If you think Ronaldo is better than Messi, it’s time to look to another sport

It’s time to put this discussion to rest.

Lionel Messi is the greatest player of all time. There are no ifs, doubts, considerations. In all elements of the game, he surpassed all others in the story.

Yet, there is still, disconcertingly, conversation about it, and almost everything revolves around Cristiano Ronaldo.

Former England international Peter Crouch recently said of the debate that “if you don’t pick Messi, you don’t really know football”, and there are many, many, many football watchers – not fans – who don’t know the ball.

Certainly, the exploits of Messi and Ronaldo in the 21st century have left everyone in dust. The related exploits of Pele and Diego Maradona, the previous battle for the perceived best of all time, are of their time and littered with holes to dig; in Pelé’s case, questionable goal tallies and lack of impact in Europe. Maradona expresses total inconsistency and disaster around moments of genuine genius.

Since Messi and Ronaldo have been facing each other since 2007, it is the central individual battle of modern football. You’re either on one side or the other, either you’re right or you’re wrong.

Make no mistake, Ronaldo is a generational player, comfortably the second best player of all time. He developed his game from prodigious but imperfect winger to ultimate scorer and creator. Then he moved to Real Madrid, evolving into a goalscoring machine with endless dedication and commitment to… well, mostly himself, but at his core an endless thirst to break records.

That continued until last season at Manchester United, and scoring clearly is an invaluable asset. No one has done it better, and at a higher level, for longer.

Messi does what Ronaldo can’t do

But basically, that’s all it can do. Messi also does and does everything that Ronaldo can’t do. Our colleagues at FootballCritic have long argued over what Messi does that sets him apart, and only in front of goal is the variation in finishing, technique and style in which he does it.

And from a finishing point of view, there are certain types of lenses that absolutely no one does better than him; from Panenka’s penalty, to the art of one-two, to free-kick technique, he has it all.

Thus, in terms of the number of goals scored, Messi directly rivals and often succeeds Ronaldo in the art of solo scoring.

And that’s before it comes to the fact that Messi remains one of the greatest playmakers in football history, creating ingenious chances at least once a game for grateful teammates. He sees strokes, angles, positional movements that others simply can’t see.

It’s two, maybe three incredible players brought together in an inconceivable whole. There is no way a player could be that good and above all these are all things that Ronaldo doesn’t do, he can’t and probably won’t do.

And all that is needed to finally conclude the debate is for Messi to win this World Cup. For those of us who know, the debate shouldn’t exist anyway. But the remaining ammo in Ronaldo’s arsenal is his victory at Euro 2016. Yes, Messi has the Copa America but that’s not what Argentina is looking for. They need the World Cup.

The Messi-Maradona battle

And in this regard, Messi has his own battle to fight, together with Maradona. A man so loved in his country that he will never take him away from a social and sporting icon. But Messi has at least that chance of entering the conversation of his country’s greatest by taking home the gold.

For the rest of the discussion, winning this tournament would be the icing on the cake of an unparalleled career. For years, he’s had incredible attacking options around him, from Carlos Tevez to Sergio Aguero to Gonzalo Higuain. In other areas there were leaders like Javier Mascherano.

He doesn’t have it now, in fact, he’s probably the least talented offensive option I’ve ever had. And so to do it with this team, right now, feels like the culmination of everything he’s been trying to achieve. He’s 35 now, so it’s definitely his last chance.

But he’s playing as well as ever and seems to have made peace with his position in Argentine history. He can’t compete with Maradona, but it’s impossible to be due to the nature of the political situation in which he has reached his best moments.

Now he can just go out and play. And what follows is not just the glory of the World Cup, but the end of the dispute. Lionel Messi is better than Cristiano Ronaldo and he is the best player of all time, and this tournament represents a chance for everyone to believe in that, together. It will be a joyous time if that happens.

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