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Football News: Football Comparisons 3 - Cristiano Ronaldo v Lionel Messi

Football Comparisons 3 - Cristiano Ronaldo v Lionel Messi
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Comparison 3 - Cristiano Ronaldo v Lionel Messi


The most talked about comparison of the last 10 years, so I thought I had better cover it, even though it has been pretty much done to death by now. That is the main problem with comparing them, so many have done it that is going to be difficult to find something new to add to the old debate! They do not even truly play the same role in their teams, with Messi more of a playmaker and Ronaldo the goal poacher nowadays.

Technically the two both have a superb first touch, it is very rare you see a ball bounce off them or slips through after they fail to control it. They are both excellent dribblers of the ball, though their main difference, the physique of the two, shines through in the way they dribble, though that is not so much in evidence these days as Ronaldo runs with the ball much less than he used to. However they do have a completely different style of dribbling, Ronaldo's is all about speed, quick footwork, fast stepovers and blasting past opponents to leave them in his wake and using his strength to ensure no defender can knock him off the ball. Messi is all about low centre of gravity and being able to twist and turn quickly, to slalom through challenges and use his lightning fast acceleration to give him a moment on the ball.

When it comes to passing, Messi is the one who does more of it due to his role in the team, Ronaldo's role is to get on the end of the pass, rather than to play it. It must be said that they have graduated to the roles that best suit their abilities, as Messi has the vision and passing range to be a playmaker, while Ronaldo is a very good passer of the ball, with excellent technique, but his vision is almost tunnel-like, as he is looking for the chance to score himself, rather than looking for the chance to play someone else in to score.

Both of them are excellent, composed goalscorers, who notch up ridiculous numbers of goals season after season. In the air Messi is surprisingly good, but he just lacks the height to win most headers, while Ronaldo is excellent in the air and could have made an old school target man, if he was not so worried about his looks. That stops him throwing his head in where it hurts at times.

Set pieces are another example of the different way of thinking of the two players. Ronaldo goes for power and swerve and only takes shots. Messi tries to pass it, whether it is a shot he is trying to place in the corner of the net or a corner, he wants to play it like a pass. Messi does have the edge here, though Ronaldo's are unstoppable when hit right, the accuracy is low and so it is rare that he gets the goal. Messi tends to take all the set pieces and he goes for accuracy. Though one area that Ronaldo stands out as far superior to Messi is penalties. It beggars belief that Messi has missed so many considering his technique and normal scoring ratio.

Both are excellent crossers of the ball, though it is very rare Ronaldo will find himself in a position to be doing the crossing these days. He is no longer the jet-heeled winger with the million step-overs that he once was. In terms of defensive awareness, neither are what they once were, both have become a little lazy when their team is out of possession. I know it is seen as saving themselves for when they get the chance to attack, but they could do much more to help their team out defensively. Or anything at all even.

Their off the ball movement is exceptional, both players are among the best, if not the best, in the world, in large part because they both read the game extremely well and know when and where to move. It is made easier for them, because they are so good, as their team-mates will look to get the ball to them at every single opportunity.

Their decision making is something that is not always top level, they both try to do too much by themselves at times. Last season in the Champions League semi-final at Anfield, Messi dragged 4 or 5 Liverpool players to him every time he had the ball but he never once had the sense to tell a team-mate to make a run off him and look to pass the ball off. Instead he would just run and run until the swarm around him took the ball off him or he got the chance to flop to the ground to try and buy a free kick. A word to his widemen to get in behind and a chipped pass into the corner could have opened up so much space, but he continued to just try and run the ball. Ronaldo is similar, but he will just look to shoot, rather than run, at every opportunity. Both of them lack that sense, less so in Messi's case to be fair, of looking where their team-mates are first and foremost. They always think mostly of what they can do. In Messi's case it does feel like he just does not trust in the ability of his team-mates to make a difference, as the current Barca team does lack special talents around him with Suarez looking a shadow of the player he was. In Ronaldo's case it is because he just wants to score and that is all he is thinking about.

That is also problem with their leadership, or lack thereof, despite Messi having the armband. Neither of them are true leaders. They do what they do and that is it. When the game is not going their way you can often see them standing hands on hips glaring at their team-mates or throwing their toys out of the pram. Something Messi is becoming more and more prone to, as his outbursts at the Copa America showed in the summer. Instead of focusing his efforts on building up his team-mates to overcome difficulties, he preferred to whine about being cheated.

Aggression is something they both lack in their game, though Ronaldo has occasionally been involved in flashpoints, Messi is more likely to sulk than respond aggressively to any rough treatment. Both tend to channel their focus into their game, rather than getting into arguments. That is probably a part of the reason they are both so incredibly composed on the ball, it is very rare that they get in a position to score and they make a hash of it. They score ridiculous numbers of goals because of it.

The pair of them cannot be faulted for their concentration, they very rarely let balls go loose or slip under their foot while their mind is on other things. Their vision is excellent, but Messi does have the edge on that, he will spend a lot of his time playing as a playmaker and using his exceptional range of passing to pick out a team-mate in a good position.

In recent years their workrate is something that could be criticised, neither of them offer much, if anything, when their team does not have the ball. Gone is the press which Messi exemplified at Barca, now he has become a passenger defensively, waiting for the ball to come to him. That is something that Ronaldo has also been guilty of for a while. In their defence, it is also about conservation of energy to enable them to be at their best when they do get the ball. In domestic matches, both players are in teams that do not need their help defensively, so it makes sense for them to save themselves, but it is in Europe that it can sometimes be a problem. More so for Messi and Barca, as he plays in a deeper role, where being bypassed by the opposition, while he stands around watching, is far more dangerous than the role Ronaldo plays up front, where he can occupy defenders simply by standing in a dangerous position.

Both of them display excellent professionalism, Ronaldo's late night loosening swims after flights have become a thing of legend, and so it is that he has to be given the edge here. It is easy to dismiss him as a preening peacock who struts around posing, but he works incredibly hard to get into the supreme condition to be able to strut.

In terms of that physical condition, Ronaldo is clearly quicker in terms of outright pace but Messi does have a slight edge in an initial burst of acceleration, which has made him able to dribble around players with such ease. While Ronaldo also has incredible acceleration, it is more of a winding up of speed, unlike Messi, who just goes, but hasn't got the real top line pace Ronaldo has to run away from defenders.

Both players are extremely strong, they are capable of knocking players out of their way to get a chance at goal. They also both have a good leap, Ronaldo is extremely good in the air, while Messi is also surprisingly good as his leap is enough to get him to most headers. Though Ronaldo's extra height does give him the edge here, Messi's aerial prowess is often overlooked as he is rarely involved in having to head the ball.

Stamina is not an issue for either player as they always conserve energy throughout a game to ensure they are full of running even at the end of a game. On top of that, they are capable of playing pretty much every game a season and rarely suffer injuries, making them amongst the most reliable players in the game.

They are two of the best players ever to play the game, both are incredibly efficient goalscorers but they are also very different in the way they play the game. It really comes down to personal preference as to which people prefer as they are both the best at what they do right now. Ronaldo is the best out and out goalscorer there is, but he is not going to get much involved in setting up the play or linking up. He is a penalty box predator. Messi, while still scoring insane amounts of goals, is more of a playmaker who wants to get on the ball and create as much as score. Choosing between them is like choosing between tea and coffee, the only real difference is which flavour you like more.


Suggested by Deependra & Singh

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Written by Tris Burke August 03 2019 12:55:16


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