Had Lionel Messi accepted the chance to play for Spain, the Euro 2012 could have become another Messi-Ronaldo affair. The prospect seems tempting. The reality is not. Messi plays for Argentina and Ronaldo represents Portugal. Both have been at the centre of a never-ending debate among legions of fans over who is better. The duo has scored in plenty for their respective clubs earning enough praise, criticism and honour to be called as legends of the game at a young age.
Apparently, as per some suggestions, the best way to settle the arguments is to see who has carried the form to the international level when it boils down to representing their countries. It sounds logical, right? Argentine Maradona has done it, Brazlilian Pele has done it, Zinedine Zidane did it for France and surely if any of these two shining stars can replicate the success of these legends, then the question would be settled. Forever!
The truth is both have been a shadow of their self when faced with the task of shepherding their nation.
Cristiano Ronaldo has reached dizzying heights in the world of football owing to sheer grit and undying determination to excel. In terms of talent, he somehow falls behind Barcelona’s Lionel Messi. It is this constant comparison that keeps haunting CR7. Every time he fails or succeeds, a missile in the garb of a stinging criticism is fired at the Portuguese: “You aren’t better than Messi.”
And this results in his record breaking feats losing their sheen.
Euro 2012 presents him with another opportunity to achieve what eludes his famed rival at Camp Nou. He can inspire his side to a win in an international event. So far, he has failed to carry his club form to the international level. In 92 appearances, the goal machine has netted just 32 times. Compare this with his tally for Real Madrid where he pumped in 46 goals in 38 La Liga appearances for 2011-12 season. The difference is quite apparent.
His latest showing against Denmark where he missed two sitters highlights the fact that the weight of expectations is weighing him down. This came after the news of Messi scoring a brilliant hat-trick against Brazil in an international friendly. Thanks to Silvestre Varela, whose winner sealed the fate of Danes otherwise the 2004 runner-ups would have waved an early goodbye from the championships.
Captaining the side, Ronaldo looked out of sorts in his side’s 3-2 victory over Demark and didn’t shy away from expressing frustration at his teammates when they erred. The crowd responded with the chants of “Messi”. A peeved Ronaldo posed a question: “You know where Messi was at this time last year?” And himself replied with the answer: “He was being eliminated from the Copa America in his own country. So I think that is worse, no?”
People are going to find numerous ways to criticize and mock him at his every failure.
The mark of true greats has been to step up when need arises, limitations notwithstanding. It is true that when playing for Real, his teammates are some of the finest footballing talents from all over the world who constantly feed him with the ball and the deft passes that ultimately end at the back of the net. Same cannot be said for the Portuguese team. Scuffing at his teammates won’t come to his defence considering his own struggle at the Euro 2012. What is going to help him is being at ease with self and letting go of the expectations. And of course - scoring goals.