They are both adjudged as the world’s best two players albeit one is rated slightly above the other, they grace the La Liga turf and play for the two best teams in the world. One represents Europe while the other does the South American continent proud. Who are those am eulogizing? None other than Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi. Both players are pivotal to the progress of their individual clubs but who is more key to his team, is it Lionel Messi for Barcelona or Cristiano Ronaldo for Real Madrid? This article seeks to espouse that and parameters for the assessment are goal outlay, style of play, fitness, assists and loyalty.

It is a fact that despite neither Ronaldo nor Messi is a conventional striker, both churn out remarkable number of goals every season. Ronaldo is naturally a winger who is adept at playing on either wings, former manager Alex Ferguson bought him as a replacement for Old Trafford hero David Beckham but after settling down at the Theatre of Dreams, he gave more than the crosses expected of a winger by also delivering an astonishing 42 goals. When he moved over to join Real Madrid for a world record transfer fee of 80millon Pounds, more than just crosses and assists were expected of him. He was expected to replicate his goal scoring heroics at Manchester United. On this front, he hasn’t disappointed. The Portuguese forward has scored 173 goals for the Los Blancos and is just in his 4th season. Messi also started his Barcelona career playing on the left wing in a three prong attack that also stared Eto’o and Ronaldinho but was moved to the centre of the pack in the era of Guardiola after the exit of Ronaldinho and Eto’o and since then, the avalanche of goals from him has refused to stop. The dimunitive Argentine has already netted 276 goals for Barcelona and is just in his 9th season. Both are so prolific in front of goal that they have made the art of goalscoring mince meat.

In terms of style of play, both players are different. While Ronaldo makes use of his burst of pace and tricky step-overs, Messi is more adept at moving with the ball glued to his feet. He seldomly uses step-overs. Messi seems at home with Barca’s style of play after going through the La Masia academy with coaches that have graced the Nou Camp have seem to perfect the total football strategy of Johan Cruyff while Ronaldo is forced to adapt his playing style to suit the coaching style of Ferguson, Pellegrini and now Mourinho at Real Madrid and this seems to have affected his playing style.

Both players have shown extreme fitness in recent seasons. Messi used to be injury prone during his early days at Nou Camp but all that seems to be history now as the player have shown huge fitness, strength and character season in season out. Despite been the target of defenders, the Argentine still succeeds in playing the majority of Barcelona’s matches. Between 2004 and 2005, Messi didn’t muster more than 31 appearances for the Catalans but since the 2006/2007 season, Messi hasn’t played less than 30 games for Barcelona. This has been largely due to the exit of Brazilian talisman Ronaldinho and the sudden improvement in fitness of the Argentine. As for Ronaldo, he has always been a fit player right from his days at Manchester United and now at Real Madrid, he has not played less than 30 matches every season.

Despite both players having an incredible number of goals per season, they also give out assists to their teammates. In terms of assists, Messi stands tall in recent seasons. Below are the club stats with regards to assists.

Season Messi Ronaldo

Barca Real Madrid

2004/2005 0 4

2005/2006 1 7

2006/2007 2 20

2007/2008 13 8

2008/2009 16 8

Barca Real Madrid

2009/2010 10 7

2010/2011 21 14

2011/2012 23 15

2012/2013 7 2

It is obvious from the stats above that Lionel Messi has been the king of assists in the La Liga

Loyalty is another parameter worth considering. Messi has been a one man club having moved to Barcelona at a tender age and nurtured in the famous La Masia academy. Now, that he is the beautiful bride that rich grooms are keen to lure to their houses, why is he not pondering on a move? Messi has repeatedly stated that he sees himself ending his career at Barcelona while players can no longer be trusted in the football these days, it seems Messi’s case is different. At a tender age of 11, he was diagnosed with growth problems which is responsible for his petite stature, it was Barcelona that took care of his treatment and because of the love shown him at his dire hour of need, he is so indebted to the Catalans. Now that he is larger than life with his performances, clubs cannot just get to convince him to leave because he is determined to return the love shown him by been loyal to the Blaugrana.

For Ronaldo, at just 27 years of age, he has already played for three clubs already; Sporting Lisbon. Manchester United and now Real Madrid and his moves have been quite motivated by money. While Messi is seen as part of the Barca family, Ronaldo is seen as a mercenary at Santiago Bernabeau after his 80millions Pounds move to Spain in 2009. Recently, Ronaldo was reported as been unhappy at Real Madrid, reasons for this albeit uncertain. Some claimed he wanted a new deal which the club hierarchy were not able to match while others claim it was the both players, reluctance of the club to back him for major individual honours like Ballon D’OR that was annoying the Portuguese superstar. The chances are rife that Ronaldo could still make one big move abroad with Messi still staying put at Barcelona.

Because of the aforementioned super- human qualities of both players, their teams (Barcelona and Real Madrid) largely dependent on them and the chances of either clubs thriving without them on the field is extremely doubtful. At Real Madrid, Ronaldo is the penalty taker, free-kick taker and the consistent top scorer. When he doesn’t show up, Real Madrid also struggles to dominate and win matches.

Barca don’t fare any better as their success on the pitch is also largely dependent on the presence of the Argentine magician. He is the penalty-taker and also the top scorer. Infact the difference between Messi’s goals outlay and that of the player next to him is usually embarrassingly much, this is the norm every season. One thing that has helped Messi at Barcelona is him playing to his strengths. Messi is not an astute dead ball specialist albeit he has scored a couple of sublime ones so he leaves Xavi and Alves to take care of most freekicks but Ronaldo tends to override all other players whenever a dead ball situation presents itself. Ronaldo is a good free-kick taker but should also allow other players like Alonso and Benzema who also have free-kick taking skills but his ego wouldn’t let him.