Cristiano Ronaldo will have a more complete career than Lionel Messi if he wins Euro 2016
Neither player has won a major international tournament - yet
The inspiring leader
“If we lose, f**k it! It is in God’s hands now,” said Cristiano Ronaldo to Joao Moutinho. The latter’s memory still had the crevasse from the blow it took when he missed a penalty against Spain in the semi-final at Euro 2012.
Genghis Khan might have been an oppressor of the worst kind, but one can’t deny his abilities as a leader. The Mongolians were scattered nomads, content with living in tents and eating what they preyed on. And yet, Genghis, also known as Temujin, unified them to build an empire that was twice as big as Alexander the Great could ever acquire.
Ronaldo might be arrogant, but he is a leader. As his biceps beautifully flaunt the captain’s armband, the character he showed to persuade Moutinho to take one of the penalties against Poland in the shoot-out was exemplary.
Penalties are more luck than anything else. When the Real Madrid star asked his boys to “f**k it” if they lose, it released some pressure off of them. They were inspired, their leader galvanised them.
The contrasting childhoods
There is no doubt that Lionel Messi is the greatest player of our generation. The man has scored and assisted more goals than his Portuguese counterpart during the latter’s time in Spain, he has won more trophies with his club and has two more Ballons d’Or to his name than any other player in the history of football.
And yet, there remains one thing that has eluded both of them so far: a major international trophy.
If one compares the upbringing of the Portuguese and the Argentine – coupled with the teams that they have been in for both club and country – Messi has had it better than Ronaldo.
I am going to take the road of ultimate narcissism and quote myself from this article on 7 reasons why Cristiano Ronaldo is now the player he is.
Growing up in his neighbourhood in Madeira wasn’t easy for the Portuguese. From that age itself, he was the best among his peers and played with guys who were years older than him. When almost-grown men see that a little kid is ripping them to shreds, they are bound to suffer pangs of jealousy.
That jealousy, in turn, pushes them to take an action. It either makes them try hard to do better or urges their dark side out and they try to bring the best down. As Cristiano was small in stature, they tried the latter for it was easier. And he was bullied.
In contrast, Messi joined Barcelona at the age of 12 and didn’t have to face the adverse situations that were a part of Cristiano’s daily life.
Similarly, the Barcelona star has played in better teams than the Portugal captain. Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona is heralded as the greatest side of the modern era, eclipsing both Manchester United and Real Madrid in terms of quality and guile. The Argentina team also has more world class players than Portugal’s squad does.
Continuity is another aspect that has helped La Pulga. Look at his career; despite being managed by four different managers, he has played in the same system at Barcelona all his life. With Argentina, the system is different and, hence, the difference in the player becomes apparent.
The former Manchester United winger, on the other hand, has had to endure playing through different styles. It was one kind of football with Sir Alex Ferguson, another with Manuel Pellegrini, something entirely different with Jose Mourinho and then with Carlo Ancelotti, and then there was the disastrous Rafa Benitez era.
And now, he plays a more rigid role in Zinedine Zidane’s system that gives Gareth Bale more creative freedom.
The image of consistency
Yet, he can’t stop scoring. Regardless of the system, he keeps banging them in week-in and week-out. Age might be beginning to wear him down slowly, but he shows no sign of depreciation just yet.
And despite getting over all these difficulties, there is a strange lack of respect from the neutrals towards him. But it doesn’t matter to him, it never did; for all he cares about is glory – everything else is just secondary.
As he prepares to lead Portugal to their first ever Euro win, all eyes will be fixated upon him. Most neutrals and Barcelona fans will hope that he doesn’t succeed because then he would have an edge over Messi – he will have won something in the international arena, something that the Argentine has failed to do so far.
However, if he wins, and that is a big if because France are outright favourites to lift the trophy, there would be no doubt that his career would become more complete than that of his Argentine counterpart.