This is the debate in world football: Cristiano Ronaldo or Lionel Messi?
For some, the Argentine is the best player of all time, and for others, the Portuguese is at the top. However, there is no denying the fact that these two players are the best of their generation and no one else even comes close to the level they are performing at.
What makes their rivalry even more difficult is that despite being top scorers, they are both very different from each other. While Messi focuses more on technique, Ronaldo relies on strength and an incredible work ethic.
Almost every aspect of their game is in stark contrast to each other, and here we take a look at those differences.
Start with what they do best: finish. In the last 5 years, these two have scored more goals than many teams combined. That is why, in the last 5 years, no one, except them, occupied the first 2 places in the Golden Ball draw.
The Portuguese finishes well – this is his greatest strength. You can bet your life on Cristiano Ronaldo scoring in a minute, whether it’s from the nearest corner or from the longest distance. He relies heavily on power to make sure his shots land, and it works more often than not.
As the Portuguese uses power to finish his shots, the Argentine prefers to take his shots with precision and he almost always does so flawlessly. The brilliant technique and accuracy of the 6-time winner of the “Golden Ball” allow him to make shots in the most difficult situations.
The power that allowed him to score so many goals will remain so in the future, because technique never weakens with age, it improves like wine.
Cristiano Ronaldo was once one of the best dribblers in the world. During his time at Sporting and United, he picked up the ball from deep and rounded many players to score. His labyrinthine dribbling has ruined many defenders’ nights.
However, he is not the same now as he can rarely make one successful dribble these days. The problem is that his dribbling style made him a bit predictable at one point in his career. His dribbling technique isn’t used very well in La Liga – as we’ve seen with Gareth Bale recently.
Lionel Messi is the best dribbler in the world. His tight control while dribbling is impressive and the fact that people wonder how he actually does it. The ball seems to stick to his legs – as if he was born with it and is an extension of his leg.
This is the one area where Lionel Messi outright surpasses Cristiano Ronaldo – or any other player for that matter – and leaves little room for debate.
#3 Aerial threat
He doesn’t jump, he flies. The Portuguese has perhaps the greatest leap in the game as he feels like he is floating in the air while he does it. His excellent jumping technique allows him to stay in the air for the maximum amount of time, and his accurate header allows him to accurately put the ball into the net.
In this aspect, Cristiano Ronaldo is much better than Lionel Messi.
The one aspect of his overall game that leaves us wanting more is his flying ability. Lionel Messi can do anything except head goals often. If he has scored a few goals with his head, he is far from what we would call aerial. His short stature is the only reason for this, as there is no doubt that he would be very good in the air if he were a few inches taller.
he has shown some improvement in quantitative terms with a few headers this season, but he is by no means prolific in the air.
It wasn’t something he did often during his Manchester United days. He preferred to dribble the ball rather than passing to a teammate and building the play. However, at Real Madrid, his style of play has changed significantly and he involves his teammates much more than before.
However, his passing game is not as creative as it should be for a player of his caliber. He rarely executes a perfect through ball or a header pass to beat his partner on goal. After playing football at the highest level for so many years, it can be concluded that this is the biggest flaw in his game – something that costs him a lot of credit.
There are very few players in the world who can pass the ball as easily as Lionel Messi in the final third. The Argentinian is an inspiration in creating chances for his team-mates, delivering wicked through-the-ball passes that destroy many teams’ defences.
His unreal close control allows him to pass from the tightest of spaces, and his hawk vision gives him the precision that makes him effective. He can be covered by several defenders and not be prevented from breaking through them with a divine pass.
One of the most dangerous aspects of his game is his pace. He can outrun almost any defender in the world. His incredible thigh muscle strength allows him to stride forward and cover a lot of ground in a very short time.
His running style is very advantageous when there is open space to run. However, where there is little space, he can rarely run there at full speed.
Although the Argentine is also fast, his style of sprinting is very different from that of the reigning Ballon d’Or winner. He runs with short strides – as you’d expect given his size – and that allows him to twist and turn more and wreak havoc against defenses.
This style of sprinting gives him extra yards and looks almost elusive.
#6 The first touch
First contact is an important part of a player’s skill set. It separates the good from the best. A good first touch is the sign of a smart player. Anyone who has played even a little football knows how difficult it is to control an incoming pass.
Cristiano Ronaldo’s first touch is decent to say the least. It’s not smart or great, just decent. He can receive the ball and control it, but does not always clear space with it. However, when it comes to shooting, the decent one becomes legendary as he scores stunning goals with his first touch, something only he can do best.
When it comes to first contact, there are few better than Lionel Messi. What makes him a genius is his subtle first touch. From the very first touch, he beats the defenders and frees up space for himself. His awareness when receiving the ball in a passing environment is incredible.
However, his first touch on goal is not as great as the Portuguese’s. Cristiano knows the tricks in these scenarios better than the Argentine.
#7 Decreased foot strength
The former United man’s left foot is about as strong as his right when it comes to striking. The power he generates with his supposedly weaker leg when landing a punch has many eyes widening.
However, he does not use it while dribbling. In this respect, his weak leg is really weak. However, to be fair, not all players are Santi Cazorla and can use both feet even when dribbling.
Lionel Messi scored great goals with his right foot. Although his weaker right foot is not as strong as the Portuguese’s left, it is more effective when closer to 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 only uses it for running and balancing.