The comparisons between Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, the two greatest footballers of this generation, are inevitable. And now that they both play in the same league for two of the fiercest rivals the scrutiny will be even more extreme.
Ronaldo was the World Footballer of the Year in 2008, and the next year it was Messi who won the award. While Messi remained with Barcelona, Ronaldo moved to Real Madrid.
From then on, Messi has been getting all the plaudits, while Ronaldo has been consistently attacked. Most of these attacks stemmed from the constant comparison, and such comparisons so early are unfair.
Messi leads a simple life and is loved by all. But more importantly he plays for the best team in the La Liga. He has the best supporting cast that a team member can ask for.
Also, his gradual movement from the academy to the first team has put the least amount of pressure on him, while giving him the exposure to the Barcelona style of football and time to gel well and synchronize with his teammates.
All these factors make the good Messi a better performer. Barcelona without Messi are still dangerous.
Ronaldo, on the other hand, is hated by almost all. His playboy lifestyle, shiny hair-gel, diving, complaining, and showboating has made him a player to loathe. His success with United and his defiance of Sir Alex along with his flirtations with Real Madrid prior to the move only added fuel to the fire.
So when he moved to Real Madrid he was perhaps the most coveted, yet hated, player in the world.
Real Madrid have been through many good times, but with recent struggles and Barcelona's success, there has been immense pressure on them to return to their glory days. So when Ronaldo moved to Santiago Bernabéu Stadium for a world record transfer fee, he was touted to be the saviour of the team.
He could have been, if he was the missing link to the puzzle.
It turns out Real Madrid were not missing the link but the whole puzzle itself. The new president Perez wanted to outdo his predecessor Ramon Calderon. He bought superstars like Kaka and Benzema in an attempt to establish his own identity and also sold many useful, valuable, and important pieces of the team like Arjen Robben and Wesley Sneijder for dirt cheap.
Real Madrid now were a roster full of stars, but they were not a team.
Perez also brought in a new coach, Manuel Pellegrini, after firing Juande Ramos. Pellegrini was the manager of Villareal, and the winner of the fabulous Intertoto cup in 2004.
This is the soup that Ronaldo has landed in: a team with poor stability, a team with many members still getting used to each other, a team with a coach who is still trying to figure out how best to use the players.
All the while, the added pressure of the exorbitant transfer fees lies on Ronaldo's shoulders.
Under these circumstances, it is extremely unfair to compare Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi.
EDIT: 11 Man Barcelona unable to win against10 Man Inter to make it to the Champions League Finals. Messi was playing in the match. Still think he is the best man?
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