The argument over who has been the greatest exponent of the beautiful game of association/federation football also known as soccer has been an enduring one. Over time each man, woman or child – for that matter – has each managed to have their individual choices in the far-flung pitch.
Before now it has been a straight battle between the supporters of Edson Arantes do Nascimento better known by his nickname Pele of Brazil and Diego Amando Maradona of Argentina. Both retired, these two masters who played at different intervals for their clubs and country were to take the game to a rarefied height that saw artistry rather brawn taking its pride of place in the practice of the sport.
Lately, two names Cristiano Ronaldo dos Sar Aveiro of Real Madrid and Portugal and Lionel Andres Messi of FC Barcelona and Argentina have joined the spree. This time, though, perhaps because they are contemporaries the argument has oftentimes been focussed more on whom between them is better than the other. So much has the tension risen that presently a Nigerian of south-eastern origin is awaiting trial for snuffing the life off a compatriot of his as a result of another incident of the argument in faraway India.
According to Messi who is not unaware of the trend, the media has been the guiltiest in stoking the embers of this fire which is not near abatement in the nearest future. Whether in the pages of the newspapers and magazines or on the airwaves, each player has been touted to possess this or that quality over the other with a view to winning the argument.
The truth remains though that juxtaposed anyhow both players are undoubted masters of the game. Undoubtedly, they had the qualities to walk into any world eleven the selector notwithstanding. Given the number of years they have been on top of their game, none can yet successfully guess the ceiling that will cap their career achievements. While Messi had led the way ab initio, Ronaldo did do some catching up when among other things injury caught up with the diminutive Argentine.
Both have for club and country scored goals that have beggared belief with the rapidity of clockwork week in week out. All the more fascinating because they do this in spite of the close attentions always lavished on them by the best defenders and goalkeepers in the world against whom they always end up playing in league, cup and friendly ties. So much so that now what is often newsworthy is their far more infrequent failure to perform at full tilt.
Yes, for more often than not they end up scoring in solo efforts, orchestrated team work and from dead ball situations at random. Were this to have been the sports page, I could easily have gotten you flummoxed with the abiding statistics. Suffice it to note that indices apart, these guys can play. Their individual play, I bet you, is worth more than the teamwork of the celebrated teams that have played together to applause. Be it the memorable Brazilian team that clinched the 1970 World Cup in Mexico or their Italian counterparts to the trophy at the 1982 Mundial in Spain.
Just to imagine the pure thrill of Ronaldo taking off with a controlled ball after some intricate footwork. Head towards the corner flank he would awhile before detouring on goal on the wing of a sold dummy. The thunderbolt of a goal-bound shot that was bound to follow would no doubt leave the keeper rooted to a spot or sprawling on the turf as the ball made its way into the net.
Or would you rather you caught him at his pre-free kick routine with the breathing lesson in tow? All of which would fade to an infinitesimal speck of sand compared to the mountainous peak of his goal celebration.
If Ronaldo at work is comparable the celebration of perpetual motion and athleticism, Messi on his part comes through as the king of audacious play. If Ronaldo can take on one man like the proverbial hot knife on butter, Messi can run on an entire opposing team with gusto. Perhaps on account of his proclivity to the earth’s gravitational pull, he seldom hits the ground passing through. And though he be pulled or bullied, he sure finds a way to bury the ball where it mattered.
Just as it is believed that when two elephants fight the grass suffer, when these two elephants of the beautiful game play, the grass revel.sing trouble in faraway Brazil if they didn’t let her be. Being scions off same stock they retorted that they were waiting for her with their own ailment – a fever, in fact – that they had excess stock of here.