Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo have been a privilege to watch... their rivalry has pushed them to greater and greater heights
Jamie Carragher wrote a lovely piece about Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo some time ago. He compared their rivalry to the greatest in sport – Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost, John McEnroe and Bjorn Borg – and said that it was made even greater by the fact they didn’t get on. He said this animosity was what inspired them to ever greater heights and hoped that, at the end of their careers, they would acknowledge this and become friends. Didn’t work for Pele and Diego Maradona, mind you, but hey ho.
Anyway, at the weekend, on the eve of the Ballon D’Or, I wrote that recent tensions at Barcelona suggested Messi was not the low maintenance gem of popular legend, and may be closer in temperament to the demanding Ronaldo than we had ever imagined. On the field, the perfect gentleman; off it, to be handled as carefully as any other everyday genius.
As ever, any mention of Ronaldo and Messi turns into a popularity contest. Press green, press red – one can do no wrong, the other can only be despised. Why can’t we accept the greatness of both? Remember the Britpop wars? Oasis versus Blur. I never understood why appreciation had to be mutually exclusive. Then again, if I’m honest, when did Oasis ever do anything as good as this?
No right thinking person would sacrifice Lionel Messi for Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Why would they? Cdemoneya, Houston.
What's wrong with Messi asking to play in the middle? He didn't ask the coach to drop Ibrahimovic. It's not Messi's fault if Ibrahimovic can't adapt to a new position. My City, United Kingdom.
The inclusion of the anecdote in which Ibrahimovic blames Messi in part for his failure at Barcelona, wasn’t about Pep Guardiola making a wrong choice between players, but was included for the detail in the phrase ‘but then Messi started to talk’. It suggests Messi is not averse to exerting his authority, or using his power at the club to get what he wants. And, yes, given the choice between keeping Messi happy and accommodating Ibrahimovic in his preferred position – for me, too, it’s Messi all the way.
People keep trailing this selfish tag about Ronaldo, but he has the most assists in La Liga this season. He helps the team far more than people think. Fuller29, Stoke on Trent.
Agreed. As of now, Ronaldo has 26 goals to Messi’s 16, and nine assists to Messi’s eight – both totals top of the charts.
Lionel Messi is hoisted aloft by Barcelona team-mates after becoming La Liga's all-time top scorer
Cristiano Ronaldo waltzes past Ruben Mesa of Atletico Madrid during the Copa del Rey defeat this month
When was the last time Messi got mad at Neymar or Luis Suarez for not passing it to him? He’s always calm and actually happy when his teammates score. Bullseyex99x, Toronto.
That was sort of my point. Messi’s image stems from his behaviour on the field, whereas the present situation at Barcelona would suggest he is not as easy going behind closed doors.
I still think it’s funny that Messi started following Chelsea on Instagram when Luis Enrique had the gall to bench him. Sao Paulo Blue, Sao Paulo.
Not exactly subtle, was he?
Ronaldo versus Messi? Manuel Neuer deserved this year’s trophy. Trick, London.
He merits a place in the top three, I agree, and I know that a case could be made for him bringing a new element to football with his sweeper-like performances in the World Cup. I do feel the Ballon D’Or should be the preserve of the world’s greatest footballer, a player people pay to see. As good as Neuer is, nobody pays to see the goalkeeper. Not if Messi or Ronaldo are around, certainly.
Manuel Neuer hoists his arms aloft after Germany clinch the World Cup in Brazil with a win over Argentina
Neuer, widely regarded as the finest goalkeeper in the game, saves strongly from Karim Benzema in Brazil
There was one low maintenance genius called Sachin Tendulkar. Call Saul, London.
No there wasn’t, if you speak to people who knew the inner workings of cricket in India at the time.
Why the heck is the British media always against Messi? Is it because he hasn't moved here and played for an English club? Don’t you know that Messi started with Barcelona's academy when he was 12 or 13. Get over it. You cannot compare Messi to Ronaldo. Messi’s assists, goals and dribbles led Argentina to the World Cup finals. What did Ronaldo do? Modernlife90, London.
I love the way you presume to lecture on the most familiar background information on Messi, as if we’re all idiots, and then can’t even be bothered to identify the age at which he arrived at La Masia. He was 13, for the record. As for those assists, goals and dribbles that are apparently missing from Ronaldo’s game, he used them to get his country to the World Cup finals just the same as Messi. Ronaldo’s problem is that he is not blessed with team-mates such as Angel di Maria, Sergio Aguero and Javier Mascherano so, once there, Portugal struggle. He cannot do it all alone. The incredible influence he has on Portugal was illustrated when Paulo Bento, the coach, rested him for a European Championship qualifying match against Albania. Portugal lost.
Ronaldo celebrates after picking up the Ballon d'Or for the second season in succession
Portugal slumped to defeat in European Championship qualifying against Albania with Ronaldo rested
Messi is one of the good guys. I don't recall him saying that he wanted to be Mother Theresa. In a world of Sepp Blatter and Ched Evans, only a certified idiot would choose to do a character assassination job on him based upon some strange assumption that - shock, horror – he isn't whiter than white. Sports writers need to write less soap opera and more facts. You guys obsess over trivia and then accuse your readers of wanting more of this mean spirited nonsense. Messi and Ronaldo both wield power because they are special talents. From politics to music to football that's how the real world works. Railwayboyz , Crewe.
And only a buffoon would regard the mounting speculation that Messi could leave Barcelona – which he added to with his cryptic comments about his future at the Ballon D’Or – as trivia. We are talking one of the greatest players – ever – and the possibility he may leave Barcelona to play in England. Personally, I don’t see it happening, but enough people whose knowledge I respect are entertaining the prospect for me to take it seriously. As for character assassinations, pointing out that Messi is capable of throwing a strop hardly amounts to assault. When I go for it, believe me, you’ll know the difference.
There is no doubt that Messi is a football genius but he gets away with murder on the field as anyone who witnessed his near decapitation of the Atletico Madrid goalkeeper Miguel Angel Moya on Sunday knows. A certain red card for anyone else, no doubt. Shedender, Kingsbridge.
It was a high foot, but I’m not sure a red card, for Messi or any other player. I really don’t see Messi getting away with murder, either. I think he is impeccably behaved on the field and always has been.
Messi duels for the ball with Atletico keeper Miguel Angel Moya at the Nou Camp
Ronaldo and Messi await the announcement in Zurich as the rivals wait for the start of the ceremony
The way it looks to me is that at Real Madrid everyone is doing the hard work building chances, but leaving Ronaldo to finish with minimum energy. If you put him in a side with ordinary players around him he would struggle to score as he is aging. Messi has a bit more. David Chaps, Manchester.
So in 2005-06, Manchester United finished eight points behind Chelsea because no player could match the goalscoring capability of Frank Lampard in midfield. The following season, Ronaldo scored 23 goals and United won the league; then he scored 42; then 26. Take Ronaldo away and Chelsea would have dominated that period in the English game. Equally, Real Madrid won the Champions League last season propelled by Ronaldo’s record-breaking 17 goals in the competition. He is in an ordinary side with Portugal yet has still scored 52 times in 118 games. Add to this the fact he leads the La Liga table in assists, too, and your idea he hangs around waiting for tap-ins while his team-mates do all the work is entirely bogus.
A prima-donna is 'a very temperamental person with an inflated view of their own talent or importance'. Perhaps the pair of them think they are worth more than they are, but neither can inflate their talent as they are by far the best in the world at what they do. Timmy Wa, Bedfordshire.
I know, Timmy. You won’t find the word ‘prima-donna’ in the column, only the headline. I have explained on a number of occasions how headline writing is about display and often uses short-hand terms to explain a wider point. Prima-donna is not a word I would use about either Messi or Ronaldo, but as I was writing about their high maintenance attitudes, I can understand why it might have been deemed suitable in context.
In the year of the World Cup, performance in that tournament should matter most. Messi led a very average Argentina side to a final, while Ronaldo couldn’ t get out the group stages. That about sums it up. Sefikatt, United Kingdom.
Indeed it does, if you forget about the teams both men had around them. By your reckoning, George Best, Ryan Giggs and George Weah would all be classed as inadequate for not even getting there.
Ronaldo hands the microphone to Messi on stage after the duo were both selected to 2014 FIFPro World XI
Ronaldo now has three Ballon D'Or gongs to his name, with Messi ahead on four
Messi is a prima donna? I have never seen Messi behave like Ronaldo – taking his shirt off to pose like a gorilla, advertising underwear, shaving his eyebrows, celebrating a goal in the Champions League final like the win was dependent on him or throwing his arm in the air just to whatever. Shall I carry on with more or… Trublue, London.
Shut up? No, I’d shut up. With that last phrase ‘throwing his arm in the air just to whatever’ you were clearly at an intellectual limit. I wouldn’t test it further if I were you.
I prefer watching Messi. I don't like strutting peacocks and Ronaldo always seems to give that impression. Hackop, Blandford.
You are missing a great player, Hackop. One of the finest of this, or any other, generation. I think the poster below has the right idea.
I don’t support Real Madrid or Barcelona, but I do make sure I take some time out to watch these teams play so, like many, we can tell our children and grandchildren that we saw the greatest footballers of this generation. Rodeo996 , London.
I agree. I feel privileged to have watched these players throughout their careers and their rivalry has only pushed them to greater and greater heights.
Messi is a great player for Barcelona only. He’s a coward. He's too afraid to see if his talent can be applied to a team not built around him since kindergarten. He will never leave Barcelona. Ronaldo is the true king, two feet, head and massive balls. He can carry a team on his shoulders, and doesn’t need everything built around him. Ej595, London.
There is nothing cowardly about Messi at all. Running at opponents as he does, constantly wanting the ball, taking the initiative to win the game – that’s as brave as a footballer can get.
Lionel Messi grapples with Real Rociedad's Inigo Martinez (left) and Esteban Granero
When you're as good as Messi, surely the guy is allowed to have an ego. Samibb, Manchester.
Of course. That was my point. What is unrealistic is the belief that a footballer as talented as Messi would not be the type to play hard ball behind the scenes. The column was about our air-brushed perception of him, and the way that saintliness is always contrasted with Ronaldo’s dastardliness.
Poor article based on nothings and apparent allegations. The author is talking about something he really has no idea about. I think Martin's anti-Barcelona feelings are coming out here. Richard, Northamptonshire.
Alternately, maybe Martin reads the news which has been full of stories about the rift between Messi and the present Barcelona hierarchy, confirmed by his comment at the Ballon D’Or. Maybe Martin speaks to a few people close to that scene, too. Martin finds it ironic that it is always the people who have no idea what is going on, that allege ignorance in others.
No one can act forever. If Messi is really this way it would show on the pitch. As you can see, Messi has agreed to play a deeper role this season due to a lack of midfield creativity at Barcelona, despite knowing it would affect his scoring rate compared to Ronaldo. Yash94, India.
That makes him a good team player. It doesn’t mean he is a doormat in his dealings with the hierarchy.
Messi celebrates with team-mates Luis Suarez (left) and Neymar during Barca's win over Atletico Madrid
Messi loves football and Cristiano does not know what love is. Anybody who doesn't understand that is probably a Manchester United fan or Real Madrid fan. Messi reminds me of Rivaldo. I know he was a fan of the player. I guess Ronaldo looked up to Ryan Giggs and his antics, and of course David Beckham with his fame circus, while Messi was influenced by geniuses who were not so media friendly. Figure that one out. Google Rivaldo: what a legend on and off the pitch. It is so obvious that Ronaldo is a spoilt brat who needs articles like this. When have you ever seen Messi cry over losing a game, hurt anyone intentionally or drop to the floor. The people can't get enough of cool, genius entertainers like Messi, but the media prefer the one that is a bit of a wreck and cries if he can't get tap-ins. The difference is one is a little boy, the other a real man: especially coming from Argentina with all the gangs and drug abused youngsters. Ozil, London.
He arrived at super-wealthy Barcelona football club at 13, so heaven knows what the more impoverished sectors of Argentine society have to do with anything; he wouldn’t know the first thing of them. And I don’t know where you lot get the Ronaldo tap-in theories from. He scored one of the bravest headers I have ever seen for Manchester United against Roma. As for that twaddle about Rivaldo, I don’t need to Google him, I saw him live. Meaning I remember the play-acting at the 2002 World Cup that got him banned. You see, nobody’s perfect, despite your embarrassing fanboy rhetoric.
‘Lionel Messi is a prima donna just like Cristiano Ronaldo... the Barcelona star just hides it better’. This is an article. Someone actually sat down, and wrote this. Wow. ImInIt, New York.
Yes. And then you not only read it, you sent a post about it. What a busy life you must lead. Look, mate, I know my articles can help fill up the day for the unemployed or unemployable, but shouldn’t you be out at least looking for work?
And how many times has Ronaldo shot when he should have passed? This ego-galactico philosophy has hindered Real Madrid many times and will do so again. Cartz, London.
Why not write to them, setting out where they are going wrong. When they’re done winning La Liga this season, I am sure they’ll get back to you.
Ronaldo connects with Paul Scholes' cross to score a bullet header against Roma in the Eternal City
Rivaldo was fined a meagre sum for this disgraceful play-acting during Brazil's defeat of Turkey in 2002
You speak on the topic as though it were absolute. Either Messi has no ego or he is an egomaniac like CR7. In fact he is somewhere in between: not perfect but by no means consumed by ego to the same degree. Messi has let his team-mates take penalties to end a scoring drought and never chastises or humiliates them during matches. There are plenty of humble geniuses, such as Albert Einstein or Rafael Nadal. Messi uses his influence to his advantage when he feels it will help the team win, whereas Ronaldo appears to use it to promote his brand. I can safely say that Messi is far more humble than anyone else would be in his position, not least his greatest rival. Lemar, Chad.
You criticise Ronaldo for becoming a brand and then use his brand name, CR7. So much knowledge is presumed here: Einstein, Nadal, Ronaldo, Messi. Let’s just take Einstein. Lemar. Nobody rewrites the theories of modern physics without having rather a hot tip for themselves. Einstein made requests of Presidents, he composed a manifesto with Bertrand Russell, one of the foremost modern philosophers. He might not have walked around with a sandwich board proclaiming ‘ALBERT EINSTEIN – GENIUS’ but he wasn’t some humble little mouse. Nobody reaches the top of their profession by sitting in the corner waiting to be discovered. I wasn’t talking about Messi the footballer and his behaviour towards his team-mates, but Messi the politician behind the scenes at Barcelona. Two very different men, apparently.
Sticking to facts and not assumptions and perceptions would have been ideal. Most footballers have a prima donna tendency but throwing tantrums on the pitch takes it to another level. When an influential player does it, there is a tendency by the crowd to turn against the culprit. Gareth Bale is being booed now because he did not make the right pass out of so many passes he makes in a match. I believe how Messi carries himself on the pitch is what makes him a better role model than most footballers. Last Kuenda, Zimbabwe.
I see. So your opinions are facts and the rest of us make assumptions. I am sure Bale is unhappy that Ronaldo made his displeasure so plain, but he isn’t the first and won’t be the last to do that. As the player with the most goals and assists in La Liga, probably his team-mates will learn to live with it.
Rubbish. Ronaldo will always be remembered as a diving, moaning player with an ego the size of Everest who has to have the whole team behind him or sulks like a baby. Messi on the other hand will be remembered as one of the greats when he retires. Toon1970, Whitley Bay.
Do you know there were Beatles fans in the Sixties who didn’t like the Rolling Stones? They missed out on a lot. They missed out on this.
The difference between Messi and Ronaldo is that Messi is compared with Diego Maradona and Pele while Ronaldo is compared to Messi. So Ronaldo is the king, while Messi is God. Henry007, London.
Or, looked at another way, Messi is South American like the two players you mentioned, and has a similar style and physique, while Ronaldo is more athletically modern. As for kings and Gods, until recently I have always written Messi and Ronaldo, as it seems to fit – like Lennon and McCartney. In the last year or so, however, it hasn’t felt right – as if it should be Ronaldo and Messi. I’d venture the pecking order has changed.
Ronaldo is stronger, faster, better in the air, has a more powerful shot, defends more for the team and most importantly of all can actually use his weaker foot. Messi is a genius and undoubtedly one of the best ever, but player versus player Ronaldo is by far the more complete. Halftime Hooch, Luton.
I wouldn’t be as strident as that, Hooch, but I would say Ronaldo’s free-kicks are unique and his aerial strength superior. I wouldn’t say that makes him ‘by far’ the better player though.
This whole thing about Bale not passing is going way over the top. He didn't get booed because he failed to pass to Ronaldo, he got booed because he was being greedy for the second league game in a row and missed the goal both times. MichLUFC, West Yorkshire.
Indeed, Mich. I just think that Ronaldo doesn’t help with his dramas sometimes.
Ronaldo screams at Gareth Bale after the Welsh forward opted not to pass to the Portuguese
Anyone who is the best exhibits a level of entitlement and rightly. I'd rather be on the same team as a winner like Messi or Ronaldo than Nicklas Bendtner who was equally arrogant but won nothing. In any case, I appreciate Messi's ability to rein in his ego in many situations - it shows tact and respect for his fellow professionals. InquisitiveOne, Midlands.
I agree with all of that. And none of this.
Ronaldo has become more self-obsessed, if that's possible. It must be really frustrating for the other Real Madrid players, trying to express themselves when they are just supposed to pander to him. He's like a greedy child, always wanting to be fed. Outer31, Livingston.
Yes, but on the days when they feel like that they could always go home and look at that shiny Champions League winners’ medal, wonder whether they would have won it without the guy that scored 17 goals in the campaign, and then shut the hell up.
Ronaldo will turn the fans against Bale because it's all about him and only him. I think there is jealousy because Bale has taken Madrid to another level. It shows in what they have won since he joined and it is a shame their fans are too stupid to see this. FreeReader, Buckinghamshire.
I don’t think you can ignore Ronaldo’s incredible contribution to the Champions League campaign last season. It is too simplistic to put it solely down to the addition of Bale. He has justified the enormous price paid, certainly, but I think what Carlo Ancelotti is getting out of a group of super-talented individuals is also hugely important.
Messi is not a saint. His past reveals players like Thierry Henry and Ibrahamovic not being able to fulfil their talent to accommodate him, whereas a player like Bale is prospering next to Ronaldo. The fact is Ronaldo is open in his wants and needs. I would prefer that over a sly politician any day. Qasim Cheema, Pakistan.
I have no idea whether Ibrahimovic’s conspiracy theories are true. Since I wrote the column, however, a journalist friend has told me of the very famous Premier League manager, with a very famous friend at Barcelona, who regaled the chaps during the summer tour with tales of what a nightmare Messi could be away from the cameras. It was all off the record and he had absolutely no agenda. If Messi keeps playing like Messi I’d be prepared to tolerate it, too, but to confuse the man we see on the pitch with the man in the privacy of the dressing-room would be a mistake. He must know how good he is. He just must.
Messi and Zlatan Ibrahimovic endured a tempestuous relationship during their time at Barcelona
Ronaldo wears his emotions on his sleeve, but at the three clubs he has played for, with the exception of Jose Mourinho, never has one team-mate or manager spoken ill of him. Messi is better at concealing his emotions, realises millions are watching his every move and grimace and so perfectly curates his image to mass appeal. I'm a fan of both but I simply don't accept the naive notion that one is a self-centered, vain, greedy, pouting, prima donna mercenary while the other is a humble, loyal, quiet, courteous, team player with a heart of gold and couldn't hurt a fly. Denigrating one and making a God out of the other is stupid. Applerocks, San Franciso Bay.
Try telling it to this bloke.
So Messi doing what normal, rational people do and trying to conceal anger or disdain for the mistakes of others makes him just as bad as Ronaldo throwing a fit, jumping up and down, swearing at his team mates, and all on worldwide television – just to make sure everyone knows he's upset? Huh? Marco, New Zealand.
Yes, I’m sorry you didn’t understand the column, Marco. I was writing about Messi’s public image versus what would appear to be going on behind the scenes at Barcelona. But as you can see with this polite answer and measured language I am doing what normal, rational people do and concealing my anger and disdain at your lack of comprehension. As for the faces I’m pulling, and any accompanying hand gestures, I must say I can’t vouch for those.
I have never seen Messi act selfishly on the pitch like Ronaldo and that is what counts when you judge football players, Ryan Giggs always behaved like a professional even though he was having an affair with his sister in-law – and he is still considered a legend by Manchester United fans. Abir Joshi, Canada.
Well, I think they are distinguishing between the professional and the personal, Abir. I didn’t mention Messi’s private affairs – not even the ongoing accusations regarding unpaid tax.
I prefer the egomaniac who generally keeps his nose clean, over the egomaniac who rips off his shirt after scoring a meaningless penalty in the Champions League final, and constantly belittles his teammates. Elputojefe, Spain.
I prefer the best footballer. Ronaldo, at this moment.
Ronaldo was rightly rewarded as the best player on the planet following his recent performances
What exactly is the point of the Messi piece? Of course he is going to have influence at the club, off the pitch as well as on it, he is the best player by far and a senior professional. It is no different to Alan Shearer at Newcastle United or Steven Gerrard at Liverpool. I don't think anyone has ever doubted Messi has got an ego but the way he plays and celebrates with his team shows the difference. Paulio Geordio, Newcastle.
Nobody has doubted Messi’s ego? Some of the bed-wetting teenage fanboy drivel I’ve waded through for this column would rather suggest otherwise.
The difference: Ronaldo is a General, Messi is a dictator. Checkmate, Los Angeles.
What fresh gibberish is this? Ronaldo is a General, Messi is a dictator? What does that even mean? They’re just words. We might as well compare them through the medium of fruit. Ronaldo is a kumquat, Messi is a Burdekin plum. Ronaldo is a Japanese persimmon, Messi is a wood apple. And I’m a banana. No, really I am. So stop writing to me. I’m a banana. I won’t reply. Bananas don’t reply.
This article is a load of absolute tripe. Robbren90, Sunderland.
No, this is a load of absolute tripe. You’ll note the difference. This tripe comes cheaper.
I'm honestly still shocked by Barcelona and Real Madrid fans. Booing the player who scored what amounted to the winning goal in the Champions League final, plus a wonder goal against Barcelona; not to mention the Barcelona supporters snubbing the match versus Elche. These fans are so fickle; winning the treble every year is the only way to keep them happy. Most clubs would kill for the success they have. NickNUFC, Newcastle.
Bale celebrates his wonder goal in the Copa del Rey final which helped Real to a famous victory
Yours especially, Nick, so I can understand your puzzlement. It’s the reason a European super league would never work. Somebody has got to come 14th. And the sort of clubs that would be involved could not tolerate that. There would be riots.
Messi lives in a bubble and has only ever played in La Liga. A player his size will get hammered in a Premier League game against Stoke City. Opinionated, United Kingdom.
Like Cesc Fabregas and Eden Hazard did you mean? Or Alexis Sanchez at the weekend?
If you are the best then how could you suffer others wasting your talent? Messi should have been happy to play out on the wing rather than central? Who was proven correct? He was. Secretsquirrel, Auckland.
I know. That was my point. He will be a demanding player, because his talent demands to be looked after.
Low maintenance genius? Mozart, Stephen Hawking, Beethoven, Frank Whittle - yes. Messi plays football, that's all. Not a genius by any means. Jcs85, Ilton.
I disagree. He’s a genius. He didn’t invent anything as spectacular as the turbojet engine, like Whittle, or compose or revolutionise scientific thinking, but at what he does, he’s a genius. You would hate my list of other geniuses. This bloke, for starters. I’ll leave you in his gentle company. Until next time.