Belfast Telegraph

Steven Davis: Why I'd opt for Messi over Ronaldo

By Steven Davis

When Argentina lost to France and Portugal were defeated by Uruguay in the last-16, it meant the end for Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo in this World Cup.

Had their respective nations won, Messi and Ronaldo would have gone head-to-head in the quarter-finals and the debate over who is the best would have reached new levels.

Personally, I think we are very lucky to be in an era as football players and football fans to have two players like Messi and Ronaldo around at the same time because they truly are all-time greats.

It's been fantastic in recent years seeing the pair of them in their prime, scoring loads of goals, winning trophies and battling it out to be the best.

They are both incredible players. From a footballer's point of view, the question is who would you rather have in your team?

Ideally both, which would be amazing, but if I had to pick one I think I would go for Messi.

I've never seen him up close or played against him. Hopefully one day I'll have the chance to do that.

In contrast, I have played against Ronaldo and saw how devastating he can be when he hit a hat-trick for Portugal against Northern Ireland at Windsor Park in a World Cup qualifier several years ago.

We were 2-1 up and then he transformed the game with three goals. Before that he was having a relatively quiet night!

That's what Ronaldo is all about. He delivers when it matters and he was the difference at Windsor with some high-class finishing. He is a big player in so many ways.

Ronaldo is like a super human machine. If you were building a footballer, Ronaldo would be the specimen that you would put together.

For Messi, though - not being the tallest player and not the most physical as such - to do what he does is amazing to watch.

When he goes on one of those runs where he is gliding past every defender who comes near him - it is one of the greatest sights in world sport.

He has pure, raw ability, but it shouldn't be forgotten that with all his natural talent he has still worked tirelessly to improve. For opposition players you know what he is going to do when he starts dribbling or prepares to shoot but he is so good you normally cannot stop him.

I've seen sides double up on Messi or even put three players on him once he gets the ball and he still manages to find a way through with the pace, trickery and quality he has, and then when he gets in those positions to score he has that clinical edge to finish. It's unbelievable how many times I've seen him do that with a slide rule finish or a little dink over the goalkeeper. He is a joy to watch.

Ronaldo, of course, was a big hit when he played for Manchester United, but unfortunately I don't think we will see Messi play in England, even though everyone involved in the Premier League would love to see it.

It is difficult for Messi to think that the grass could be greener in England when he is at a massive club like Barcelona who are constantly challenging for trophies.

Given that both are winners, going out at the last-16 stage of the 2018 World Cup will have been a huge disappointment to the pair of them. There has been some talk that we may never see them play at a World Cup finals again. I really hope that is not the case.

One man still very much in Russia is Luka Modric. He is a real driving force for Croatia, who are having a strong tournament and will fancy their chances versus the hosts in the quarter-finals.

Modric is a midfielder with great quality and is proving once again what a top, top player he is at the highest level. He has been my player of the tournament so far.

Belfast Telegraph


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