After the aftermath the UEFA European Championship in which Portugal, an unlikely winner, clinched its first international professional trophy, there were several praises for Cristiano Ronaldo, the captain of the national squad. Some deserved, some not. At the end of the day, despite the win, football fans should not forget that Lionel Messi was involved in another continental competition, la Copa America Centenario, a little earlier this summer and led his country to the final against the defending champion and, despite started the competition and on the bench injured, managed to tear the competition apart (5 goals, 4 assists in 5 games, 3 games started). Argentina ultimately lost on penalty kicks against Chile, for the second year in a row.
If Gonzalo Higuain would have been able to do to Chile and Claudio Bravo what Eder has done to France and Hugo Lloris in the final, Argentina may have won its first senior trophy since 1993, Lionel Messi would finally win a professional trophy with La Albiceleste, and critics would not have been so harsh and cruel versus the Argentine superstar, five-time Ballon d’Or winner and on the receiving end of countless individual and collective honours during his career, which started officially in 2004.
While CR7 is older and started his career a few seasons before Leo Messi, there is no doubt in my mind that La Pulga is the better player. While the former is physical phenomenon, a great header of the ball, and goal-scoring machine (especially since joining La Liga Santander) and without a doubt one of the best player of the last 20 years, Messi can do pretty everything on a football pitch. The little man can score, assist, pass the ball, direct the play and play in numerous positions with efficiency. We have seen Messi play as a number 10, 9, 9 and a half, as a winger and even as a number six (versus Germany in 2010 was shocking to see). He is up there with the likes of Pelé, Diego Armando Maradona, Garrincha, Franz Beckenbauer and Johan Cruyff. His simplification of the game and the fear that he strikes towards his opponents are simply baffling, while Ronaldo has often been absent during big games and Portugal’s victory in the final without their captain plus Real Madrid CF’s penalty kicks win against their local rivals, Atlético de Madrid, in the Champions League final with an absent and inefficient number 7 can testify furthermore of this fact.
The statistics, the silverware won and the impact on the pitch do not lie. Lionel Andres Messi is currently the best footballer on the planet and the question should be: where will he rank in the history of the game when his career will end.
And he should be the current favourite for the Golden Ball/Ballon d’Or 2016 if you look at statistics and honours won so far for the calendar year.