is still mesmerising and reducing his opponents to rubble in much the same way.
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