Football’s greatest grudge takes fresh twist

Football’s greatest grudge takes fresh twist

By TomTom – Your SatNav around Football


Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi – a tale of two sportsmen, both alike in ability, a duel which many thought was done but last night bore new mutiny.

Ronaldo’s late winner against the Czech Republic meant a semi-final place for Portugal but for Ronaldo it meant something else, and you sense, something more.

This was Ronaldo’s moment of vindication and didn’t he half grab it.

For more than a year now Ronaldo has endured the torment of being cast aside as an inferior, the supporting actor in Messi’s masterpiece, powerless to his rival’s relentless ability to consistently perform on the big stage.

And as Messi danced in the spotlight, there were signs backstage Ronaldo was giving in.

First Ronaldo petulantly claimed he played better than Messi last season and more recently he bitterly (and incorrectly) told how the Argentinian was out of the Copa America this time last year.

Both comments were dismissed as the desperate squeals of a sulking schoolboy.

Messi had all but won. The history books were being written, the statues carved and the trophies engraved.

And then all of a sudden Ronaldo did what he should have done all along, he began talking with his £80m feet.

He scored two goals against Holland to secure Portugal’s passage into the quarter finals before heading home the winner last night against Czech Republic.

“This could be Ronaldo’s tournament!” yelled the commentator. Ronaldo’s Euros, now that really would make people sit up and listen.

Two criticisms are frequently levelled at Ronaldo: the first, he doesn’t do it for Portugal and the second, he doesn’t do it in the big games.

Great players should be judged on their international as well as domestic performance. Zidane, Maradona, Pele, Beckenbauer, Charlton all hoisted their countries on their shoulders and carried them to glory.

But when the world has been watching Ronaldo has disappointed.  He is now starting to rectify that.

Messi has scored just three goals in his four major international tournaments since the 2006 World Cup including blanks in his last two, at the 2011 Copa America and the 2010 World Cup.

Ronaldo came into Euro 2012 on the same total but has now added three to his tally in just two games, last night’s goal his 6th in four tournaments since 2006.

Another accusation thrown at Ronaldo is that he fails to perform in the big games.

When big games are taken to mean Champions League finals, Copa del Rey finals, any El Classicos and any knockout matches of a major international tournament, Ronaldo has played in 17 big games whilst playing for Portugal and Real Madrid.

He has now scored in 7. That means Ronaldo scores in 41% of the big games he plays in. Not bad for a choker.

Messi meanwhile, by the same criteria and in the same period of time, has played in 21 big games.

He has also scored in 7. Messi therefore scores in 33% of the big games he plays in, an impressive record, but 8% less than Ronaldo.

The notion then that Ronaldo is a flat-track bully, a prima donna who goes missing on the big occasions, is factually incorrect.

Where Messi wins out is in the Champions League.

His 51 goals in 68 matches is the equivalent of scoring in 75% of his European matches, a staggering statistic given the competition is widely regarded as the most technically challenging platform in modern football.

Ronaldo, 38 in 83, comes in with a hardly sluggish 48% but as he well  knows, we are not dealing here with standard measurements.

In all other areas there is very little to separate. Messi’s superior number of major honours is to be expected given his, not insignificant, association with one of the greatest club sides ever to play the game while his slightly superior goal and assist tally in La Liga last year is noteworthy but not entirely revealing.

Like any form of art the greats are often separated by taste rather than technique and there is always something inane about trying to quantify artistic brilliance.

Nobody asserts Van Gogh was a better painter than Monet because of the number of colours he used or the thickness of his brush strokes.

But rightly or wrongly football is obsessed with status. The sport is littered with competitive sub-plots: Mourinho and Guardiola, Shankly and Ferguson, Pele and Maradona, Brazil 1970 and Spain 2010.

These are the stories that make the sport so compelling and Ronaldo and Messi are football’s latest protagonists.

But what Ronaldo has done at Euro 2012 should not be underestimated. He has answered his critics, dispelled prevailing myths and crucially, he has reignited, revalidated and revitalised the debate.

Ronaldo’s Euros – it does have a nice ring to it. Over to you Lio.

Goals last year Club Assists last year Champions League Goal Ratio Big game goals Major International Goals Major Career Honours
Ronaldo 46 12 0.47 41% 6 7
Messi 50 15 0.75 33% 3 10


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About TomTom
“Having studied English at university and always been a keen footballer and fan, combining the two has always appealed to me.” - Tom Lytton-Dickie. -"I'm a recently qualified journalist and I've worked in newspapers and broadcasting. I'm a dedicated follower of all sports primarily football, tennis and cricket." Tom Allnutt

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