It is sad that you have only two players in the world to choose from. Earlier we had Johan Cruyff, Diego Maradona, Pele, Zico. All over the world. Now there are only two players.”
How appropriately Pele has described the duo that rules the world. Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo are the two greatest players of their generation. But a familiar question kicks in every time these two legends are discussed. Who is the better of the two? It is a debate that can go on eternally, with both sides having their sets of positives and negatives. But if you look at it statistically, then coming to a conclusion will be like trying to grab the moon. Impossible.
Who is the greatest? Is there an answer to this?
Statistically, both lie on equal footing. Messi has 617 goals from 765 appearances for club and country. Ronaldo has 658 goals from 915 appearances for club and country. They have both won countless trophies for their respective clubs. Both have won the coveted Balon d’Or 5 times each.
So does that mean that both of them are exactly the same? No. There is one seemingly small thing that tips the balance. Messi hasn’t won a single trophy with the national team while Ronaldo has, by winning the Euro 2016. Now, this isn’t a factor in itself. But the reason behind this achievement is the real factor.
Some argue, that the reason Messi failed to live up to expectations this time around, is because his teammates weren’t upto the mark and they let him down. If they had created enough opportunities for him to display his brilliance, then he could have won it for them. Maybe. But this is not an excuse. At least Messi had players like Aguero, Higuain, and Mascherano to support him. Ronaldo had no one. Both in the Euro 2016, as well as World Cup 2018. But he had something that Messi didn’t. And that is exactly what separates the two. Leadership skills.
Leaders become great not because of their power, but because of their ability to empower others”, said John Maxwell.
Cristiano Ronaldo, took a mediocre Portugal team, from scrap to becoming European champions in 2016. This world cup too, Ronaldo led Portugal by example. He inspired them. He inspired them with his actions, performance, and attitude. The rest of the team didn’t support him. He supported the rest of the team. And that is exactly what great leaders do. They inspire ordinary men to undertake extraordinary tasks. That is what Dhoni did in 2007, that is what Maradona did in 1986, and that is what Ronaldo did in 2016. Messi failed to do that. He failed to take them over the line. He may be an exceptional player, but his leadership turned out to be less than impressive. Eleven great players can’t make what one great leader can. A great team. And in the end, that may well be the thin line that separates the greatest from the great.