Ronaldo has been breaking records left and right despite having a poor start to the season by his lofty standards.
Against Malmo, he didn’t play his best but still managed to get two goals and in all fairness, could have scored two more goals had he been in the form he has been throughout the last six or seven seasons.
Here is a list of records Ronaldo made after his Malmo performance:
- Scored the 500th goal of his career
- Broke Raul’s record for most goals scored by a Real Madrid player
- Is now the highest goal scorer in Champions League history. Five ahead of Messi.
The season has barely begun but Ronaldo already has 10 goals to his name and as we all have observed, he could have had many more.
People would quote Messi’s statistics and how he has won so much for Barcelona (let’s not even discuss the legality of his trophy haul) in his career. Comparisons between the two are inevitable and necessary.
But if we only rank players by the sheer amount of goals they scored then, Maradona would not even make the Top 10 greatest players of all times. Klose (German International striker) would be considered the greatest World Cup striker of all times ahead of players such as Pele, Ronaldo and Zidane.
If we go by number of trophies than players such as Maradona, Zidane, Figo would rank nowhere near the Top 10 greatest of all times. Ryan Giggs, a Manchester United semi great, would rank above everyone else with 11 league titles and God knows how many more titles in Europe and English league.
So we can easily reach the conclusion that to become the greatest player of all time, one has to do more than win titles and score goals.
With that out of the way, here is why I think Ronaldo’s 500 goals cannot be compared to Messi’s:
- Ronaldo didn’t start out as a striker (or a goalscorer if you want to call it that). Ronaldo started out as an out and out winger. Pure flank player. His only job was to provide assists.
For every ninety minutes he played early on in his career, his job was to go past players on the wings and bring out his crossing arsenal.
Scoring goals was not on his to do list and neither was required of him from the perspective of the team .
It was only in the last three seasons at Manchester United (and now at Real Madrid) did Ronaldo become a player who was tasked to score goals as he had great speed and was light on his feet.
Compare that with Lionel Messi and you would clearly see that Messi altogether had different circumstances.
Messi has played in the same position since he started playing football. That is, wherever he feels like playing. Usually that means, that Messi plays in positions that allow him to score most number of goals, or in a worse case scenario, make most number of assists.
Messi has never been asked to sacrifice his strong points for the team by playing in an unfamiliar position.
Ronaldo played on the wings for Manchester United in the early days. Then he had a sensational season in which he scored 42 goals from the wings for Manchester United. That is something Messi has never done.
Messi always has been the kind of player who playing centrally and who wants the team to make sure that every attacking ball played, goes through him.
At Manchester United, Ronaldo had to share the ball a lot more than Messi at Barcelona.
It was only when Ronaldo came to Real Madrid did the scales finally weighed right between Ronaldo and Messi.
Ronaldo at Real Madrid, had the same freedoms (but not the style) as Messi had at Barcelona and the numbers Ronaldo wracked up for Real Madrid speak for themselves.
- Ronaldo has changed teams three times in his career compared to Messi’s 0. That counts for a lot as far as versatility is concerned. It is easy to get an A on exam when your mother does your laundry, puts food on the table and pays your rent. It is a whole another ball game if you’re a fulbright scholar studying abroad.
That scholar is Ronaldo who has been a globetrotter as far as changing teams is concerned (and playing in different systems) while Messi is still a player who has (and in all fairness, needs) everything set up for him from the moment he wakes up till he goes to sleep.
Ronaldo has played in teams that played in a style that wasn’t necessarily most conducive to his goal scoring ability. Under Mourinho, Real Madrid played counter attacking football (which does suit Ronaldo but compare that with Barcelona where Messi is always given a system where his teammates run forward all the time, making space for him and giving him limitless options) and before that Alex Ferguson played in a system that was balanced on a knife edge as far as attack and defense went.
Ronaldo had to prove his worth in all those systems. It’s not hard to score goals (like Messi) when your team is the most attack minded team in the history of football.
It is a different game altogether when you play for teams that don’t have the means to cater to your particular strengths.
Manchester United has always been a team that relies on teamwork rather than individual skill, so it is a miracle that Ronaldo scored so many goals there and that too from a wide positions.
Messi always has played in a system that focuses on attack and him being the in the center of that attack. He is the scorer, the assist maker, the playmaker, the winger and the false number nine.
He is everything, he needs to be to score more goals (and make more assists). That in no way means that what Messi does is not hard. It’s just not as hard as Ronaldo’s work.
- Messi has always played with the best players (in every position) in the world. Not only that, the core of this Barcelona squad has been together since their childhood.
That gave a massive advantage to Messi over everyone else. While Ronaldo had to work with a hating Rooney (for the wink at World Cup 2006) and a club (Manchester United) that wanted to sell him for what Ronaldo had done, Messi was being mollycoddled by Rijkaard, Guardiola and his teammates who were in awe of his technical ability on the ball (Pique, Xavi and most of all Henry).
Has Messi ever been put in a situation where he had no chemistry with his teammates? The answer is no because he has had the trio of Xavi, Iniesta and Pique behind him since the day he started to play football at Barcelona.
Not to mention the fact that this Barcelona side (this season is the only exception) was famed for having stability in its squad. Average length of career at Barcelona is probably the highest in the world, certainly higher than what Ronaldo has to deal with at Real Madrid where there is an exodus of players every season.
It would have been interesting to see Messi adjust had Barcelona sold of Xavi or Iniesta along with Alves or Pique in the same season. Or may be not because that scenario would never play out at Barcelona.
No such luck for Ronaldo as he had Di Maria cut of from him, when they combined so well to give Real Madrid goal all season long. Di Maria’s long ball strength coupled with Ronaldo’s aerial ability was a killer combination.
And from this another vital question originates. How many times in Messi’s career has he been on the weaker side in a given football match (for club and country. Argentina may not be the Barcelona of International football but it certainly is ranked amongst the top three attacking sides in the world)?
I don’t know the exact number but you can bet your house on anywhere from zero to one. How does Messi’s goals be of equal weight to Ronaldo goals, when Ronaldo played for teams such as Sporting and Manchester United (who have never been the strongest side in any season).
Even when Ronaldo came to Real Madrid, he wasn’t on the strongest side but certainly one of the strongest sides. Barcelona and Bayern Munich consistently rank above Real Madrid in terms of squad quality (on paper at least.)
Messi is a great player. He has an amazing technique when it comes to running with the ball and going past players. But it is also true that no player in the world has the auxiliary systems that Messi has in place.
From a great team to great long-term contracted teammates. From a system that was built from the ground up for his style to a coach that allows him to play where he wants to, Messi is a one off case of the footballing world.
Conversely, Ronaldo just had to make way for Gareth Bale as a central player for Real Madrid and has to do with a second rate Portugal team year after year.