Some of you will remember the following memorable sentences:
This is what happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object. You won’t kill me out of some misplaced sense of self-righteousness, and I won’t kill you because you are just too much fun. I think you and I are destined to do this forever.
Having thrown the Joker off a building, the easiest thing in the world for Batman to do would be to let Joker fall to certain death, but he decided to hand him over to the authorities. Of all the villains the Dark Knight faced, his battles with the Joker – who was the very opposite of all he stood for – eventually defined him, to the point that no one thinks of Batman without thinking of his nemesis.
Increasingly, that is the feeling one gets watching Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi play. It feels like destiny that they are in the same league, under two of the best managers in the world, in two of the best teams in the world, at the peak of their powers, for the sole purpose of being the nemesis of each other and thrilling all who watch them. Messi has been lauded over and over again, but CR7 ‘s contribution to the spectacle is unfairly downplayed.
At over 6ft tall, he represents the ultimate modern player: blending power, blistering pace, technique, use of both feet, and he possesses threat from any situation 35 yards or less from goal. He scores free kicks, has great heading ability, crosses well, and gives assists to boot.
In the 138 appearances since joining the Whites from Manchester United, he has scored 139 goals. His 41 goals in the league this season, with 20 coming away from home (a La Liga record) has been instrumental in Real’s slim at the top of the standings. He is also the only player ever to score 40+ goals in a major European league in successive seasons, and equalled his overall tally last season of 53 in all competitions, with 5 games less. Never has a transfer fee of 80 million pounds seemed more like a bargain.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic said it best: ‘Messi is all talent, while Ronaldo is the product of much training’. As a result, the Argentine seems to make things happen effortlessly, as if by magic, while Ronaldo’s performances come as a result of sheer willpower and hardwork. It doesn’t make Ronaldo necessarily an inferior player, and you wouldn’t know it just looking at his statistics. What it does make him is the opposite of Messi, in a sense. The other side of the same coin.
They both take the pitch in the El Clasico today, in what feels like a dress rehearsal for the Clasico most want to see: the one in the Champions’ League final. Ronaldo’s no show in the first leg against Bayern has once again raised questions about his big game bottle, questions he is well equipped to answer.
One thing is for sure: while we run out of superlatives to describe Messi every week, Ronaldo has made sure it is becoming equally difficult to describe his feats so far. The world of football is better for it.