Even though statistically Ronaldo bested Messi last season by having superior numbers and goal scoring ratio, the fact is that most of Ronaldo’s goals were either sitters or penalties. If you look at Messi’s performances during the last season, he was magical.
When Messi scored goals, they were beautiful goals. When he assisted goals, they were killer assists. There was virtually nothing Messi could not do on the pitch last season. He ran, scored, assisted and defended pretty well too if we are contrasting him with Ronaldo.
Ronaldo won zero trophies last season (though he tried to win some despite best efforts from the likes of Bale and Casillas to ruin Real Madrid) and Messi won all of them. Not only did Messi win all of those trophies, he was instrumental for Barcelona in all competitions. If there was no Messi, Barcelona would have been knocked out of every single title race.
Anyway, Ronaldo needs to fight back. His only retribution would be to best Messi next season. Messi will make it five Ballon Dors come February while Ronaldo would not care one inch about his three. Here are five ways that Ronaldo can best Messi this season:
- This might seem a bit humorous to some, especially to Ronaldo but he needs to read some football literature man. He is past 30 now and by this time, most great players have a unique view of the state of play when they are on the pitch. State of play simply means that a player is able to recognise hidden opportunities in football matches, he is able to see things before anyone else sees them. Ronaldo simply has not developed much in that department. On the other hand, Messi keeps on raising the bar for influencing games not just with his speed but with his mind because he has so much knowledge of the game. On his day he can manipulate the state of play whichever way he likes while the opposition watches helplessly. Ronaldo, on his good day, overpowers opposition with his speed and powerful shots and that doesn’t work against good teams. Hell, it never works against great teams. Ronaldo needs to make his game less reliant on his speed and power. He needs to consult , may be, other senior players or his coaches on how he can be more influential on the field without a power game. Some basic football literature would not do him harm as on the field, it looks like he hasn’t read a page about what ‘tactics’ or ‘strategy’ actually is. Most of the times he picks up the ball and looks to make a long sprint either by knocking the ball two, three yards ahead of him or by trying to make a simple pass to whoever is in front of him. Apart from that Ronaldo is a pretty run of the mill ‘good’ player if you take out his free kicks and header (which aren’t easy against good teams and a lot depends on the delivery of the cross or long ball). Ronaldo has to realise that now he no longer is an up and coming talent who can woo the coaches by running fast and shooting hard. He has to prove that he has matured as a player and can now think for himself on the field rather than rely on the coach every time something goes wrong. Messi never does that no matter what the situation is on the field as he has the mental capacity to come up with solutions on his own. So far, the only area where Ronaldo has matured over the years is his useless dribbling. He has drastically reduced the amount of stepover he used to do when he was at Manchester United and that too, I think, he stopped because those convoluted movements were hurting his knees and ankles. Ronaldo needs more brain not more fitness to get past Messi this season.
- Mental game is a big part of any sport but that does not mean that you can ignore physical fitness. Ronaldo has been at the forefront of what’s possible for the human body if an athlete can stay motivated and disciplined but last season was a disaster. Tapings of all sizes and colours were seen on Ronaldo’s thighs. Some say he hurt his knee bad during the World Cup 2014 and never really recovered from that all season. In Ronaldo’s case it is not the case of negligence or laziness. It is his overexertion. He needs to smarten up about how he treats his body. He is over 30 now and that means his body won’t be able to recover from two matches in a week so quickly as it used to. Ronaldo needs to let Copa Del Rey matches go except for when it is necessitated by the situation of the match. He also needs to rest in Champions League group stages especially in home games. He has to start thinking about playing less than the full 90 minutes every game, every weekend. I don’t think there is any question about whether Ronaldo can be effective again for Real Madrid (not for himself by scoring loads of goals with no trophies in the end) this season.
- Ronaldo needs to work on his free kicks. There was a time when Ronaldo was the number one free kick taker in the world and Messi was nowhere to be seen on direct free kicks chart. Now, the chart has been turned upside down. Messi can take a good free kick almost at will and Ronaldo has scored only once from a free kick in 70 tries. Even the one he scored off was down to deflection and misjudgement by the keeper. Real Madrid squad has those kind of players who can get Ronaldo plenty of free kicks over the course of the season. Gareth Bale proved that from the right side of the field he can be devastating. That reduces the work for Ronaldo by fifty percent. He needs to take advantage of his situation. Barcelona were very effective last season because Neymar (one of the most fouled player in Europe and La Liga) was fouled regularly which gave Messi a lot of opportunities to either take a direct free kick or loop the ball into the box for someone to head. Real Madrid got the bitter end of that play in the Clasico when Messi’s indirect free kick from the left was met by Mattheu. Ronaldo needs to improve his free kicks big time if Real Madrid is to have any chance of winning trophies and hence, for Ronaldo, individual prizes.
- It is also about time that Ronaldo diversifies his game in more ways than one. Over the years Ronaldo has improved key areas of his game little by little, season by season. The only aspect he has made no effort to improve is his curve shots. He cannot take curve shots from 90 percent of the situations and hence has to go for the knuckle shot or lace shot. Messi, again, is on the other end of the spectrum as he can take curve shots from ridiculous angles and hence doesn’t have to rely much on the power of his knee to score goals. Ronaldo has to improve his inside of the foot shot which curve the ball inwards and also his outer sole shot which curves the ball away from his position. Of course, he CAN do those things but he has to learn how to be able to do those at will and from more positions especially when he is off balanced or closed down by defenders.
- Last point begins where the first point ended. Ronaldo needs to learn some simple dribbles that can help him get past defenders without too much effort. Age, experience and defenders expectations play a big role in the modern game. Ronaldo has to put a lot of work on the ball to get past players unlike Messi who, 90 percent of the time, uses body feints to get past even the top defenders. Hence, he spends less effort in getting past players and puts more effort into scoring goals. Ronaldo on the other hand, usually tires himself out with dribbles on the wing and while they are effective and rather attractive to look at, they don’t deliver the goods at the level necessary for Ronaldo to get past Messi. Ronaldo needs to learn simple dribbles that are not too taxing on his stamina, his knees and his ankles. That is the only way he can be effective in title winning matches. Either that or Ronaldo can continue to raise hell against 2nd tier defenders of La Liga while Real Madrid watch Barcelona sweep up three to four trophies every season.
In short, Ronaldo needs to grow up. He is at the start of his closing days in football and it is about time that he stops abusing his speed and power to win things. He has to work on his mental attributes as well has his skill with the ball.
That’s the only way he can best Messi because what we have all learned from the past seasons is that Ronaldo cannot get any quicker than he is now, but he can get smarter and wiser.