BBC BLOGS - Tim Vickery
IN ASSOCIATION WITH
« Previous | Main | Next »

From prodigy to superstar

Post categories:

Tim Vickery | 14:40 UK time, Tuesday, 26 May 2009

The best part of working as a football journalist in South America is the chance to get a sneak preview of future stars and in all the years I have been doing it, the highlight - no doubt about it although the competition is fierce - was catching Lionel Messi on the way up.

It was the South American Under-20 Championships, held in Colombia at the start of 2005, when Argentina called up Messi without knowing a great deal about him.

There were whispers of a prodigy at Barcelona - Messi had played just one friendly in the first team - and Argentina wanted to be sure that if there was something special there, they and not Spain would be the beneficiaries.

So Messi was called back across the Atlantic for the tournament and although the number 10 shirt went to Pablo Barrientos, seen at the time as a great prospect, with Messi handed the number 18, it was quickly obvious which one was the real outstanding talent.

Lionel Messi holds aloft the Spanish Cup

Messi was nothing to look at - very much the pigeon-toed runt of the litter - and he found the competition tough going, which hardly surprising as he was only 17, two years younger than the others, and the gruelling schedule of nine games in three weeks.

But his ability was instantly recognisable. His capacity to run with the ball as if it was part of him left no-one who saw him in any doubt that we were looking at a future little giant of the global game.

The speed with which it happened was as dazzling as one of his dribbles. Within a matter of months he was in the Barcelona team tearing Real Madrid to pieces in the Bernabeu, carrying Argentina to victory in the World Youth Cup, making his senior international debut and bursting onto the radar of English fans with a wonderful display at Chelsea.

And so his story became known. The hormone growth treatment he needed, which the inept management of his local club Newell's Old Boys were unwilling to finance and the family's move to Barcelona, where club legend Carlos Rexach took a quick look and symbolically acquired his signature on a serviette.

In the words of Argentina's footballing philosopher Jorge Valdano, Messi was a perfect synthesis of the street football of his native country and the academy of Barcelona.

A little, left-footed Argentine of breathtaking ability - the comparisons with Diego Maradona were inevitable. Two years ago, long before becoming his coach at national team level, Maradona said he "knew Messi would be one of the greats because he carries the ball looking ahead of him. He doesn't look at the ball. He can watch television and still carry the ball forward. It's abnormal." He could have been describing himself.

But he added that Messi "needed to become a bit more of a leader" - the very role that Maradona had in his playing days. More recently Roberto Abbondanzieri, Argentina's goalkeeper in the last World Cup, said that "Messi can't lead a group of players because he doesn't speak. He's very quiet."Lionel Messi

Perhaps Messi is a Maradona for a more individualistic age, immersed in Playstation technology. On the field, though, he is a team player. In fact, in one sense he is a throwback to an earlier great.

"Pele liked to play with a partner - he depended on this," I was once told by Tostao, who filled this role so effectively in the 1970 World Cup. "He created the moves but he needed a partner to help." It was how Pele had grown up at Santos, playing quick one-twos first with Pagao and then with Coutinho.

Messi is similar. Cutting across from the right on his diagonal runs he is most often looking for a partner to show, to receive the ball and give him a swift, accurate and well weighted return. Last year against Manchester United in the Champions League semi-final Messi's problem was that Samuel Eto'o was off form and unable to do it.

Pele's former international team-mate and coach Mario Zagallo once told me that "the calm that other players have in midfield, Pele had in the penalty area. That sums him up."

Messi supplied similar calm deep into extra-time in the semi-final second leg at Stamford Bridge. When he received the ball on the left of the Chelsea area there must surely have been a temptation to go for a solo move, a late attempt to live up to his billing on what had been a frustrating night. Instead Messi had the presence of mind to pick out Iniesta on the edge of the box, and the rest is history.

In its own way that pass was as impressive as his most incisive dribbles. It was one of the moments of the season. Barcelona fans hope he can top it on Wednesday night.

Comments

Page 1 of 3

  • Comment number 1.

    The best close ball player on the planet, by a mile - but not enough at the end of it. Ronaldo is a more complete package: compare scoring records.

    Messi has also benefited from the departures of Deco and Ronaldhino from Barcelona. He was in grave danger of being led astray as that pairing frittered away their talents on the nightclub scene.

    Barcelona will look better in Rome, for long spells of the game, but Man U will do the business where it matters.

  • Comment number 2.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 3.

    I often think the comparisons of Ronaldo and Messi are reductive. They are two totally different players.

    Look at their relative ability in terms of heading, one of them can do it the other doesnt need it in his repertoire. It doesnt mean either player is better, merely differently put together.

    They are both at the head of their respective packs in world football.

    Wednesday has the promise to be a great final but does anybody realistically expect both teams to come out guns blazing? United can defend when they need to and this may tilt the balance in their favour.

    Perhaps Barca's individuals can muster a moment of brilliance a la stamford bridge in the semi but lets hope either way, the game is better fare than that match.

  • Comment number 4.

    Ronaldo might be the more complete player, but in terms of the way he conducts himself on and off the field, Messi is much more of a role model. You dont see him diving and complaining to the ref every game, and he is more of a team player than Ronaldo. I definitely prefer watching the little Argentine, his dribbles and touch for Barca and his country are stunning. Interesting point that if he had the leadership aspect to his game, he could indeed be one of the greatest ever.

  • Comment number 5.

    I've been lucky enough to see him play live in late 2007 in a 3-0 home win against Betis. Even with Ronaldinho (who was still at Barca) and Henry in the side, the fans were only ever on their feet when Messi was on the ball.

  • Comment number 6.

    The best close ball player on the planet, by a mile - but not enough at the end of it. Ronaldo is a more complete package: compare scoring records.
    -------------
    Let's compare scoring records:-

    Ronaldo overall for United: 291 games, 118 goals = 0.41 goals per game
    Messi overall for Barca: 160 games, 79 goals = 0.49 goals per game

    Ronaldo in CL: 54 games, 16 goals = 0.30 goals per game
    Messi in CL: 33 games, 16 goals = 0.48 goals per game

    It's an indication of the embarrassing standard of football journalism that these two players are still being compared. Ronaldo is a talented player with obvious weaknesses in his game (too selfish, lack of vision & passing ability) who MIGHT be recognised as a great player by the end of his career. Messi is one of the 2 most extraordinary players I have ever seen (the other being Maradona), with a level of instinctive genius in his play that is far above what Ronaldo produces.

  • Comment number 7.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 8.

    Messi is overrated. He did absolutely nothing against Chelsea.
    Meanwhite, Ronaldo was ripping it against Arsenal.

    Mark my words, Messy will be dormant tommorrow. Chelsea did a good job of keeping him quiet, Evra has played against him before, so it shouldn't be hard.
    Ronaldo is brimming with confidence, and given Barca's slightly weakened defence, he will be making them sweat.

    The heavyweight championship: Ronaldo v Messi.
    Winner: Ronaldo.

  • Comment number 9.

    Mark my words, Messy will be dormant tommorrow
    --------------------
    Why would you bother to post such a poor prediction?

  • Comment number 10.

    If Messi needs a partner then I hope Xavi and Iniesta play further upfront to work those give and goes because Eto'o once again is in dire form lately and Henry can't be match fit after not playing since El Clasico at the Bernabeu.
    On the Messi v Ronaldo debate it would be futile to argue with both sides.All I can say is I prefer to watch Lionel Messi.

  • Comment number 11.

    By the way Zootmac you seriously got ankles broken and owned by messiisgod.based on your own statement oddly enough.

  • Comment number 12.

    @post 8 Messi is definitely NOT overrated!Ronaldo and He play Permutation and Combination with the tag of Best Footballer in the World and 2nd Best in the world!Today we may no be able to point out who is better but whoever is first the other is 2nd!Ronaldo and Messi are both Outstanding Players but both have their Deficiencies!Ronaldo needs to be a Team Player and lacks Vision,While Messi Needs to be More Selfish and lead the team more on an individualistic Level!But both are young and at their absolute Peak it will be a treat to watch!Tomorrow's encounter is as mouth watering as a Meal Cooked by Gordon Ramsey!*without the expletives*

  • Comment number 13.

    Three articles in two days Tim, we are being treated.

    Many say Messi is not as good as Ronaldo but I feel Messi is better than Ronaldo was at Messi's age.

  • Comment number 14.

    Tim,

    I wonder how in your mind Messi compares to Ronaldo of Brazil and Zidane? Personally, Ronaldo is the player who has most excited me in my lifetime (im 24). With him it was a case of tuning in to watch Ronaldo rather than the game, i remember having a similar feeling even for the 2002 world cup final. Zidane was obviously a genius too but Messi gives me the same x factor buzz that only Ronaldo ever did. Every time the ball goes to him im on the edge of my seat, he brings such expectation and magic. Whilst Portugese Ronaldo is a superb player and utterly unique i believe in today's game for his all round abilities, he doesn't have the special feeling and imagination of a born footballer. Watching Messi you can see that he understands through instinct every situation and doesn't even need to think or consider things he just knows what the best option is.

  • Comment number 15.

    Messi does not need to be the leader of Argentina's team. He has veterans around him who can be the vocal leaders. He has a God given talent and he makes the most of it. I also heard about Messi years ago and I never dreamed he would be THIS good. I thought he would be quality. I recall the 2001 U-20 WC based in my backyard in Argentina and Saviola was the man who was taking the world by storm. And most of us Argentines believed he was the second coming of Diego. But Saviola failed to meet the standards we were hoping for. When Messi came around we saw another fine player, but I think what helped Messi over Saviola was that he had no great expectations in Barcelona because he was one their youth products. Little by little he took steps and leaps. He was a vital part of Barcelona 2006 team that won the CL, sure he did not play the final but it was his play vs Chelsea that took the team over the hump. Messi can be the best player of his generation and if he does get a chance to win the WC next year I think that will put a stamp on it. And I am quite glad Messi had turned down a invite to play for Spain as a teenager, can you imagine Messi being another player for Spain. But back to the youth program, now I feel us Argentines will be looking for another Messi in the mix, which is all but impossible. There are fine youngsters such as Lamela,Bou,Pacheco,Icardi but we will wait and see if they become stars of duds.

  • Comment number 16.

    Too many people try to compare Messi and Ronaldo in my opinion without stopping to think that they're completely different players and Messi is two years younger.

    Ronaldo only broke into his goal-scoring form in the two years he has over Messi. I might be wrong but before that didn't he go through a whole season without scoring despite having more shots than anyone else? If you look at performance levels at the equivalent age (which is the only fair way of doing it) then I certainly think Messi has the potential to step up to a higher level than Ronaldo - there's not a huge difference in terms of ability now but Messi has two more years to develop.

    Personally, if I was a manager, I would prefer Messi in my team, just for the way he plays the game. Ronaldo has his advantages - physical presence, heading etc, but for those who keep comparing his goal-record to Messi's (forgetting that Messi is not only younger, but has out-scored Ronaldo this year, so presumably they're referring to last year) it's also important to bear in mind that Ronaldo has far more attempts on goal.

    What I like about Messi is that he is a superb player to have as part of a passing team. His advantages over Ronaldo are his superior ball-control, his eye for a pass, and his ball-retention. He has that ability - which Ronaldo and also SWP could use - of knowing when he's about to run into a dead end and moving the ball to someone else before he gets there.

  • Comment number 17.

    @1

    Ok.

    Messi
    2008/2009 League 31 Appearances 23 Goals 11 Assists

    C. Ronaldo
    2008/2009 League 33 Appearances 18 Goals 6 Assists

    Messi
    2008/2009 Champions League 11 Appearances 8 Goals 5 Assists

    C. Ronaldo
    2008/2009 Champions League 10 Appearances 4 Goals 2 Assists

  • Comment number 18.

    Messi and Ronaldo are wonderful players, but as someone who has been to every match at Old Trafford this season I know, as most fans would concur, that Rooney is the better player, certainly in team terms. And arguably Xavi holds the same distinction for Barcelona week in, week out.

    Why is it players who beat their men are always rated higher in the media than players who pass their way past opponents?

  • Comment number 19.

    I hope he turns up tomorrow! I also remember when Cesc Fabregas talked about him whent they were together at Barca, Cesc said he was so shy and never used to talk, they thought that he was dumb. Anyway great vids of his time in the U-20 World Cup.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N2oo_bMDvlI
    http://www.youtube.com/results?search_type=&search_query=messi+u-20

  • Comment number 20.

    This is just my opinion but i much prefer watching Messi to Ronaldo - less diving, cheating and histrionics.

    Another thing i'd ask the people making comparisons to consider is that Ronaldo is 2 years older than Messi - surely there can be no doubt that Messi now is considerably better than Ronaldo was 2 years ago?

  • Comment number 21.

    I'm in England and I only have terrestrial TV, so I don't see much of Messi unfortunately. From the little I have seen, he seems to be a great dribbler and have a good footballing brain, but has failed to have a memorable impact in the big European games (the latter stages of the competition). As for Ronaldo, I don't think I could possibly compare the two unless they were both in the Premiership. It's obvious that both players, like any players, can have ineffectual games, and can produce moments of magic too. I just hope we see some Messi magic tomorrow night, so I can finally understand what all the hype is about.

  • Comment number 22.

    Nice articles Tim.
    @19 Thanks for the vids, definitely going out for the game now:).
    @6 love that!
    The problem for Barca fans and neutrals is that Man U have so many ways to win this. You feel that Barca only have Messi. Somehwere else on the site Kahn talks about Man U being like the great Milan team. Truth is great teams can win it anywhich way and sadly Messi may just embellish that victory.
    Head says man u, heart is messi. Enjoy.

  • Comment number 23.

    @22 - "You feel that Barca only have Messi"

    What aboout Iniesta and Xavi? I thought they had finally managed to get the credit they deserve. Obviously not. Iniesta is as dangerous to Man Utd as Messi.

  • Comment number 24.

    I feel truly privileged to have watched Messi burst onto the scene and get his first run of games for barca before the world sat up and took notice of the little genius. It was obvious within the first 10 minutes of watching him play that he was something very special indeed and would go onto great things. He was playing with 2 of the very best footballers of the time in Ronaldinho and Etoo and didn't look out of place whatsoever. I also feel that his place as one of the all time greats is well on the way but just how great can he be?? and how much more can he improve?? The mind boggles as to what he could achieve in the game!

    One more question, I know Lionel has been truly exceptional this season but i still feel that Ronaldo in his first season at barca through to his time at inter before the injuries as the best i've ever had the pleasure of watching live in my lifetime, i'm just wondering how other people compare ronaldo at that age to messi at the moment.

    Cheers

  • Comment number 25.

    The embarrassing comments fly out again. 'Ronaldo has more goals': Not true (per game) and not the determinant of who the better player is. 'Messi didn't play well against chelsea': He played okay, he was playing a team of brilliant defensive players who were entrenched in their own half. And he still got an assist. It really sickens me when MORONS make commments like 'X didn't play well in that game, therefore let's ingore the rest of his career and assume he is bad'. Ronaldo didn't score against Barca last season. Was he terrible player for following that game? Sadly enough, it was probably claimed so by many IDIOTS.

  • Comment number 26.

    @23 Two super players, Xavi particularly imho. Those boys get plenty of credit, starting (and finishing) finalists and winners of the Euros fgs. Heh, done more than many, or indeed, any, of the United players, on the international stage. You won't see Ferguson hiring world cup or Euro winners, a question of hunger I suppose.... I just think that if you took away Ronaldo and took away Messi, United would suffer far less.

  • Comment number 27.

    #1 - Zootmac

    Does Messi throw himself on the floor every 5 minutes & then spend the next 5 minutes prancing around like a little girl that has just been told her Mum can't afford the new Barbie doll she wants, before throwing himself on the floor again?

    Messi is far more professional, has better dribbling ability (not saying Ronaldo's dribbling isn't great, but it's not as great as Messi), and in a season when he's scored 30 goals himself you make yourself look a bit silly when you suggest their records should be compared.

    On top of that Messi is younger, & if you're suggesting Ronaldo was anywhere near as good at the same age you're living in a dream world.

    Ronaldo's a fantastic player, and second only to Messi, but only a Utd fan or a fool would claim he's better than Messi.

  • Comment number 28.

    no. 6, messiisgod.

    I see your argument based on goal scoring, but Messi was almost at his best when he first came on the seen and went straight into the first team. Ronaldo, however, was like Nani when he first went to united; he lacked a final ball and had a lot of substitute appearances at the start of his career. therefore there is no point comparing goal per game records over a whole career; would be more realistic to look at the last 2 years. The more recent, the more relevant.

  • Comment number 29.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 30.

    messi 2007-08 10 league goals in 28 appearances.
    messi 2008-09 23 league goals in 31 appearances.
    messi total 33 league goals in 59 appearances.

    ronaldo 2007-08 31 league goals in 34 appearances.
    ronaldo 2008-09 18 league goals in 33 appearances.
    ronaldo total 49 league goals in 67 appearances.

    as i said a bit earlier; the more recent the more relevant.

    there is no point saying:

    ronaldo overall for United: 291 games, 118 goals = 0.41 goals per game
    Messi overall for Barca: 160 games, 79 goals = 0.49 goals per game

    because in his first 95 premier league games he only scored 18 so those are irrelevant now. He was still learning. if we are talking about who is better now, look at the last coupl of years.

  • Comment number 31.

    Ronaldo was the best player in the world last season. Everything he touched seemingly turned to gold, at least until Euro 2008 (and I still think SAF should have sold him last summer - not because he isn't an exceptional player, but because his transfer value could have gone no higher and the club are so ridiculously indebted. But that's another argument).

    This season Ronaldo has been 'merely' extremely good, and perhaps not as good as Messi. However, the two offer different skills and attributes not least because of their different physiques, and one on each wing would probably be the first names on my World XI teamsheet.

    Will their performances determine the final? Possibly, but it may more quietly come down to those who serve them. Xavi and Iniesta have been talked about; could Carrick be similarly influential for United? He may well have to be.

  • Comment number 32.

    Additionally, as I was sucked into the trap of the big game even though I may have to miss it (!), may I just say how great it is to read a narrative from the U20 championship. And how interesting it was to read the take on the growth hormone injection, which a Daily Mail writer this week took as doping and used as a stick to beat Barcelona with...

  • Comment number 33.

    #22: people have already said it, but to say Barcelona is just Messi is as ridiculous as saying United is just Ronaldo. Barcelona have threats all over the pitch, with Xavi's eye for a pass, Iniesta's dancing feet and tireless workrate, Henry getting somewhere near the Arsenal glory days again, and Eto'o's pace and lethal finishing.
    As for who's better, Ronaldo is a very good, an excellent player, as much as I don't like him a great deal. But Messi has genius in his boots, the likes of which have not been seen since...well, Maradona.

  • Comment number 34.

    Much more like it Tim, I enjoy your blogs but the most recent one lavishing praise on United midfielder Anderson was questionable at best. Lavishing praise on Messi is a different story all together and makes for much more pleasant reading.

    There is no other player in the world like Messi. His dribbling ability is just plain awesome; he just seems to glide over the turf as he effortlessly weaves his way through defences. His close control of the ball is simply second to none. His passing is also fantastic and few can rival his movement off the ball.

    The biggest criticism reserved for Messi is his unfortunate slight frame. It's for this reason alone that I don't think Messi would have the same impact in the more physical Premier League that he does in La Liga.

    I feel the Messi v Ronaldo debate is fairly pointless as they are a different style of footballer, although they play in a similar position and have a similar role. If I had to pick one in my team, as much as it pains me to say it and as much as I detest him as a person but I would have to pick Ronaldo, simply for his consistency and all-round ability, and also due to the fact that he is accustomed to the Premier League.

  • Comment number 35.

    both are great attacking players, with emphasis on attacking, their games are not complete, yes in terms of attack ronaldo has more all round such as heading, height etc. but ronaldo alot like man united do not play the most beautiful football in comparison to messi and barcelona.

    However if I were to pick one it would be messi, purely because he is a good team player, is not selfish and has the feet of a football saint. You could compare goals this season and messi has more than ronaldo. I'd also like to point out that messi scored one of the best goals I've ever seen against real madrid earlier this season.

    For me this final is not going to be about single players but a team effort and i hope it will be a spectacle to talk about it years to come

  • Comment number 36.

    I think the comparison of the two players Ronaldo and messi is important for the game, but last year the two teams played each other and the two players played that game they did not do anything. Man U was humiliated first leg in Barcelona, but when Bercelona came in the Old Traford Man U scored one-goal, afterthat Man U playes defense rest of game and Barcelona was defeated.Chelsea played same tactic in the samifinal with Barcelone as well, so I believe that the game it is not depend on the two players or other players,but it depends the tactics of the two team's managers.

  • Comment number 37.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 38.


    Messi is a truly excellent player, however he lacks Ronaldo's ability to move position, switching from right to left, and either delivering sublime crosses or being on the end of them himself. Hopefully they will both produce something to prolong the debate tonight, but I think that the game will be won in other areas. Barcelona will deploy too much of their defence in trying to contain Ronaldo, and given their lack of resources in that area, are going to be susceptible to Rooney and Park (and eventually Tevez and Berbatov) finding space. Gut feel is that Carrick or O'Shea will be the first on the score sheet tonight.

  • Comment number 39.

    messiisgod; "It's an indication of the embarrassing standard of football journalism that these two players are still being compared"
    as stated, no point comparing really early in their careers; if you look
    at last 3 years, where both players came into their own and messi had established himself as first team then....
    messi
    122 apps/70 goals (CL= 25/15)
    =0.57% (0.6%)
    international
    24/9 goals
    =0.375%

    ronaldo
    154 apps/91 goals (CL = 32/15)
    =0.59% (0.47%)
    international
    31/13 goals
    =0.41%
    (according to espn's stats)

    obviously you can look at more champions league goals for messi this year, but ronaldo's got more in the knockout stages; arguably when it really counts; and over 3 years has 10 in 18 games in the knockout stages, to Messi's 5 in 12.
    (in brackets is first leg/second leg)

    Ronaldo
    inter last 16 (0/1)
    porto quarter finals (0/1)
    arsenal semi finals (0/2)

    lyon last 16 (0/1)
    roma quarter finals (1/0)
    barcelona semi final (0/0)
    chelsea final (1)

    lille last 16 (0)
    roma quarter final (0/2)
    milan semi final(1/0)

    Messi;
    lyon last 16 (0/1)
    bayern quarter finals (2/0)
    chelsea semi finals (0/0)

    celtic last 16 (2/0)
    schalke quarter finals (-/-) (messi injured)
    man utd semi finals (0/0)

    liverpool last 16 (0/0)

    As you can see, they're pretty close and that's why the comparisons are made. It's too simplistic to dismiss ronaldo saying that he's got faults (vision etc);
    whilst messi is perhaps the more technically gifted footballer with better vision, balance and close control, ronaldo's arguably more complete as he's the better athlete; faster, stronger, more aerial threat etc.
    I personally think at present ronaldo's got more in his locker; the ability to strike a ball like he did against porto or arsenal (the shot that hit the crossbar in the first leg); freekick ability, one of the best headers of the ball in the game, danger at corners etc.
    Messi is without doubt an outstanding star, but I think he's still got a bit to prove (which he could no doubt tomorrow if he has a good game); he's not as good as ronaldinho when he was in his prime in my opinion.

  • Comment number 40.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 41.


    Great observations and insights Tim. Enjoyed reading the good things you have said about Messi's talent. Thanks.

    With the football glued to his feet and Messi running and looking up for better placed colleagues is a beautiful sight indeed. His diagonal sprinting with the football cause a lot of confusion in the ranks of the defending side. After all the ball is the most important thing in the game and Messi runs away with it defying the vigilant midfielders who are made to run in circles. Messi adds further beauty to the already beautiful game.



    Dr. Cajetan Coelho

  • Comment number 42.

    How about instead of arguing over who is the best, that we can agree that we have two fantastic players to watch week in, week out.

    Both Messi and Ronaldo are a joy to watch. My only beef is with Ronaldo's histrionics. It's cringeworthy sometimes the way he acts. I remember acting like that when i was 6. Great player though.

  • Comment number 43.

    I think that Messi has surpassed Ronaldo over the last year to become the world's best player.
    In terms of raw talent I think that Ronaldo just shades it simply because of his strength, heading ability and more importantly shooting ability with both feet. With respect to other attributes, Messi is as good as Ronaldo if not better. What the clear difference between the two is their mentalities. Ronaldo's self propogated hype makes him more liable to be selfish on the pitch; he is petulant and often gets very frustrated. Alhough selfishness is sometimes a good thing it's not always. Messi is a naturally calm, collected player and knows when to be selfish and when not to; he doesn't complain excessively, if he gets knocked down he gets right back up and lets his football do the talking for him.
    Because of Messi's mentality he has surpassed Ronaldo his year. Football is just as much about the mind as it is about the feet and until Ronaldo learns that he will always lag that little bit behind Messi.

  • Comment number 44.

    I think they are both great players but Ronaldos attitude completley overshadows his play.Messi gets fouled just as much if not more than Ronaldo but he dosen't sulk,stamp his feet or give the ref a look suggesting he has been the victim of an horrific assault.For this reason I would watch Messi over Ronaldo anytime.Also when Messi gets the ball and starts to run with it,I feel more excited than when Ronaldo does the same thing.Messi is also a model proffesional and a good example to youngsters on how to conduct yourself on the pitch,Ronaldo is the opposite.The player I'm most looking forward to watching tonight though is Iniesta who has the passing and dribbling ability to unlock any defence

  • Comment number 45.

    Ronaldo is a cry baby. Messi isn't.
    'Nuff said.
    Barca ftw!!!!!!! (hopefully)

  • Comment number 46.

    Rather than try to compare two special players, why don't we just appreciate them at their best? As far as I'm concerned, one bad injury could take either player away from us. Look at what's happened to Ronaldo after the mystery of the 1998 World Cup, best player I'd ever seen in my lifetime, after that no where near the same.
    Players also develop at different stages, so why compare?
    Thierry Henry was nothing until he came to Arsenal then he became one of the best footballers in the world.

  • Comment number 47.

    FRIENDLY WARNING

    Ref 40: xiaohuaoleale

    Any "blog" which has attached the "nowgoal" link is deeply suspect. The link is put in place under a series of names, such as "kkandnathan" or "binbingo123". Sometimes softeners appear, praising the quality of the links.

    "xiaohuaoleale" is the latest version.

    Until the moderators sort out this problem BE VIGILANT.

  • Comment number 48.

    Ronaldo or Messi? Ronaldo was exceptional last year but has not been as good this year, however his display against Arsenal dispels the general opinion that he disappears in big games.
    Messi meanwhile is electrifying with the ball at his feet, scores goals for fun and has the better attitude.
    At this moment in time I would plump for Ronaldo because of his greater versatility and better ability in the air. However Messi produces moments of magic which Ronaldo cannot, so let's just appreciate two wonderful footballers tonight.

  • Comment number 49.

    What's going on with that picture of you Tim???!!!

  • Comment number 50.

    That game against Porto when Christiano came to United's notice,his trickery was intense.I remember O'shea pushing him away after he had been nutmegged,but Ronaldo just smiled.He's become too much of a prima donna,but that's him.If he could grow up,just get on with it,he would be much loved.After all,we all love his artistry,if not the man.That is the reason Rooney has been greatly hailed this season,his character development has been stupendous.And that's the kind of player Sir Alex would never contemplate selling.Barcelona is not as Unilateral (read Messi) as some want to believe.If nothing else,since Messi doesn't do too much tracking back,someone else must be doing the spadework to get him the ball.But I have to say I admire the boy,much more than Ronaldo.Whether he's a better player is neither here nor there,he's just a much more engaging character.And as he grows older and comes to terms with the expectations that his ability brings,we might see a leader emerge.Look at Giggs,he was equally laid back.

  • Comment number 51.

    Honestly there's no comparison... Messi has ability in abundance whereas Ronaldo is just a big show-off. At OT just recently even Kolo Toure did what Ronalso does all the time. Everyone can do what Ronaldo does, but it does not help him get past players. Obviously he has better heading ability because he is taller, and his freekicks sometimes are wonderfully hit.

    Other than that, Messi is a GALACTICO

  • Comment number 52.

    This debate is only relevant if Messi and/or Ronaldo play a key role tonight. It may well be that they both get marked out of the game and its somebody else that makes the decisive move.

    As a united fan I couldn't care less who is considered the world's best player. Victory tonight is what counts!

  • Comment number 53.

    while both are the same type of player, unlike some people have said on here, it is very hard to reasonably compare the two right now. messi is arguably still maturing as perhaps is ronaldo. secondly goals and assits do not look at ronaldo's defnesive impact, something messi does not have. also with headering even if ronaldo doesn't score from a croner the opposition is so worried about him that they mark him and forget about other players. however while the two play in different leagues, which are of different quality (the premier league is far stronger in depth than la liga) it is not fair to compare statistics. it could be sad if messi was in the premier league then due to the better defending he might have scored fewer, however that is only supposition. howver it is important to realise different leagues make a difference look at alfonso alves who had more than a goal a game in the dutch league or dirk kuyt who was the same. neither of them scores in the premier league. while la liga is superior to the dutch league it is still not the premier league.

  • Comment number 54.

    all these people who comment on messi being a model professional. ronaldo trains exceptionally hard as i am sure does messi but off the pitch do they really know if messi goes out t nightclubs or not. ronaldo we know more about becuase he is over here and just to point out he was the only first trqam player not at the infamous christmas party a couple of years ago.

  • Comment number 55.

    Great piece Tim. It's alway nice to read about an underdog who comes up good. This is a guy who was told he would never grow more than 4ft 6in who has fought so hard to become arguably the most gifted player we have seen since Maradonna.
    I'd rather talk about Messi than get involved with the Messi V Ronaldo debate. I saw him live at the Nou Camp v Atletico Madrid last year and for such a wee lad to be that fearless & cover that much ground was good enough for me. When he got on the ball there was a real buzz. You felt people were praying that he would give us a real lasting memory, a little bit of silky magic that you would talk about for years after the game.
    If you asked me which player I would rather have on my team I would pick Messi on attitude & artistry, he's the kind of player you'd like to be around. Ronaldo may have the strength, the heading & the free kicks but Messi has the heart & is a bit more special.
    Enjoy the match tonight!!

  • Comment number 56.

    I am getting increasingly bored at people arguing that every player in the top 3 in the world at any one time must be a "great" to rival those of the past. This is especially annoying when most people blogging, including me, never saw Pele, Beckenbauer, Best or Cruyff play and only just remember a drug-riddled, fat maradona. It is impossible to judge them by stats or a highlight reel.

    Even since I was a nipper, I've heard a list of them being compared to these players - Romario, Baggio, Matthaus, Gullit, Van Basten, Baresi, Maldini, Zidane, Ronaldo..

    Football is a team game - great players turn excellent teams into great and memorable ones. They provide moments of brilliance for which they, teams, matches and tournaments are remembered. In each great team, however, there are the players who allow the memorable ones to play as they do.

    Making this game about Ronaldo vs. Messi is, frankly, an insult to their teams and managers. They might provide a moment of genius, for which they'll be remembered, but it's the team that should be congratulated for providing the platform on which that moment can win a match.

  • Comment number 57.

    For me having both of these players in the side would be incredible to watch. Messi is definately the better dribbler and team player, but Ronaldo is a BIG game player and is always likely to produce something spectacular. Both players always make things happen. Perhaps Lionel does need to have a great performance on a night like tonight, but everyone knows he is more than capable of it. Anyway, I think United will do it tonight, its' not the Barca forwards that have to worry about Ronaldo and Rooney, it's Pique and Toure.
    United 4-0 or 4-1 I reckon

  • Comment number 58.

    Basically whoever wins today will win the Ballon Do'r.

  • Comment number 59.

    Having seen Messi at CL semi-final against Chelsea, whilst he didn't have his greatest game, some of his runs tore apart the defence. He needs another player to feed off him so that his moves can be completed. The sheer composure he shows when passing in or across the box is why he is the world's greatest player. Ronaldo is a over-rated diving whinger and tonight we will see him shown up by a better player

  • Comment number 60.

    Messi is by far the greater player and it annoys me that people even consider Ronaldo to be of the same standard. I think you'll find that most of the people hailing Ronaldo as the best are English and have hardly seen Messi play apart from in games against English teams in the Champions League. For me, the goals stats are irrelevant. Messi's contribution to the team as a whole is far greater than Ronaldo's. He is the ultimate team player. He has the vision and instinct of Dennis Bergkamp. Ronaldo, on the other hand, seems to have to think about every move he makes, prior to actually doing so. He works hard to make up for his lack of intuition. If both players were to lose their pace, for me there would only be one world class player, and that is Messi. Ronaldo beats defenders with pace and ocassionaly his 'chop', whilst Messi beats players with pure technique and skill, combines with his pace, craft and vision to make successful 1-2's. Ronaldo increasingly runs into defenders after attempting many stepovers, almost hoping that pushing the ball past before out sprinting his opponent will work every time. Messi, however, does not take that risk. If he knows he cannot beat a player, he will make the pass instead, keeping posession of the football. I have seen several goals this season that Man Utd have conceded, virtue of Ronaldo losing posession by trying, and failing to beat a defender. I can't say the same of Messi. In terms of team play and pure technique, Messi wins hands-down. If you want to see a defender beaten by raw pace and the occasional free kick fly in the top corner, watch Ronaldo. But if you want to see a true genius at work, watch Messi. I, for one, watch games purely because Messi is playing. I would not do the same for Ronaldo.

  • Comment number 61.

    Who is the best? Does it matter? They are both players who get you off your seat and wonder at their skills.

    Its like comparing a ferrari against a lambo. Both are great but aimed at different people.

    Personally, I prefer Messi, due to the subtle nuances of his play (just like i preffered Zidane & maradonna). It's only Ronaldo's personality that bugs me, but thats just a matter of opinion. Hopefully it'll be a good game tonight, and no doubt someone unexpected will be the star tonight.

  • Comment number 62.

    In response to Zootmac:

    The best close ball player on the planet, by a mile - but not enough at the end of it. Ronaldo is a more complete package: compare scoring records.

    Messi has also benefited from the departures of Deco and Ronaldhino from Barcelona. He was in grave danger of being led astray as that pairing frittered away their talents on the nightclub scene.

    Barcelona will look better in Rome, for long spells of the game, but Man U will do the business where it matters.

    _________________________________________________________________________

    If you compare scoring records this year, Messi has more goals than Ronaldo. Messi is a more reserved player on the pitch and does not carry the arrogant/spoilt persona of Ronaldo. I would much rather have Messi as a role model to my children.

    That makes hime by far and away a more valuable player than Ronaldo.

  • Comment number 63.

    Hi Tim,

    Always enjoy the read. I set my mind to 'think" this morning and I thought that this chap Kia Joorabchian has probably made quite a bit of money from Tevez and Mascherano. Since mountains of filthy lucre has always held a subtle appeal, would you mind pointing me in the direction of the next Messi so I can flog him to the Premier League for lucrative loan deals?

    Much obliged.

    p.s. I don't have much money

  • Comment number 64.

    i believe that ryan giggs has a better close ball control than our little messi... his performance against inter is proof of that

  • Comment number 65.

    Messi is a superb talent and fantastic to watch but you have to say Ronaldo is the more complete footballer. He is stronger, just as quick, has done it in the Premiership, won more medals and can compete in the big games without getting too shackled.

    Of course the best thing about comparing these two is that everyone forgets about Rooney who is lethal and 8 months younger than Ronaldo and therefore 8 months behind in development!

  • Comment number 66.

    Comedy comment of the year so far? -> "Messi is overrated. He did absolutely nothing against Chelsea."
    Yeah, nothing except setup Iniesta's goal which won the tie.

  • Comment number 67.

    but whatbill made a good point... there is a very good possibility that theyll both get marked out of the game... evra is up for it, and im sure the barca defence will be well pumped too

  • Comment number 68.

    First of all both Messi and Ronaldo are great players, could go down as two of the all time greats. However both are divers not just Ronaldo but i still agree Messi is the better role model. Messi is the better dribbler but it is clear Ronaldo is the more complete player, probably because he plays for Manu and SAF is his coach. This has been Messi's best season to date while Ronaldo has been considered to be in poor form however he has still be one of the best players in the PL. Messi has struggled to make an impact in the big or even tight games. Manu's defence are on a complete different level to that of Barca's do Messi has a real job on his hands. I think it is actually going to be Rooney who makes the difference, not only his attacking prowness and ability but his work-rate. I can see Rooney tracking back and covering Messi.
    Anyway should be a great match that I will enjoy as a neutral.

  • Comment number 69.

    What I like about Messi is that he doesn't really fit the profile of a football superstar. Ronaldo is physically big and strong, has the looks and the ego, and seems to have been grommed for being a top footballer for most of his life. Whereas Messi was thought to be too small and rejected at first. He isn't built like a modern sportsmen his fame is down to natural ability alone.

  • Comment number 70.

    Tonight should be a fair stage to decide the next FIFA player of the year. In my opinion Messi is equiped with both scores and deliverance throughout the season up to this clash of champs.

    Being a Chelsea fan, I was badly hurt by the exit for I was almost certain this time we could lift that cup which seems to be a not destined to Chelsea thing.

    Talking about the game itself, it will be 50 50 chance. The Barca squad seems to be more cup hungry than Man U. Barca is better equiped with threats starting from defenders like Dan Alves who can reap very strong shots and always run to cover the back, I won't comment anymore about the midfield with Xavi and Babyface Iniesta....upfront, thet hree man combination of Messi, Etoo and Henry is creative always with new ideas to destroy oponents ...and surprsises from guys like Yaya ...
    From the Man U side I hope Ferg is wise enough to line up Teves...that man can deliver things....

  • Comment number 71.

    MessiisGod - The name might predict your opinion, but I agree completely with you. Ronaldo is a great player who will be remembered in the same way as Rivaldo, Hagi etc. Messi is a once in a generation player who is touched by the hand of God.

  • Comment number 72.

    I swear half of you are idiots? You cant compare them at the minute, Messi 10 games against english opposition no goals! Until messi comes to the english leagues ull never realise that messi cant play in the english league. Ronaldo, the best player in the Premiership, yet messi, couldnt find half as many goals.
    Messi in my eyes, is just below ronaldo. Due to the fact that Ronaldo plays in the best league in the world, and messi, is in a league full of mediocre opponent.. Let alone real, who on days, are awful! It ends there
    Ronaldo Is Better 'For Now'

  • Comment number 73.

    no. 6, messiisgod.

    I see your argument based on goal scoring, but Messi was almost at his best when he first came on the seen and went straight into the first team. Ronaldo, however, was like Nani when he first went to united; he lacked a final ball and had a lot of substitute appearances at the start of his career. therefore there is no point comparing goal per game records over a whole career; would be more realistic to look at the last 2 years. The more recent, the more relevant.
    ---------------------------------------------
    My argument (based on their overall goals records) should in theory massively favour Ronaldo, since Messi: 1. is younger & hasn't had as much time to mature, 2. Messi has had repeated injury problems, 3. at no point has Messi been the chief goal focus in the Barca team (unlike Ronaldo), 4. it's well known that Ronaldo takes many more shots.
    Despite all this, Messi's goals record is much better.
    The reason Messi went straight into the first team was that he is a genius and the most gifted player since Maradona. As far back as November 2005 v Real Madrid (at 18) it was obvious that he was a world-class player with unique qualities.

  • Comment number 74.

    Re: comment 1: "The best close ball player on the planet, by a mile - but not enough at the end of it. Ronaldo is a more complete package: compare scoring records."

    Is that Messi's 23 league goals to Ronaldo's 18 or his 8 Champions League goals to Ronaldo's 4?

  • Comment number 75.

    Messi and Ronaldo are BOTH great players. They are BOTH world class in their position.

    Reading through the comments, it's interesting how some people praise one and then insult the other. I do think it's possible to appreciate both players. If you try to diminish one of them, you're doing a disservice to football. It's also like arguing the merits between Maradona and Zico, or Maradona and Platini. I really think it's a bit of a waste of time.

    Personally, although people are saying Messi is the greatest player since Maradona, I believe that both Ronaldo(Brazilian) and Zidane are the greatest I've seen since Diego, and I don't think Messi is on their level yet- or even at the level of the underrated Rivaldo at his peak.

    In the end though, between Cristiano and him I think Messi might be remembered as the greater player simply because Argentina is a stronger national team than Portugal. Messi has more chance of winning the World Cup. On the European and club stage, they are both equal as far as I'm concerned. Messi can't be compared to Maradona until he wins the World Cup with Argentina. This game alone won't define either player in my opinion.

  • Comment number 76.

    I think the comments we've seen about the age difference between Messi & Ronaldo is key! Messi looks like he's really starting to add some serious end product to his brilliant technical ability, a little like Ronaldo started to do a couple of years ago.
    Secondly, they really are different players. Ronaldo is much more the all round athlete with some unbelievable ability and Messi is the specialist runner and an unbelievable team player. I think a key difference though is in their attitudes.
    Ronaldo is arrogant and selfish but in some situations that really does help him. It means even when he is having a diabolical game he still genuinely believes he's the best player on the park (rather than going quiet or getting down on himslef) and can still have that threat to come up with something stunning at any moment - see his two goals in the 3-2 defeat of aston villa at old trafford. Also, his selfishness means he relies much less on his team mates than Messi and although he does occasionally grab a good team goal, a large amount of his goals tend to be great solo efforts, including free kicks or 40 yard screamers (Porto). This, in turn, means that in a tight match where Man U may not be playing too well, he can still dig them out all on his own with a moment of inspiration.
    As for Messi, when he's having a bad game, you just don't see him - it's that simple. He's not so arrogant that he genuinely believes he is God's Gift even when he's clearly not playing too well (whereas Ronaldo could always put in a header when you were trying so hard to keep him quiet - see last years CL Final). Also, if Xavi Iniesta Henry and Eto'o all struggling (which, this season, is a big ask) I think Messi could do very little on his own. He may keep the ball well and be a nuisance but he's not selfish enough to just go it alone and say 'right, I'll do it on my own then'.
    Both are class players (one with an unfortunate but occasionally rewarding attitude problem), and probably the two best wing-forwards in the world. As a Man Utd fan I could certainly do without Ronaldo's petulance and he seems to have little or no loyalty at all. But my goodness has his arrogance and selfishness gotten us out of some holes when we were struggling? Something that I believe even Lionel Messi may stuggle to do.
    My wife's always telling me I talk too much!!!

  • Comment number 77.

    Tim,

    What do you think of Di Maria at Benfica? Does he have the potential a solid player for a big club in the future?

    Thanks

  • Comment number 78.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 79.


    As much as i hate to admit it as an opposing fan i would find myself more afraid of Ronaldo.

    I wish i could say otherwise but i cannot. With Ronaldo whenever he gets the ball you expect something. This isnt the case with Messi.

    Though I do prefer Messi as a player overall, he doesnt scare me on the ball as much as Cristiano Ronaldo.

  • Comment number 80.

    It is simply irrelevant to compare scoring records for different leagues, no one can say how many goals Messi would have scored if playing in the premier league, or how many C.Ronaldo would have scored in la liga.

  • Comment number 81.

    i think i have followed soccer for quite long and have seen great and productive palyers like rivaldo, Zidane, patrick kluivert and more. with this era it is messi and ronaldo. this two players however have unique qualities. messi has the ability to fool his opponents, the ability to run into empty spaces and give good accurate passes and hardly looses possesion of the ball. on the other hand, ronaldo has a good pace.he runs so fast and try to hit the ball into the net.but ronaldo easily gets faustrated by hard tacklings such as that of Gatuso and Zambrota.he hardly gets his day with such players arround him. unlike messi, cannavaro and pepe, even Gatuso and more couldnt do that to him. so i think messi is quiete better.

  • Comment number 82.

    With regards to legends, everyone remembers certain moments of genius which cannot be repeated by others. Take Maradona's wonder goal against England for instance. There have been comments that Ronaldo's arrogance and selfishness alow him to perform miracles and pull united out of slumps (theboyaintbad) which Messi cannot match.

    Well... Does anyone remember his wonder goal against Getafe? If not then have a look on youtube and tell me he's not a genius! Could you point out similar Ronaldo moments?

    I'm not saying Ronaldo is useless but Messi is the better player in my (humble) opinion.

  • Comment number 83.

    79. At 12:09pm on 27 May 2009, GrecianinAustria wrote:

    "I wish i could say otherwise but i cannot. With Ronaldo whenever he gets the ball you expect something. This isnt the case with Messi."


    I couldn't disagree more...

  • Comment number 84.

    When Messi gets roughed up he begins to struggle just like Irelands rugby player ROG (for you rugby fans) for example against the first Real Madrid match and against us. Messi doesn't shine against the English sides and imagine what would happen to him if he played the rough sides like Stoke and Bolton. Kevin Davies against Messi.

  • Comment number 85.

    Hey Mr. thinksmart1..., I don't think you're even thinking smart enough.
    You say "Until messi comes to the english leagues ull never realise that messi cant play in the english league. Ronaldo, the best player in the Premiership, yet messi, couldnt find half as many goals."
    Sorry but that's crapy, you don't need to go only to English league to prove that you are the best. If you have good memory when C.Ronaldo became the best player it was for the first time in so many years, seeing all the years dominated by players from La liga, the likes of Ronaldinho Gaucho, Luis Figo, Zinadine Zidane, Rivaldo and Kaka from Italian league......
    The last time I gave credit for C. Ronaldo was during the euro that was played in Portugal, since then his football is only Manchester United, hence I also pose the same challenge that if he is really great let him play in other leagues like the La Liga...

    The only advantage in C. Ronaldo is his sprinting, he usually confuses himself when he tries to dribble past a stead defender and he usually knock against defender and he can't keep the ball close enough the reason he loose it and start getting frustrated. I bet tonight he gonna get frustrated by the likes of Dan and Puyol that he may affect the whole team........mark my words

  • Comment number 86.

    I wonder if Messi had been born in England whether he would ever have been given the chance to play football at a professional level. How many great potential players are we missing out on because of the English game's obsession with physical attributes and lack of focus on technique?

  • Comment number 87.

    9. At 6:42pm on 26 May 2009, messiisgod wrote:
    Mark my words, Messy will be dormant tommorrow
    --------------------
    Why would you bother to post such a poor prediction?

    -------------------------------------------

    Think that this prediction will be spot on - he done nothing in 2 legs Vs Chelsea and done nothing when the Mancs done them last yr - he looks very good against rubbish defences in la liga - which isnt too hard!

  • Comment number 88.

    Mark my words, Messy will be dormant tommorrow
    --------------------
    Why would you bother to post such a poor prediction?
    --------------------
    Because is a forum where people have the opportunity to express an opinion. He is also right by the way.

    MESSI IS A MUG.

    He is too short, never scored against a Premier League team, and has no leadership qualities whatsoever. I would comfartably beat him up, and bench press more than him.

    Im not saying Ronaldo will play well at all tonight. Messi nor Ronaldo will have a sniff tonight to run towards goal. Ronaldo will cause an arial threat, otherwise he will do nothing.

    You underestamate the tactics behind football these days. They will obviously double up on both these players. Two 'worse' defenders in the PL can happily stop Ronaldo, so will two Braca defenders.

    Tonights game will be won or lost with Xavi and Iniesta, and Uniteds ability to break play up. United will sit back and counter attack. Barca will NOT score.

    United 1:0 Barca

  • Comment number 89.

    Mark my words, Messy will be dormant tommorrow
    --------------------
    Why would you bother to post such a poor prediction?

    -------------------------------------------

    Think that this prediction will be spot on - he done nothing in 2 legs Vs Chelsea and done nothing when the Mancs done them last yr - he looks very good against rubbish defences in la liga - which isnt too hard!
    -----------------
    Haha it's difficult to dignify that with a response. You come back on here tomorrow and we'll see who is right, ok?

  • Comment number 90.

    tomoshywel1

    Kind of agrre with what you are saying. I think ronaldo has a better all round game then messi

    Ronaldo has deadlt freekicks / good in the air / lightning pace (Vs arsenal the 3rd goal he was clocked doing 50m in 5.3 secs an hr into the game)

    Messi has better dribbling and the ball seems to stick to his feet and he is great at playing little one two's with the other midgets in the Barca team

    I think Barca will struggle tonight - if they cant break Man U down with pretty passes then what do they do? They have no plan B (eg an adebayor or drogba who they can cross the ball into)

  • Comment number 91.

    "however his display against Arsenal dispels the general opinion that he disappears in big games"

    I think that opinion was probably dispelled a little while back, or at least should've been...in the last three years, ronaldo's scored against AC Milan, Inter Milan, Chelsea (plus should've been another 2 this year, with the disallowed quick corner, and the wrongly ruled out offside goal), Liverpool(2), Arsenal(4), Lyon, Porto, Sporting (2)....you could possibly include Everton(4), Villa(7) and the derby Man City(3). Plus he's scored in a Champions League Final, an FA cup Final, and a League Cup Final....


    ...don't get me wrong, he can be marked out of games (often double teamed), but he will invariably still breakaway at some point, get one oppurtunity and take it. Opposing fans will then moan that he didn't do anything all game but score the goal, but that can be one of his strengths, that he has the self belief, stamina, anticipation and composure to still get away and convert that one chance he gets. It's never gonna be easy dominating a game when marked out, especially on the wing as less area to evade the marker. To me, he's still our most important player as he's the one that gives us penetration when we're lacking, which can happen both in the big games, or when teams park the bus; we're not in anyway a 1 man team, but he makes a huge difference to the team's success rate.

    ...regards messi being a team player, compared to ronaldo...I'd completely agree, but ronaldo's belief and selfeshness is completely needed at times; etoo and henry are better finishers than united's forwards; rooney and tevez for all their strengths aren't the most clinical; rooney's better outside the box, and tevez is more instinctive, both spurned numerous chances time and time again last season, and it often needed ronaldo to go it alone. Ronaldo's assists would be much higher if some of our players were slightly more clinical.

  • Comment number 92.

    Whoever tried to correct me, your dumb! Messi has done nothing against english opposition, and thats even with the best team outside the premierleague! In the premierleague, barca would be a top 4 side yes, but messi wouldnt be as effective, where as ronaldo has proved he can take on the best league in the world.. Ronaldo plays strong defences by himself, where as the spanish league the defences are rarely anywhere near the english defences.. Your 3rd team in spain is nothing compared to the top 4 of england, yet i could see in 2 years the likes on man city, tottenham, everton, aston villa! All being better than the 3rd best in spain.. Its just how it is. Messi in the spanish league looks better than ronaldo in the english league, Yet the english league is harder full stop. Spanish fans just cant admit that the english league is better.. I dont care what anyone says, ronaldo would make messi look like shaun wright phillips in the prem!

  • Comment number 93.

    Agree with all the people how say we can't compare there are different players even though I prefer messi for the attitude and the instinct play.

    About Ronaldo being a better all round player, come on you cannot ask Messi to be good at heading look at his size! Ronaldo is taller and bigger physically it is logical he is better at headed goals!!!
    As well for the goal comparison I agree it is nonesense for two thing:
    Firstly Ronaldo became a striker two years ago before he wasn't asked to score goals just go past the defence and cross it like beckam use to at Man U.
    Secondly Messi does not take the penalties, Eto'o does which make a big differences on goal count. If you wanted to be fair you should compare goals scored in open play, in a season how many penalties Man U gets and how many Ronaldo is ask to take! Same with free kicks Ronaldo takes every free kicks if he is on the field compared to Barcelona where it is a shared responsability depending on where is the foul.

    I mean why argue both side will have valid arguments! Lets all enjoy the luck we have to have so many wonderfull footballer playing at the same time! And this is a neutral as I am a gunner fan who doesn't care who wins tonight but just wants to enjoy a beautiful match tonight!!!
    Both will rejoin the All stars team that includes Pele, Garincha, Maradonna, Di stefano, Cruyff, Beckenbauer,Platini, Ronaldo, Zidane,...

    You can't compare any of them as they were all genuises that have and will make generations of football lovers dream and love football even more!!

  • Comment number 94.

    I think Messi is a wonderful player. However for me having Ronaldo in the team gives you more of a threat in the last third. I know people are comparing goal scoring records but Ronaldo plays in a physical league where the quality of the defending is far superior to that in Spain.

    As for tonight - Barca will have the majority of the possession but United will have the best chances which I feel they will take.

    As for the greats in the game - I never had the honour of watching Maradona but I did have the privilege of watching Zidane who I consider to be the best of his generation and indeed in the top 5 of all time.

  • Comment number 95.

    I think Messi is a wonderful player. However for me having Ronaldo in the team gives you more of a threat in the last third. I know people are comparing goal scoring records but Ronaldo plays in a physical league where the quality of the defending is far superior to that in Spain.
    ----------------------
    In that case why is Messi's goals record in the CL far superior to Ronaldo's, despite taking many less shots? Ronaldo's scored a mere 4 goals from 62 shots in the CL this season. Messi is the CL leading scorer despite taking just over 30 shots. And goals are just a by-product of Messi's creative play - whereas with Ronaldo they're his main strength due to his lack of vision and passing ability.

  • Comment number 96.

    Ronaldo is better than messi because he has proved himself in the biggest and best league in the world. He has scored more, he has better freekciks, and he can header. I think today will be a very tight gtame but barcelona will not be able to break united down with pretty passes (arsenal failed) and i think that united have more variation and that will win it.

  • Comment number 97.

    So many people are using the fact that Messi has not scored in 10 games against English opposition as an arguement that Ronaldo is better. You also claim that Messi would struggle in the Premiership against better defences, whereas he finds it easy in La Liga. By your own admission, La Liga defences are not as good as their Premeir League counterparts. However, you fail to mention that Ronaldo has failed to score in his 6 CL games against Spanish opposition, which supposedly have much worse defences... If you are going to argue, at least provide both sets of stats when you make your invalid point.

  • Comment number 98.

    Messi against Ronaldo is a pointless debate, they're completely different players, you might as well ask who was better between Ronaldo and Ferdinand, or Moore and Hurst.

  • Comment number 99.

    Cristiano Ronaldo will go down in history as great player alongside the likes of Kaka, Ronaldo and Henry. But Lionel Messi is the player of this generation. He will go down in history with the likes of Maradona, Pele and Zidane.

    Messi's ability to repeatedly beat a player is unique. David Pleat was spot on when he said its as if the ball and his foot are attached by an invisible piece of string. His ability to dribble is something matched only by Maradona. Messi also has an immense ability to find the killer pass. He can play a pass inch perfect past defenders to his team mates - his goal assists record speaks for itself. Add these attributes to his calm composed nature in front of goal and you have yourself one of the greatest players ever.

    Ronaldo may be a great player with an impressive ability to score goals but for me his passing and dribbling aren't good enough. He loses possession too many times and it has almost been costly this season against Porto and Aston Villa. And whilst his dribbling is aesthetically pleasing, I don't see enough of an end product to his 'party tricks.' It seems he just does them for the sake of doing them, as the likes of Nani do, and not for the sake of getting the ball past player.

  • Comment number 100.

    Cristiano Ronaldo will go down in history as great player alongside the likes of Kaka, Ronaldo and Henry. But Lionel Messi is the player of this generation. He will go down in history with the likes of Maradona, Pele and Zidane.

    Messi's ability to repeatedly beat a player is unique. David Pleat was spot on when he said its as if the ball and his foot are attached by an invisible piece of string. His ability to dribble is something matched only by Maradona. Messi also has an immense ability to find the killer pass. He can play a pass inch perfect past defenders to his team mates - his goal assists record speaks for itself. Add these attributes to his calm composed nature in front of goal and you have yourself one of the greatest players ever.

    Ronaldo may be a great player with an impressive ability to score goals but for me his passing and dribbling aren't good enough. He loses possession too many times and it has almost been costly this season against Porto and Aston Villa. And whilst his dribbling is aesthetically pleasing, I don't see enough of an end product to his 'party tricks.' It seems he just does them for the sake of doing them, as the likes of Nani do, and not for the sake of getting the ball past player.
    -------------------
    That's a great post, I agree with every word. The problem is that very important qualities like decision-making, touch and vision don't show up on stats, and so superficially it seems like they are players of the same level - they aren't. If you actually watch the 2 play over the space of a few games it's clear there's a gap.

 

Page 1 of 3

BBC iD

Sign in

BBC navigation

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.