Is it Messi or Ron­aldo?

Lit­tle mas­ter is un­touch­able The big guy will do it again

CityPress - - Sport - S’BU­SISO MSE­LEKU sm­se­leku@city­press.co.za TIM­O­THY MOLOBI tim­o­thy@city­press.co.za

Ar­gen­tinian na­tional skip­per and FC Barcelona star player Lionel Messi is favoured to take home the 2016 Fifa Bal­lon d’Or award for World Player of the Year in Zurich to­mor­row night for a fifth time. De­spite his 1.7m frame, the 28-year-old re­mains un­touch­able, hav­ing made a sen­sa­tional turnout in 2015 by win­ning al­most ev­ery tro­phy go­ing.

In the pe­riod un­der re­view, Messi played 4 793 min­utes of foot­ball, scored 48 goals and made 21 as­sists. That trans­lates to a goal ev­ery 100 min­utes and an as­sist ev­ery 200 min­utes, mak­ing him a wor­thy con­tender.

Sta­tis­ti­cally, he is way ahead of the other play­ers on the short list – Real Madrid ri­val Cris­tiano Ron­aldo, who has won the award three times; and his team-mate, the Brazil­ian su­per­star Ney­mar, who has taken the Span­ish La Liga and Euro­pean scene by storm.

In this pe­riod, Messi has been an in­te­gral part of the Barcelona team that won the Copa del Rey, the La Liga cham­pi­onship and the Uefa Cham­pi­ons League tro­phies.

Foot­ball fans world­wide have used phrases such as “po­etry in mo­tion”, “the great­est foot­baller ever” and other su­perla­tives to de­scribe this diminu­tive yet pow­er­ful for­ward.

Just when you think you have seen his best, Messi de­liv­ers the kind of bril­liance that gives foot­ball its moniker, “the beau­ti­ful game”.

Was it not Shake­speare who opined: “Some peo­ple are born great, some achieve great­ness, and some have great­ness thrust upon them.” Messi has pos­si­bly done all three.

He was a soc­cer whizz kid prac­ti­cally from birth, de­spite the hor­mone growth de­fi­ciency he suf­fered in child­hood and which was coun­tered with treat­ment in his teens. He went on to stel­lar heights in adult­hood.

A pri­vate per­son, he is some­thing of an enigma and ef­fort­lessly at­tracts sus­tained pub­lic in­ter­est in his life on and off the pitch.

Just this week, YouTube went vi­ral with a video of him nut­meg­ging (kick­ing the ball be­tween the legs of an op­po­nent) Ar­gen­tinian team-mate Javier Mascher­ano while train­ing in Barcelona.

Some of the text ac­com­pa­ny­ing the video in­cluded: “What’s the point of be­ing the world’s best foot­baller if you can’t use your tal­ents to hu­mil­i­ate your friends? Barcelona’s Lionel Messi took some time in train­ing to con­sider how best to trick his Ar­gentina team-mate Javier Mascher­ano, and de­cided to go for the old-fash­ioned nut­meg.”

Well, that’s the kind of player he is, and he does it all in the name of good-na­tured ca­ma­raderie.

As a pre­lude to the Bal­lon d’Or, Messi was this week named World Play­maker of the Year by the In­ter­na­tional Fed­er­a­tion of Foot­ball His­tory and Statis­tics.

There is no doubt that Cris­tiano Ron­aldo de­serves his third suc­ces­sive Fifa Bal­lon d’Or award to­mor­row. Ron­aldo, who has won the pre­vi­ous two edi­tions of the Bal­lon d’Or, should get it again to tie the awards at 4-4 with his neme­sis

Messi. It was a one-man show for Ron­aldo as the Por­tuguese su­per­star car­ried Real Madrid on his shoul­ders af­ter scor­ing 52 goals and as­sisted a fur­ther 18 for Los Blan­cos even though he ended up with­out any team sil­ver­ware last year. But the fact that he did not win any tro­phies should not stop him from walk­ing away with the in­di­vid­ual award.

He was in his el­e­ment, de­spite his team-mates fail­ing to show up when it mat­tered most on the park.

Last year, “CR7” be­came the fourth man to join the ex­clu­sive club of win­ning the Bal­lon d’Or back to back. Ear­lier last year, he took his goal haul for the cam­paign to 48, good enough to land him his third Pichichi tro­phy as La Liga’s lead­ing marks­man.

His over­all tally also brought him the Golden Shoe as Europe’s top scorer, the fourth time he has won the ac­co­lade.

The 30-year-old be­came Real’s all-time lead­ing goal scorer last year, with 324 goals in 308 matches, which he has since bet­tered. The feat took him past that of the pre­vi­ous wearer of the No 7 Blanco jer­sey, Raúl González, who racked up 323 goals in 741 ap­pear­ances for Madrid. He might not have any­thing to show for his ef­forts, but in­di­vid­u­ally Ron­aldo has achieved a lot and de­serves the award.

Let’s also not for­get that al­though many be­lieve the award is a clear bat­tle be­tween the two for­mer win­ners, Ney­mar is not on the list by mis­take. Hav­ing de­vel­oped into one of the key cogs in the Barcelona ma­chine, the Brazil­ian has en­joyed a dream year at club level af­ter fin­ish­ing sec­ond in the Cata­lan gi­ants’ scor­ing charts be­hind Messi dur­ing their tre­blewin­ning sea­son (La Liga, Copa del Rey and Uefa Cham­pi­ons League).

Watch the awards on SS3 on DStv from 7.30pm to 9pm

PHOTO: DAVID RAMOS / GETTY IM­AGES

GE­NIUS Lionel Messi of FC Barcelona is the favourite to win the Fifa Bal­lon d’Or award to­mor­row night

PHOTO: MANUEL QUEIMADE­LOS ALONSO / GETTY IM­AGES

HAT-TRICK Cris­tiano Ron­aldo is likely to re­tain his crown to­mor­row

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