It's the raging debate of world football: Cristiano Ronaldo or Lionel Messi?
To some, the Argentine is the greatest player ever and to others, the Portuguese is on top. What can’t be denied though is the fact that both of these players are the best of their generation, and that no one else even comes close to the level at which they operate.
What makes their rivalry even more complex is that despite being goalscorers, they are both really different from each other. While Messi is more technique-oriented, Ronaldo relies on power and incredible work-ethic.
Almost every aspect of their game is in stark contrast with that of the other, and here we take a look at those differences.
Starting off with what they do best: finish. Over the last 5 years, these two have scored more goals than many teams combined. It is for this reason that no-one has occupied the top 2 spots of the Ballon d’Or in the last 5 years other than them.
The Portuguese is a solid finisher – it is his biggest strength. Be it from the tightest of angles or the longest of distance, one can bet her/his life on Cristiano Ronaldo to score from a minute scoring chance. He heavily relies on power to make sure that his shots end up in the end and it works more often than not.
As the Portuguese uses power to finish his shots, the Argentine prefers placing his shots accurately and he does it immaculately almost always. The 6-time Ballon d’Or winner’s brilliant technique and precision allow him to place his shots from the meanest of situations.
This strength of his has allowed him to score so many goals will continue to do so as technique never wanes with age, it just gets better like wine.
Also check out: Messi vs Ronaldo complete stats
Once upon a time, Cristiano Ronaldo was one of the best dribblers in the world. During his time at Sporting and United, he would pluck the ball out from deep and dribble past many players to score. His freestyle mazy dribbles ruined the nights of many defenders.
However, he isn’t the same now as he can rarely pull off a single successful dribble these days. The problem is that his dribbling style made sure that he became a little predictable at some point in his career. His method of dribbling doesn’t often go down too well in La Liga – as we have seen with Gareth Bale now.
Lionel Messi is the best dribbler in the world. His close control while dribbling is quite astonishing and makes people wonder how he actually does it. The ball seems to stick to his feet – as if he was born with it and it is an extension of his leg
This is the one field where Lionel Messi is outrightly superior to Cristiano Ronaldo – or any player for that matter – and leaves little room for debate.
#3 Aerial Threat
He doesn’t jump, he flies. The Portuguese perhaps has the greatest leap in the game as it feels like he floats in the air while he’s at it. His superb jumping technique allows him to stay in the air for the maximum amount of time and his precision heading allows him to place the ball in the net with accuracy.
In this aspect, Cristiano Ronaldo is much better than Lionel Messi.
The only aspect of his overall game that leaves us wanting more is his aerial ability. Lionel Messi can do everything, except score from headers frequently. While he has scored some headers, he is far from what one could call as aerially strong. His short stature is the only reason for this as there is little doubt that he would have been great aerially if he were some more inches taller.
he has shown some improvement in numerical terms scoring a few headers this season but by no means is he prolific in the air.
Back in his Manchester United days, this wasn’t something he did often. He preferred dribbling more than passing to a team-mate and building up play. At Real Madrid, however, his playing style has changed considerably and he brings in his team-mates a lot more than he once used to.
His passing, however, is not as creative as it should be for a player of his calibre. Rarely does he execute an inch-perfect through ball or a lob pass to get his team-mate through on goal. After so many years of playing football at the top, it can be concluded that this is the biggest deficiency in his game – something that costs him a lot of appreciation.
There are very few players in the world that can pass the ball as fluently as Lionel Messi can in the final third. The Argentine is a mastermind at creating chances for his team-mates by sliding in vicious defence-piercing passes that dismantle the defence of so many teams.
His unreal close control allows him to make passes from the tightest of spaces and his hawk-vision gives him the accuracy that makes him effective. He can be closed down by multiple defenders and yet not stop him from breaching them with a divine pass.
One of the more lethal aspects of his game is pace. He can outrun almost every defender there is in world football. His incredible thigh muscle strength allows him to burst forward with long strides and cover a lot of ground in a very short space of time.
His running style is really advantageous when there is free space to run into. However, where the space is little, he can rarely function at top speed there.
While the Argentine is also quick, his sprinting style is a lot different than the reigning Ballon d’Or winner. He runs with short strides – as one can expect from looking at his height – and that allows him to twist and turn more and wreak havoc against defences.
This sprinting style is what allows him the extra yards and seem almost uncatchable.
#6 First Touch
First touch is an essential part of a player’s skill-set. It differentiates the good from the best. A good first touch is the sign of a clever player. Anyone who has played a little bit of football would know how difficult it is to control an incoming pass.
Cristiano Ronaldo’s first touch is decent, to say the least. It isn’t clever, or great, just decent. He can receive the ball and control, but not consistently make space with it. While shooting, however, the decent becomes legendary as he has scored from astonishing goals with his first touch – something that only he can do best.
When it comes to first touch, there are a few better than Lionel Messi. What makes him a genius is his subtle first-touch. With his first-touch itself, he beats defenders and makes space for himself. His awareness while receiving the ball in passing surroundings is incredible.
Near the goal, however, his first touch to score isn’t as glorious as the Portuguese’s. Cristiano’s awareness of the sticks in these scenarios is better than that of the Argentine.
#7 Weaker-foot strength
The former United man’s left foot is just about as strong as his right when it comes to shooting. The power he generates from his supposed weaker foot while taking a shot leaves many with agape eyes.
However, he doesn’t really use it while dribbling. In that regard, his weak foot is really weak. To be fair to him, though, not all players are Santi Cazorla and can use both their feet even while dribbling.
Lionel Messi has scored some great goals with his right foot. While his weaker right foot isn’t as strong as the Portuguese’s left-foot, it does have more efficiency when it is nearer to the goal.
Even with his right-foot, Messi seems to place the ball quite well, but other than that – and over long distances – his right is almost obsolete and he uses it only for running and balancing himself.