The End of the Ronaldo-Messi Debate?


Cristiano Ronaldo may have cemented himself over Lionel Messi during the UCL quarterfinals (Courtesy of Twitter).

By Andrew Posadas

Cristiano Ronaldo may have cemented himself over Lionel Messi during the UCL quarterfinals (Courtesy of Twitter).

Ronaldo or Messi? We’ve been debating who’s better for more than a decade, losing our voices and splitting hairs over the accolades of both footballers. It’s no secret that I myself am a full-time member of Team CR7. Ronaldo is the best player of his era and the best of my generation. To me, there is no debate or discussion. Ronaldo is the better player. Period.
The critics hate his attitude. He’s too cocky. He has a “diva” personality. My response to that is simple: so what? If you could do an eighth of what Ronaldo makes look effortless on the pitch, you’d have the same mentality too.

Don’t get me wrong. I have immense respect for Messi. He is everything you want in a superstar: a confident but humble player who prefers to do the talking on the field. You won’t hear about Messi driving fancy cars or promoting his brand like Ronaldo does. It’s commendable and sincere. I’m never surprised when people tell me they’d choose Leo over Cristiano.
Those people are wrong, but their hearts are in the right place.

This is what makes the argument about who’s better such a conundrum. Two generational players, equal in skill and accumulating similar accolades.

At this point, what can be used to spice up this deliberation that isn’t so banal?

Watching them both in their second leg quarterfinal games for the Champions League brought me to a certain cogitation. What was it, you ask? One word: intangibles.
In sports, intangibles are defined as the un-teachable qualities that players posses. My favorite intangible is something all great players bear: the clutch factor.
Both Messi and Ronaldo had massive leads going into their second legs. Messi and company held a 4-1 advantage on aggregate, while Ronaldo and Madrid carried a 3-0 lead.

Then it happened. Barcelona gave up three goals against Roma of Italy. Roma showed great resolve and complete control, refusing to quit in front of their fans at home. Although the aggregate was tied 4-4, the tiebreaker is decided by which club has scored more away goals. Roma was drubbed in Spain by Barcelona. However, they did come away with one goal. This leads me to Messi. All you needed was one goal. Just one. How hard could that be? Clearly too hard for Barcelona to achieve.
I don’t want to blame Messi in particular for this collapse, but this game warrants criticism on his part. Messi had numerous chances to get his team that one goal to send them into the semifinals. He even had a free kick from 25 yards out, a distance he loves and frequently converts into an ESPN Top Ten nominee. But he didn’t.
As for Ronaldo, he and Madrid would also see their huge lead evaporate before their very eyes. They too were matched up with an Italian team, facing Juventus (the team that eliminated Barcelona in last year’s Champions League).

Tied at 3-3 on aggregate, neither team scored an away goal, leaving the door open for extra time and the possibility of penalty kicks to determine who’d advance to the semifinals. Ronaldo wasn’t lacking in scoring opportunities, barely missing out on a goal with five minutes left in the game. Then, with seconds left to spare, a cross into the box headed Ronaldo’s way. He could’ve been greedy and tried a header for a goal. Instead, he headed the ball back to his teammate for a perfect scoring chance. This led to a controversial penalty kick in Madrid’s favor, which Ronaldo put in the back of the net, ensuring Madrid’s place in the semifinals.

I know, I know: this one game shouldn’t be my main argument to thinking Ronaldo is the better player over Messi, but it is telling. In the biggest club soccer tournament in the world, the two icons faced the same amount of adversity. Now, one of them is going home. The other is on his way to winning a third straight UCL tournament. You tell me: who would you rather have with the game on the line?