Cristiano Ronaldo v Lionel Messi: Mourinho's compelling 2012 response on the debate

Cristiano Ronaldo v Lionel Messi: Mourinho's compelling 2012 response on the debate

Cristiano Ronaldo will, without question, go down as one of the greatest footballers ever to play the game. 

However, thanks to the presence of a certain Lionel Messi, plenty will argue that the Portuguese superstar isn’t even the best player of his generation. 

With seven Ballon d’Or crowns to his name compared to Ronaldo’s five, Barcelona legend Messi does have the edge when it comes to individual honours in the GOAT debate.

Jose Mourinho, who managed Ronaldo during his time as Real Madrid boss, doesn’t believe that tally is a fair reflection of the performances of the pair over the years – arguing back in 2012 that his player worked far harder than Messi on the pitch.

Although he first came to international prominence with Manchester United, Ronaldo was at his brilliant best while plying his trade at the Bernabeu. Scoring a staggering 450 goals in 438 appearances to become Los Blancos’ record goalscorer, his impact in the Spanish capital was unprecedented.

Mourinho only worked with Ronaldo for three seasons between 2010 and 2013. However, during that spell, the pair managed to win a La Liga title and a Copa del Rey trophy together as Real’s key man helped himself to 168 goals in 164 games.

Ronaldo at Real Madrid in 2012

That impressive strike rate was eventually enough for Ronaldo to claim a second career Ballon d’Or in 2013, breaking a three-year streak of Messi successes.

That trio of wins for the Argentine did not sit well with Mourinho, who insisted the Ronaldo deserved greater recognition when it came to France Football’s grandest honour.

In a 2012 interview with A Bola, the ‘Special One’ suggested that critics needed to take a look at the different paths that Messi and Ronaldo had taken to footballing glory before considering who was truly the greatest.

Mourinho probably isn’t the most impartial observer, but it’s tough to dismiss his analysis here.

Jose Mourinho’s fascinating answer on the Messi v Ronaldo debate

“It would be a crime for Cristiano to not win the Ballon d’Or. And I keep saying it’s harder to be Cristiano than Lionel Messi,” said Mourinho, per The Independent.

“I’ll tell you: Messi grew up in the team he plays for now; with the teammates he plays with now. Cristiano came from England to a team that was losing. He had to grow up in the past two years with this team in construction.

Lionel Messi at Barcelona in 2012

“One plays centre forward and the other is a winger. Messi is about 50 metres closer to the goal and has less defensive work. How can a winger score the same amount of goals as a centre forward does?

“This is a winger that defends, a winger that ends the game in the 94th minute with a sprint to chase Pedro in a goal scoring position. This is a player that, in dead ball situations, comes 20 times to the defensive area.

“He is very important to the defensive set up. He is a player that isn’t protected by nothing or nobody. It’s much, much harder.”

Video of Mourinho making his comments re-emerged on social media in celebration of his 59th birthday – and you can check the clip out below.

Video: Mourinho favours Ronaldo over Messi in GOAT debate in 2012 interview

The Messi v Ronaldo debate is, of course, a subjective one. Every football fan will have their own view. With that said, Jose put forward a compelling point for consideration, which still remains relevant a decade later. 

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