Soccer is a universal language, that can inspire discussion between folks from all walks of life and all four corners of the globe. The debate that can inspire an opinion from just about any fan around the globe concerns the relative merits of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.
Just who is the best player of this generation?
In seasons past, when considering which player is the best, I have always sided with Ronaldo. I’ve always contended that his athleticism means he has more strings to his bow—he can score amazing headed goals—and he has the ability to drag a team to a title, just like he did with an average Portugal team at Euro 2016. Messi can’t raise his game in the same way for Argentina.
And Real Madrid weren’t the best team in Europe for many of Ronaldo’s Champions League wins, and he has a much better record in that competition—particularly in important knockout games, when it really counts.
But lately, it seems the pendulum has swung towards Messi. This season, he has scored 10 more goals in all competitions, provided nearly twice as many assists, nearly double as many key passes, and nearly three times as many dribbles. And he was injured for three weeks!
Of course, they’re playing in different leagues so it’s not an entirely fair comparison, but it is quite clear that Messi is a better all-round player right now: he loses the ball a lot less often, he has a better touch… with both feet, and he is almost certainly the best passer of the ball in the game.
The vision, the weight of pass and movement he has shown in recent weeks have been absolutely out of this world. And his leadership—something I have criticized him for in the past—in turning results around has been vital too.
Messi has scored in each of his last 9 Barcelona games and has earned twice as many Man of the Match awards as Ronaldo this season. And while Ronaldo has also been excellent… despite a slow start in Italy… the Argentine is definitely on for a Ballon d’Or winning year.
It may be impossible to definitively judge who is the better player until they have both retired and we have perspective. But unless something drastic happens, Messi is the winner of the battle.