With two very contrasting performances in the books from today: one step-over laden, but ultimately disappointing performance from CR7; and one majestic performance from Messi against one of the world powers in football. We’ve asked the questions hundreds, if not thousands, of times…why can the world’s greatest performers not produce the same level of magic on the international stage?
The excuses for Messi are lengthy. The diminutive Argentine has largely taken advantage of his ‘nice-guy’ image and has only recently come under a large amount of heat for his international accolades. Many feel that Messi is just a successful cog in the Barcelona machine, and (once removed) he struggles. This thought is easy to grab on to. Who wouldn’t experience a major drop off when you switch from Xavi feeding you the ball to ANY other midfielder feeding the ball to you? Messi has long scored against the superior talent that is found in the Champions League, proving that he can score at will against the best defenses in the world. However, when he plays on the international level, against defenses that have less time to become cohesive than defenses playing for clubs, he hasn’t experienced the same goal return.
Ronaldo has played this past season as if he was offended by his 3 year Ballon D’or snub, winning a league title for Real Madrid and, perhaps more importantly, stealing a trophy from Barcelona. He has always seemed to add new tricks and flicks to his arsenal every single year. I, a long-time non-CR7-fan, was very impressed with how much he tried to stay on his feet this season after tackles. Sure, he still takes more dives than I’d like him to, but he normally ends up on the ground because he is on the bottom of a dog-pile after he scores a goal. His international issues seem to weigh heavier on him than Messi. He always looks as if he is wearing the weight of the entire Portugal team on his shoulders, and it always seems as if he is trying just a bit too hard.
Which player will finally break through and start putting serious pressure on Pele to stop claiming his indefinite superiority?
On June 9th we saw two completely different performances from the two players. Messi made sure that Brazil don’t assume that they will easily dominate every team located in their hemisphere. His three goals were impressive and, with the fact that they came against the behemoth that is Brazil, I’m sure the footy talk will already be crowning Argentina major contenders in the next World Cup. Ronaldo’s performance was quite the opposite. His team limped in to the European Championships, resulting in their seeding being within a group that certainly isn’t going to help his situation. I certainly felt like Ronaldo helped lead a late charge at a comeback, but, with a very impressive team flanking the Portuguese superstar, we have to wonder if he will ever even have an outside sniff of bringing home a big international trophy.
One key for Messi has been the recent Argentinian national team shift to attempt to make Messi feel more ‘comfortable.’ They haven’t adopted a 100% Barcelona/Spain copy, but they are certainly attempting to create an environment where Messi feels as ‘at home’ as possible.
One key for Ronaldo needs to be his teammates taking pressure off of his back. They definitely need to take some of the scoring load off of CR’s back, but they also need to prove that they can win whether Ronaldo has a good or bad day.
Sure, this is only the first game of the Euro’s. Ronaldo could flip a switch and go on a scoring run that the Euro’s have never experienced before. Yeah, it’s only one game against Brazil…and they probably didn’t treat it with the importance of something like a World Cup Final. Messi could have had his best international performance today, and it may not ever be replicated by Lionel (I’m sure it will…but…you never know).
I’m not ready to bury Messi and Ronaldo’s international future quite yet, but they definitely have given a compelling story-line to every major tournament that they choose to participate in. Which player do you think will experience international success first? Will either of them ever be able to boast a resume, just based on winnner’s medals alone, like Pele’s?