Cristiano Ronaldo or Lionel Messi? Peter Drury's poetic answer in 2020

  • Kobe Tong
Messi and Ronaldo in 2018.

Cristiano Ronaldo or Lionel Messi: who is the better footballer?

It’s the age-old question which has bewildered football fans for years upon years and continues to symbolise just how lucky we are to inhabit an era where two of the greatest players in history are competing simultaneously.

We’ll look back in 20, 30, 40 years’ time at the dazzling days of Ronaldo and Messi going toe-to-toe in their primes for Real Madrid and Barcelona and no doubt decree that football peaked there and then.

Messi or Ronaldo?

However, the downside to Ronaldo and Messi sharing the same generation is indeed that aforementioned question because both superstars have been compared and contrasted at every twist and turn.

Whether it’s university studies, statistical breakdowns or YouTube analyses, every method and medium under the sun has been used to try and answer the eternal footballing debate.

But most of the time, the closest we ever come to establishing how Ronaldo and Messi truly compare to one another is through personal opinions as the English language can far better articulate the nuances of the question than a spreadsheet ever could.

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The poetry of Peter Drury

And few figures in football boast a mastery of words quite like Peter Drury, who is revered by many as the finest commentator in the beautiful game right now.

You know you’re a top-class broadcaster when everyone knows your name and Drury seldom goes a single week without going viral for his latest Shakespearan reaction behind the microphone.

However, it was actually away from the gantry and in a relaxed interview setting where he himself was facing the questions when Drury most famously gave his two cents on the Ronaldo vs Messi debate.

Lionel Messi merchandise
Lionel Messi merchandise

Drury’s superb Messi vs Ronaldo answer

During a 2020 interview by Nana Aba Anamoah, the broadcasting favourite beautifully broke down the greatness of the two icons before concluding which he thought had the edge.

Drury eloquently reflected: “We’ve been fortunate to have careers running parallel of possibly the two greatest players there have ever been.

“And the interesting thing about them is that they are, while both brilliant, actually quite different. 

“You know, Ronaldo’s capacity for leaping and scoring with his head is phenomenal. I mean, he is an Olympic high-jumper and an Olympic sprinter.

“He delivers a cross, he scores with both sides and his head. He is brilliant, but if you asked me who I would want to watch if I had to watch one or the other every day for the rest of my life, I’d pick Messi.”

Video: Drury’s poetic answer on Messi vs Ronaldo

When asked why he would lean towards Messi , Drury added: “Because he appears to do what is impossible. 

“He plays off his left foot, he almost doesn’t need a right foot – mind you, he can score perfectly well with his right foot – but he weaves through spaces that don’t exist. He’s like a slippery eel.

“They can’t get hold of him. He sort of defies physics. 

“Ronaldo looks like an athlete, doesn’t he? I mean, he is a remarkable specimen of a human being; Messi looks like the boy next door and performs like a god.”

Ronaldo and Messi in action.
Soccer Football – Champions League – Group G – FC Barcelona v Juventus – Camp Nou, Barcelona, Spain – December 8, 2020 FC Barcelona’s Lionel Messi in action with Juventus’ Cristiano Ronaldo REUTERS/Albert Gea

Drury picks Messi

Look, even if you disagree with Drury and think that Ronaldo is the better player, you’ve got to admit that his response is one of the most articulate and persuasive answers that anyone in football has ever laid down.

There is, after all, a certain imperceptible aura that surrounds Messi and the way he plays football that pervades a feeling of raw, untamed genius that has neither a source nor terminus.

Ronaldo, by contrast, seems more plausible and explainable – and possible, I guess – as a phenomena by way of achieving his greatness through grit and determination and playing his football in a more conventional fashion.

Cristiano Ronaldo
Cristiano Ronaldo

Of course, Messi too works astonishingly hard just as Ronaldo also has moments of inexplicable uniqueness, but it is in the former’s je ne sais quoi that so many fans find a pleasure in his football that they just can’t get from Ronaldo.

It’s a feeling to which Drury can seemingly relate.

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