A rivalry from hell but a match in heaven?
The history of football is awash with ‘what ifs’. For instance, with Steven Gerrard nearly joining Chelsea in 2005, many people wonder just how he and Lampard could have given the West London club a complete monopoly over domestic trophies. A curious combination undoubtedly, but as evidenced by their poor cohesion in England’s failed Euro 2008 qualification campaign, Lampard and Gerrard might not have been a match made in heaven after all.
Then there was Alan Shearer’s Manchester United near-miss in the mid-1990s. The Geordie hero instead chose to join his hometown club, rather than partner up with the likes of Andrew Cole and Eric Cantona. Had Shearer taken a different path, then an intriguing blend of contrasting personalities would have been in full evidence, although opinions as to how that would have affected United remain mixed.
Today, there are two players that continually whet the appetite where fantasy football is concerned. They are, of course, Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. The latter is aiming to equalise against Messi in the Ballon D’Or stakes, and the latest spread betting markets indicate that Ronaldo (along with his Real Madrid teammates) is the more fancied of the two to lift the Champions League trophy yet again in May.
The two have a personal rivalry akin to nothing the world has seen before, but how exactly would they combine in a dream starting XI?
Joining forces – a match made in heaven?
Firstly, and most importantly, the players would not necessarily have to overlap as part of any attacking setup. Ultimately, the dream XI with Ronaldo and Messi contains more of a ‘combination’ made in heaven, rather than a ‘match’ – or any sort of ‘partnership’. Being ambidextrous, Ronaldo’s primary objective would be to provide quality from the left flank in a wide 4-3-3, with Messi doing the same from the right.
Both players are obviously well-known for cutting in from wide and shooting with deadly accuracy. Since there is no explicit need for the two to overlap under normal circumstances, the combination could very easily work. However, with Ronaldo generally being seen as the greater ‘showman’, there would always be underlying concerns that Ronaldo’s love for the limelight could affect the team. With Ronaldo and Messi in the same squad, a combination of big personalities would be an inevitable factor, but so too would a glut of silverware.
It should be remembered that Ronaldo has won silverware playing alongside other celebrated luminaries of European football, and his personality has never prevented his club from fulfilling its expectations.
Messi v Ronaldo – The war continues
Most neutrals would argue that Ronaldo is the greater ball-player, but Messi’s low centre of gravity gives him extra stability on the ball when running at goal. Under the right coaching, such complementary qualities could be present to devastating effect. However, this is the real world, and the debate as to which player is the better continues to rage amongst football fans across the world.
In each of the last nine editions of the Ballon d’Or awards, the greatest piece of personal silverware in the football world has gone to Messi or Ronaldo. This year, Ronaldo has every chance of ‘equalising’ against Messi by winning a fifth award, having powered his side to yet another domestic and European double. However, the fact remains that Messi outscored Ronaldo 37-25 in the 2016/17 La Liga season.
Although it is naive to say that a sixth Ballon d’Or for Messi to Ronaldo’s four would be an unassailable lead, time is the only unbeatable element in football. There are now a number of younger players waiting to pounce on football’s most coveted personal prize, and the time of final reckoning in the battle of the world’s greatest two is close at hand.