Messi vs Ron­aldo

Ron­aldo is no longer the buc­ca­neer­ing young lad who thrived on spec­tac­u­lar solo runs

CityPress - - Front Page - PETER AUF DER HEYDE sports@city­press.co.za

The re­cent 1-1 draw be­tween Real Madrid and Barcelona left the match-up be­tween su­per­stars Lionel Messi and Cris­tiano Ron­aldo evenly poised – at least for this sea­son.

Over­all, the diminu­tive Ar­gen­tinian mae­stro rules the roost, end­ing up on the win­ning side in 14 of the 28 com­pet­i­tive games the two played against each other. By com­par­i­son, Ron­aldo has nine wins un­der his belt.

That, at least, is the story on the field of play, so to say.

In the ban­quet halls, where the in­di­vid­ual awards are handed out, the Por­tuguese striker has taken a 1-0 lead and is ex­pected to turn that into a two-award cush­ion in a few weeks when Fifa an­nounces its player of the year.

At the be­gin­ning of this week, Ron­aldo beat off his main ri­val to win the cov­eted Bal­lon d’Or, which was awarded for the first time again this year, hav­ing merged with the Fifa award in 2010.

The two play­ers have just about made all global in­di­vid­ual awards their own since 2007, when striker Kaka was the last player not named Messi or Ron­aldo to win an in­di­vid­ual award, tak­ing both the Fifa award and the Bal­lon d’Or.

Since then, Barcelona’s Messi picked up the Fifa world player of the year in 2009, the Bal­lon d’Or in the same year and the Fifa Bal­lon d’Or in 2010, 2011, 2012 and last year.

In that time, Ron­aldo won the 2008 Fifa World Player of the Year Award, the Bal­lon d’Or (2008, 2016) and the Fifa Bal­lon d’Or in 2013 and 2014.

Such is their dom­i­nance that they fin­ished run­ners-up to each other on all but one oc­ca­sion, with Span­ish mid­fielder An­drés Ini­esta the only one to gate-crash the party by fin­ish­ing sec­ond be­hind Messi for the Fifa Bal­lon d’Or in 2010.

Ron­aldo was the over­whelm­ing favourite to lift the Bal­lon d’Or this time around, and thus, when he was seen hold­ing the tro­phy in a leaked cover of France Foot­ball – the magazine that or­gan­ises and ul­ti­mately awards the ac­co­lade – sev­eral hours be­fore the of­fi­cial an­nounce­ment was made, few peo­ple were sur­prised. Ron­aldo has the ad­van­tage It is not only in terms of the matches the two have played against each other this year that Ron­aldo has the slight ad­van­tage of one game won and one game drawn, it is also in terms of tro­phies won.

Ron­aldo won the Cham­pi­ons League with Real Madrid and then helped Por­tu­gal to their first ma­jor tro­phy, pick­ing up the Euro tour­na­ment over the European sum­mer. The 31-year-old is aware that win­ning the two gave him the ad­van­tage.

“It was an un­for­get­table year, pos­si­bly the best of my ca­reer on a col­lec­tive and in­di­vid­ual level. I must re­spect the Cham­pi­ons League, which is an im­pres­sive tro­phy, but I ap­pre­ci­ate more the tro­phy I won with Por­tu­gal, which was a step higher,” he said.

“It’s my job, my pro­fes­sion, and I re­ally sacri­fice my­self. When you win some­thing, it’s im­por­tant that I put the team first. If Real Madrid and Por­tu­gal didn’t win any­thing, I couldn’t win this tro­phy.”

Chances are that Ron­aldo will add the Fifa award, which since this year has again split from the France Foot­ball one, early next year. Any­thing but a Ron­aldo vic­tory, which would al­low the Real Madrid player to add that to the ever grow­ing num­ber of in­di­vid­ual awards that find them­selves in his per­sonal tro­phy cabi­net, would be a huge sur­prise.

How­ever, win­ning the Fifa player award on Jan­uary 9 in Zurich might give him a 2-0 lead for the sea­son, but would only tie the over­all con­test as Messi still leads that 6-5.

PHO­TOS: GETTY IM­AGES

CAN’T TOUCH THIS Cris­tiano Ron­aldo of Real Madrid is now one up on his ma­jor ri­val, Lionel Messi LIT­TLE MA­GI­CIAN Lionel Messi’s ri­valry against Cris­tiano Ron­aldo keeps in­ten­si­fy­ing

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