The debate on the greatest, Messi or Ronaldo?
In recent times once again the never ending debate on who is the greatest footballer, Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo, has received a fresh lease of life. If there is one thing for which no football lover can come up with a definite answer, then it has to be this question. Once dubbed as 'Junior Maradona' and the legendary maestro himself acknowledging this it is a moot point if Messi has been as resourceful or pivotal in Argentina's football journey as Maradona himself. Indeed, critics would point this weak point as one big reason to put to the backburner any discussion on whether Messi has matched Maradona.
That is one side of the football debate but the same Messi has been more in the news and performer in Europe with his favourite Barcelona where he has grown and become a unshakable property over the years. The point is he delivers for the club when most needed. Why the same assuredness is missed while playing for Argentina is the unanswerable question till date. Though it is a fact he had once lead Argentina to an Olympic gold medal. But the bench mark is, as even his mentor Maradona would say, the World Cup. If Messi heard this, he would even turn around and get away from the discussion. For such is his embarrassment. The man who once announced his retirement in frustration after his country's 2016 Copa loss, to later reverse that, however would always hold his chin up for Barcelona. His football is there and there have been any number of instances when his classic runs and shots at the goal were worth framing in gold.
There was something special about this, as it happened in the latest instance in the La Liga when he struck his 500th goal for Barcelona and what is more in helping his team beat none other than its hot rival Real Madrid. They call the match El Clasico or the derby match of the league and it is considered the greatest annual sporting festival. In keeping with his image he chose the occasion to rise and shine and how! It was a title race in a way and if Madrid thought a draw put them firmly on winning the ultimate honours then came the miracle in the form of Messi in the dying seconds of the contest, a curling left footer that brooked no stopping.
It was a goal that was worth miles to go to watch and here was the man of the hour doing the impossible and firmly putting Barcelona on the track. He may have been bruised and bloodied for such were the efforts to thwart his menacing runs down the middle or his visionary skills at distributing the passes but no, nobody can stop him in his act. “We went to Bernabeu to win so that we could continue fighting for the league title. There is still a long way to go but we come back with the joy of having taken an important step,” he posted his joy in the Facebook in the aftermath.
While he shone, poor Ronaldo never seemed in the groove on this important occasion or so it seemed. Even greats have a day, not all days! Not that he failed to be in the thick of action. Indeed, reports say quite early in the match he had almost won a penalty. The crowd thought so, his team too was convinced after he was tripped in the box by Samuel Umtiti but the referee turned away. There ended the great man's effort with the focus getting glued to Messi. But Ronaldo had only days earlier outrun Messi to the 100th goal in the UEFA Champions league. The Portuguese star was the first to do so in the history of this competition and what is more he had helped his side to a semi-final entry with a hat trick to cap against Bayern Munich. In contrast, Messi's magic failed to beat the tough Juventus and the famed Barca had to quit the scene with an aggregate defeat!
So each has had a way to catch the eye and for the club they represent the prayers have always been that they should be at their striking best. If Ronaldo had set a record for himself and given the comfort for Madrid in the Champions league, then Messi alone is the reason if Barcelona is aspiring for the La Liga. As critics have pointed out, each strike of Messi not only swells his kitty but of the 500 goals he had scored 120 had come after the 75th minute of play. This indicated the importance of his strikes for it could be a match-saver or a match-winner as the latest proved. As the Barca manager put it aptly, “He is the best player for me in history and I have seen a lot of football. In modern football when everyone is tactically and physically better, he still makes the difference.” The debate on the greatest will go on as long as the two remain to serve and delight the fans the world over.