Messi scores a screamer, but Ronaldo is howling
There is an agonised howl that Cristiano Ronaldo has made his hallmark. You see it whenever a rival, typically a goalkeeper, denies him glory. Last weekend, there’s a good chance that he was howling again in private.
The weekend had started so well for Ronaldo. Playing away from home, he’d scored the only goal against Rayo Vallecano, a strike which maintained Real Madrid’s march to the Primera División title. What’s more, the goal was sensational. Drifting away from goal after a corner, his back towards goal, he stabbed his right heel at the ball with such force and precision that it seared through a crowd of advancing players and into the bottom right-hand corner of the net.
It was a moment of such audacity, such impudence, that he had every right to think it would be the most startling and beautiful goal scored anywhere in Europe’s major leagues that week. Who could top that? And, as ever, Ronaldo’s celebration was confirmation of his own genius. It’s as if Michelangelo had celebrated the painting of the Sistine Chapel ceiling by planking on the Pope’s lawn. His body language said it all. ”I’m a beast,” it swaggered. ”I’m a badman. The bee’s knees. The duck’s nuts.”
Poor Ronaldo. For if he is the duck’s nuts, Messi is the whole golden goose. Later that evening, against Atletico Madrid – a team whom he has serially tormented, having scored 18 goals in 14 games against them – Messi made Ronaldo’s backheel look as tame as, well, a backpass. With ten minutes to go, the score level at one each, he stood over a free-kick well away to the left edge of Atletico’s penalty area. And then, from a position that it is tough enough to get a cross on a striker’s forehead, he curved the ball up, across and then beneath the crossbar, into the topmost corner of the right side-netting. There hasn’t been a shot of such terrifying accuracy since William Tell took aim at that apple.
Poor Ronaldo. He is so good that he has actually made his price tag of £80m, given the various attacking travails of Andy Carroll, Dimitar Berbatov, Kaka and Fernando Torres, look like exceptional business. He has been scoring at the rate of about a goal a game since his arrival at Real Madrid. And still, somehow, almost implausibly, he is not the best forward in the world.
It’s hard to know if Messi is competing with Ronaldo, since he utters so little in public on any matter, let alone this one. But if he is engaged in a grudge match, then this is the most sustained streak of passive aggression that football has ever seen. ”Behold. I have turned the magnificent into the mundane”, says Ronaldo, with each weekly feat of brilliance. ”That’s nice,” smiles Messi meekly. “Look, look over here, I have just turned the impossible into the probable.”
There is a very good chance that, by the time Messi is done, Ronaldo will not be the only great player who is left howling. Pele has already voiced his disquiet at the growth of the Messi legend, knowing all too well that the Argentine’s rise may eventually come at the expense of his own. Indeed, he has chosen to refer to Messi, not uncritically, with an increasing and telling frequency. “It is a normal thing when a player is compared to a player from another time period, sometimes he is not interested in the comparison,” Pele told Globoesporte last October. “If he really did not see me, I’ll do what I once did with Maradona: I’ll send him the video ‘Pelé Eterno’ and then he will.” And then, in an interview with Le Monde this January, he went further. ”When Messi’s scored 1,283 goals like me, when he’s won three World Cups, we’ll talk about it.”
Eloquently put. But we will know how good Messi really is the day that Pele, in full and unforgiving view of the world’s media, throws his head back and simply howls:
“Argh!”Tagged in: Barcelona, cristiano ronaldo, football, Lionel Messi, Pele, real madrid
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