The penultimate comparison in the Rijkaard versus Guardiola series is between the two superstars.
On one side we have the 1-time Ballon D’Or winner and 2-time FIFA World Player of the Year winner, Brazilian legend Ronaldinho, trademark smile and all.
On the other we have the 2-time Ballon D’Or winner and 1-time FIFA World Player of the Year winner, the diminutive Argentine known as Lionel Messi.
Where to start? Both invoke smiles when raised with a Blaugrana fan, or grimaces with a Madrista. Both were the "superstar" of their respective side and both have won all there is to win, at club level anyway.
So, on paper, these two are pretty even.
Though, look closer, and it’s not really the case.
Ronaldinho was signed by Joan Laporta, but it may never have been the case. Laporta was elected into office having promised the signing of David Beckham, but hey, who’s complaining?
Upon arrival he rejuvenated a side that had slipped to 6th place the year previous, and in his first season he led the team to a second place finish, despite being hampered by injuries. The next season, he helped the team go one better and in his time with Barcelona he won 2 La Liga titles, 2 Super Cups and of course, the Champions League in 2006.
He was a true legend at the club, his passing was fantastic, everyone knows of his dribbling skills, and he was also a great goal scorer. The heir to Zidane’s crown as the best player in the world, Ronnie amassed 110 goals in his time with Barcelona, in addition to 80 assists. He also scored that memorable goal against Chelsea:
Andres Iniesta Goal vs. Chelsea (via PrimeTime2912)
Damn it! Not that one! This one!
ronaldinho goal vs chelsea (via bluearmy06)
He can also claim to be one of, if not the only opposition player, let alone Barca player to receive a standing ovation from the Bernabeu crowd after his brace in a famous 3-0 victory.
But comparing him to Messi? No way.
Don’t get me wrong, Ronaldinho is in the 99 percentile of players to have ever played the game, but Messi is in the top 1 players!
He first burst onto the scene under Rijkaard, with a Maradona-esque goal versus Getafe in which he ran 62 yards and beat 6 players (goalkeeper included). And since then?
His stats dwarf those of Ronaldinho, he has scored more goals, and this season, has more assists too. How can you compare the leading goal-scorer and assistor in the world to anyone?
If I took the best attributes of Ronaldinho – dribbling, passing, movement, free-kicks etc. – it is arguable that Messi is better at them all. He is not perfect, but appears to be pretty darn close from a footballing perspective.
What I would have loved to see though, is a Ronaldinho is his prime playing with the present-day Messi. One can only imagine the joy it would be to watch, unless you are a Real fan that is!
I'm just glad that they both chose to spend some time at Barcelona, but there is a clear winner, and that's Messi.
Winner: Lionel Messi
Next week, I compare the mangers, as Rijkaard and Guardiola face off.