Monday 24 September 2018

John Giles: Peerless Messi is out on his own

Ronaldo is a true great but he is not the best on the planet

Barcelona's Lionel Messi celebrates scoring their first goal
Barcelona's Lionel Messi celebrates scoring their first goal

IT'S worth it. All the nonsense, all the cheating, diving, badmouthing. It fades away when Lionel Messi gets on the ball and defies science.

It is a pity, in many ways that Messi's greatness has been defined in terms of a battle for supremacy with Cristiano Ronaldo. I like to compare him in a much broader context and the names I reach for are Pele, Maradona, Best, Charlton and Cruyff.

I always ask two questions when I'm trying to judge between players of great talent. Which one would I liked to have played with and which one does the most for his team.

The answer to both is Messi. At the level we are talking about, ability is a given. The key for me is how a great talent interacts with the game and those around him.

After his command performance against Bayern Munich, I thought Luis Enrique hit the nail on the head when he said that Messi was a player from "another dimension" but underlined the amount of defensive work he had done before he broke Germany hearts.

For me, that is the deciding factor. Above all, Messi is a team player. He's no diver, no cheater. He'll take a tackle and give one back. He's honest, professional and while I have no doubt that he has arrogance, it rarely manifests as anything other than supreme confidence.

The Messi/Ronaldo debate is to some degree, a flawed discussion. I believe Ronaldo is one of the true greats when it comes to scoring goals and finishing.



He has never been less than professional in terms if fitness, preparation and to my knowledge, he has never been found lying in a lane after a night on the tiles.

He is a scoring phenomenon and that is why he has so many admirers and so many who believe he is the best in the world. They voted for him ahead of Messi and everyone else twice in the last three years.

But Messi scores as many goals and he also makes goals for those around him. He's been doing that for a decade with hardly a murmur about him other than a steady flow of praise.

Ronaldo does not make the same contribution. It's all about him and a good camera shot after he rattles the net.

I've no problem with that. When he's wearing your shirt, that's exactly what you want from him and because he can do it so often, his value is obvious.

READ MORE: 'He does things that nobody else does' - Barca players queue up to laud Lionel Messi

But his self-obsession can impact on those around him and I think we are seeing that now with Gareth Bale.

I believe that Ronaldo's very public criticism of Bale during the game against Valencia when he threw his arms in the air after the Welshman chose, correctly, to shoot instead of passing to Karim Benzema, set an idea in Real Madrid's supporter's heads which had no foundation and only served one purpose.

The message from Ronaldo was clear. Bale cannot be trusted to be the team player. How ironic!

READ MORE: 'Maradona shades Messi': Pochettino

Ronaldo is territorial about Real Madrid and feels that he should assert himself as the top man. What makes this all the more foolish is that he will be the big name at the Bernabeu for as long as he stays there come what may. His goals make that a certainty. I don't care about a player's personality as long as it doesn't impact negatively on those around him. Every professional footballer works with people he doesn't like. That's life and it's not unique to football.

I'm not denying that he is a great player or that he is one of the greats of all time but when the judgement to be made is against Lionel Messi, I can only see one result.

I noticed Joey Barton said that while Messi is alive and playing, everyone will be judged second best and I must say, while I cannot imagine any normal circumstances which would place me on the same side of the fence as that lad, I have to agree with him on this occasion.

Messi, as they say, is the Man

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