The debate will continue to rage on in as much as these two great talents are still in active services no matter what! The debate about who is the greatest between these two geniuses can be summarized under their individual efforts for teams mostly on goals and assists! What comes next is the numbers of trophies and awards the team was able to achieve while engaging one of them in their services. Another point to consider is their respective consistencies in big matches’ week in, week out!
On one hand is Lionel Messi, Barcelona ace and rave of the moment in world club football. As for this past season (2011/2012), in 60 appearances he scored 73 massive goals and made 29 assists in all competitions, a first-of-its kind feat in club football history! His dominance in the modern era of the game is incredible and almost unbelievable. On the other hand, Cristiano Ronaldo, Real Madrid mega star and currently with a champion’s medal in the league, a stylish, hardworking and fleet-footed striker who loves challenges. In his 55 appearances he has succeeded in banging in 60 goals and 15 assists while also picking ‘19’ man of the match awards in the process, he also became the only player to score against every club in La Liga in the same season (2011/2012). Now, where is this argument tilting towards? Can we now conclude that C. Ronaldo is the greatest or Messi deserves to wear the crown?
Another issue to consider is, if Barcelona had not been blessed with such a dominant midfield under the influences of Iniesta, Xavi and Busquets would Messi be as dominant as he is now? But football analysts who watched this season closely may likely correct this notion that the 2011/12 season was even more difficult for Barcelona as a team, it seems the team is generally fatigued. Messi on most occasions has to shoulder the responsibilities of injured David Villa and the on and off Pedro Rodriquez all alone. Indeed, Messi proved his invincibility by scoring 73 incredible goals, 20 more than previous season’s efforts where Iniesta, Xavi and Busquets were even more prominent in the midfield. What of if C. Ronaldo was to be in another team would he have the same success as he does now in Real Madrid? Even going further in this debate, assuming Messi is taken out of the Barcelona squad and the same with C. Ronaldo which of the team would have had a superior season? Which of the team would still have gone ahead to win the El Classico and eventually pick the coveted La Liga title? Let us evaluate the impacts of their goals and assists to their respective teams. This is absolutely statistics and may not necessarily be the final solution to the lingering debates between the two. In the 2011/12 season, Barcelona finished the year in the second place with 91 points; they won 28 matches, drew 7, lost 3 and to cap it up, finished with a goal difference of 85. Assuming Messi is not in Barcelona, they would have finished in 6th place with probably 62 points, winning 16 matches, drawing 14 and losing 8, then finishing with a goal difference of 19. As for Real Madrid, they finished the season as champion with 100 points. They won 32 matches, drew 4 and lost 2, ending the season with a goal difference of 89. If Cristiano Ronaldo was not in the team. Real Madrid would have finished the year still in 1st place but with 75 points, winning 22 matches, drawing 9, losing 7 and finishing with a goal difference of 31.
Indeed, so far from these calculations, it is very obvious that Messi means more to Barcelona than to what C. Ronaldo is to Real Madrid. What made this past season (2011/12) looked the way it was is the fact that the Barcelona team machine started showing some clinks and clanks in the perfect formula at a time Lionel Messi was at his best! The debate seems to be getting one-sided now, perhaps may prompt the next question – Is Messi the greatest ever? (Note the question, no more contention with C. Ronaldo). I think the answer is a capital YES! Perhaps I am biased you may think or probably you thought I am just being naïve. I may not be privileged to have watched earlier games right from the inception of the game or simply put, when it was created. One thing is very clear, and that is; there has never been anyone like Messi, especially from the way he does his art in terms of his self-generated formula for every occasion on the pitch, coupled with his style, grace and creativity. People will always argue that he is yet to win a World Cup, you will agree with me that this era is no longer a World Cup freak moment, but it is indeed an era club football rules. There has never been anyone in the history of the game that is better than Lionel Messi especially at his age. If at his age he can carry the responsibilities of a tired and injured Barcelona on his tiny shoulders and came out with such intimidating records he set, then he deserves another FIFA Ballon d’Or.
Sometimes you have to stop and think and wonder at yourself that, are we not looking at another “human wonder of the world”? Messi is simply defining an era, think about this; he always starts new season with a new age, new records, new magic, new styles, the list is endless. One frightening thing about this genius is that, his best is yet to come! He is busy achieving what no other players have been able to do in the modern era. I think the comparison between Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo may hit a dead end in this coming season 2012/13. Cristiano Ronaldo started his professional club football career in the 2002/03 season with Sporting Clube de Portugal, 2 years ahead of Lionel Messi who began his promising club career with F.C Barcelona in the 2004/05 season. So far so good, C. Ronaldo has played 467 games in his club career till date (as at the end of the 2011/12 season) with 269 goals and 87 assists while Messi has played 329 games with 253 goals and 102 assists to show. One thing is important to note here, C. Ronaldo has played 138 more games ahead of Messi yet, its just a mere 16 goals separating C. Ronaldo from Lionel Messi. Should Messi overtake C. Ronaldo in all goals for club career in this coming season, (which is possible) then C. Ronaldo is history! Note that in the just concluded season (2011/12), Messi was 13 goals ahead of C. Ronaldo in all club competitions. I will not doubt the possibility of Messi stepping up his game and doing the expected – leaving Cristiano Ronaldo behind! Already, he (Messi) had overtaken him (C. Ronaldo) in the number of assists as you can see from the statistics above.
In my own candid opinion, I think in the history of club football, “Messi’s Myth” will continue to convince the convinced and confuse the confused for a long time to come!