Comparing Lionel Messi's Copa America 2016 performance with Cristiano Ronaldo’s Euro 2016 performance
Lionel Messi vs Cristiano Ronaldo – an age old question that no one has a definitive answer to. Some may say that Messi has the better ball control and technique, while some might point out that Ronaldo has the better fitness and physical prowess of the two.
They both have qualities that make them the excellent players that they are. In recent times, as these two footballers have won everything there is to win at club level, none of them had any major trophy with their respective international teams, before Sunday.
Cristiano Ronaldo not only lifted his first international trophy, but also his country’s first ever international trophy when his team won the 2016 Euro Championship. Messi, on the other hand, lost his fourth international final when Argentina lost to Chile in the 2016 Copa America Centenario, at the end of which the Barcelona man announced his retirement from international football.
The love and admiration that these two players command from their fans is commendable. They are very much used to pitch invaders as both sets of fans idolise their respective star players. In the 2016 Copa America, a fan invaded the pitch only to get a glimpse of his idol Messi and then bowed down to touch his feet.
Something similar happened in the Euro 2016 when a fan rushed to the Portuguese star only to get a chance to take a selfie with him, and the Portuguese star was willing to take the selfie, even when his team failed to win the game. That’s what these two players mean to their countries.
La Pulga has been criticised by his own countrymen too, when he lost the 2015 Copa America finals, to which a dejected Messi replied: “We are still hearing these criticisms, people killing us.” He added: “We didn’t win them but we didn’t lose in the quarter-finals. Sometimes you don’t know if that would be better or worse!”
But Ronaldo does not have to deal with the same negativity from his countrymen as the Portuguese people have never tasted success prior to this. Their best international performance was when they reached the finals of the Euros, but bottled at the end and lost it. In comparison, Argentina have won two World Cups and 14 Copa America titles.
That is how big the difference is, which is why the demand of the Argentine fans are so much from their star men to deliver. Both these men were willing to go the distance in ensuring that their team wins an international trophy during their playing careers. Ronaldo even took on the role of a coach after he was injured in the finals!
Messi was never known for throwing any tantrums as a footballer and he still doesn’t throw any. the Barcelona star is known for his humble nature. On the other hand, Ronaldo has been surrounded by controversies and he recently threw a reporter’s mic in the lake after he tried to get close to the Real Madrid forward while they were on a team walk.
Messi’s decision to retire was probably prompted by the fact that the five-time Ballon d’Or winner had lost four finals that included the Fifa World Cup finals when Argentina lost to a resolute Germany team in 2014.
Portugal lift their first ever major trophy
It might have been further ignited by the fact that his countrymen had constantly compared him to former Argentina great Diego Maradona, who brought his country international glory after delivering the World Cup.
On the other hand, Ronaldo’s Portugal had won nothing prior to this, although he did carry his team to the finals of the 2004 Euros, where they lost to surprise winners Greece. The Portuguese team lifted their first major international trophy after they beat hosts France 1-0 in the finals, after Ronaldo had tragically been taken off after only a few minutes when Dimitri Payet crashed onto the Portuguese.
Ronaldo tried coming back but his efforts went in vain as he had to eventually be stretchered off the field, crying while he understood that his night is over in probably his biggest night.
Heading into the respective tournaments that Ronaldo and Messi had participated in, The Real Madrid man had lifted his third Champions League trophy, while the Barcelona man had won his second consecutive La Liga crown. They both captained their teams to their respective tournaments.
Ronaldo scored 35 goals in 36 appearances in the La Liga, while scoring 16 goals in the Champions League. In comparison, Messi scored 26 goals in 31 appearances in La Liga, while scoring a paltry six goals in the Champions League.
The Argentine started the Copa America campaign in fine form as he scored a hat-trick against Panama. At the end of the finals, he scored five goals and recorded four assists for his teammates. He finished second in the top scorers list.
On the other hand, the Portuguese started Euro 2016 in very indifferent form, as he scored his first goals in the final game of the group. His brace secured a draw that ensured that Portugal go through to the knock-out stages. At the end of the finals, he had three goals and three assists to his name, making him the second highest top scorer after Antoine Griezmann.
If the stats are to be compared, Messi outshines Ronaldo’s output in every department as he scored two more goals and recorded one more assist, by playing fewer minutes. But stats are one part of the story. Messi as some would say, was not strong enough to carry on playing for the Albiceleste after he failed to inspire his team to a Copa America victory, as his team reached two finals in two years.
|Players||Goals||Assists||End result in respective tournaments|
|Cristiano Ronaldo||3||3||Winner of the 2016 Euro Championship|
|Lionel Messi||5||4||Runner up of the 2016 Copa America|
Messi took only 16 shots, of which 9 were on target compared to Ronaldo’s incredible 46 shots, of which 12 were on target. This proves that Messi had a much higher shot accuracy at 56%, while Ronaldo had a shot accuracy of only 25%, which is less than half. Moreover, Messi played 374 minutes, while scoring after every 75 minutes. To put that into perspective, Ronaldo played 625 minutes, while scoring after every 208 minutes. Not a very healthy stat, but it must be noted that there were 16 teams in the Copa America compared to the 24 teams in Euros.
These stats prove that despite not winning the Copa America title, Messi’s numbers in the tournament look much better on paper and it was a surprise how Messi did not win the golden ball at the Copa America. A greater number of Messi’s attempts found the target, while he scored and created more goals too. But Ronaldo, despite having the lesser stats also had a decent campaign, though not anywhere near what was expected of him.
Messi was an anonymous figure in the finals as Argentina looked to banish their demons by beating Chile in last year’s repeat fixture. The match went to penalties, with Messi stepping up to take the first penalty, but he ended up missing. The Argentine was reduced to tears as his team once again ended up losing a final, at which point he thought enough was enough and he announced his retirement.
Ronaldo motivated his team to the title
Ronaldo on the other hand, could not finish the first half of the finals as the mercurial forward got injured. He tried coming back on, but his injury was too severe for him to take further part in the game. Although he could not be a part of the team anymore, the Real Madrid man encouraged his side from the touchline. He was reduced to tears not once, but multiple times in the match.
While Messi left his country when it needed his talent the most, Ronaldo delivered by sticking around long enough to finally lift a trophy that his country had been dreaming of. Maradona had claimed that Messi lacks the personality and the hunger to lead a team, something that Ronaldo seems to have. However, it does not take away the fact that Lionel Messi remains as one of the greatest footballers of all time, despite his many setbacks at international level.
They say that you have to win an international trophy to become the best player of the generation. That’s what made Pele and Maradona the players that they were. Prior to last night, neither Ronaldo nor Messi had an international trophy to show for. But now, it’s Ronaldo 1, Messi 0.