terça-feira, 21 de junho de 2016

"The secret of football", he told me, "is that it’s not about football"

Ronaldo and Messi combined in the 2015/16 season for 61 league goals. Only 6 out of 20 teams on the Premier league scored more than that this year. Only 3 out of 20 in the Serie A. And Atletico Madrid was the only other club in Spain besides Reald and Barça scoring more than that this year.

Let that sink in. 

These two guys outscored most teams in the best leagues in the world last year. In their less prolific season over the last 5 years. On the 2011/12 season, they scored 133 goals combined in all competitions. ONE HUNDRED THIRTY THREE.

Messi is the most talented player football has ever seen. He doesn’t think too much about tactics. He doesn’t worry too much about positioning in the pitch, or how to fit it. Watching Messi playing live is a puzzling experience. He will spend 10 minutes close to the side lines, looking down like some shy kid looking for the leftovers of the lunch some bully took from him in recess. And then something happens. Most of the times you don’t see it, unless you pay close attention. He gets his head up. He calmly gets close to the fray. And then, before you know it, he has the ball, but the ball is not there because he already passed a defender, and when you are about to gasp about the third defender he just left behind with one dribble you already have to cope with the two other guys who just got dribbled, and the fact that the ball lies now in the bottom of the net, after a beautifully placed curved shot to the second post. And when you finally get around celebrating that piece of art he is already back looking for his lunch box again.

Ronaldo is the ultimate professional.He became the ultimate football machine, even if it meant giving up (or ignoring) some of his god given talents, in order to become faster, stronger, better. All he sees, all he breeds is football. He can score any conceivable way, and it’s always easy. You look at him and wonder how is there so little difference between a right foot or a left shot, between a header or a free kick, a dribble to the left for a cross or a diagonal sprint for a furious finisher. The answer is simple. Practice. Practice practice practice. Ronaldo came to this world to finally prove beyond any shadow of a doubt that practice makes perfection. And oh boy, has he succeeded.

Most of us don’t want to acknowledge it but this is a fundamental, undeniable truth: we are witnessing the best rivalry in the history of football. Never have two players with a legitimate shot at the GOAT title (Greatest Of All Time) played not only at the same time, but in the same league, against each other, over and over again. But instead of relaxing and enjoying the best ride on the history of football, we are dragged again and again for the only thing that matters: who is, indeed the GOAT?

Pelé and Maradona supporters at this point will always have a case: a case made by immortal goals and World Cup wins that nor Ronaldo nor Messi have been able to replicate. So, that argument is always gonna be there. No point on dwelling too much about it. Lately, it has also seem to been quite mute, when compared to the most popular one:

Who is better, Ronaldo or Messi? 

You can argue Messi embeds loyalty and love for his club as he has only played for Barça. 
You can argue that Ronaldo is better because he can adapt to different leagues, countries or systems and still win everything. 
It is hard to make a statistical point either way: 
  • Ronaldo has 347 career goals at the club level, Messi has 312 (but more assists). 
  • Ronaldo scored 58 times for the national team, Messi has scored 54. 
  • Messi has 5 Ballon D’or against Ronaldo’s 3.

Maybe you want to take the last difference as the ultimate differentiation point. But bare in mind that by doing so you’ll have to give a tremendous weight to a prize that has failed to acknowledge the brilliance of Andrés Iniesta or that once considered Michael Owen the best player in the world.

So, after all the research, all the arguments, it seems fairly fair to consider this a draw. Or at least to concede that there are many valid arguments going both ways. But the matter of fact is that Messi does not seem to generate the amount of animosity or pure hatred from football supporters that Ronaldo does. The average Ronaldo supporter tends to say that Ronaldo is better, but Messi is also amazing. The average Messi supporter thinks Ronaldo is shit. More surprisingly there is an abundancy of anti-Ronaldo supporters in Portugal, of all places. After a bad performance in the first game of the Euro 2016 against Iceland, and a better (albeit inefficient/unlucky) performance against Austria, all the “Ronaldo never plays well in the national team” demagogues came out to call him all the insults imaginable, joined by the whole Internet and even the German press - god knows why.
But let's ignore for a second the fact that Ronaldo was about 15 cm away from scoring an hat-trick on Saturday, and move ahead in the discussion.

Given all the arguments made above about how close to a tie the Messi Ronaldo debate is (or should be), there is only one explanation about the disproportional hatred generated by the Portuguese superstar: as an Isiah Thomas from a parallel universe once put it, "the secret of football, is that it’s not about football."

So let's step out of the pitch, and try to understand how come two players who are so similar in their greatness inside the pitch, can generate such different reactions outside of it.
The decomposition below aims at gauging which player generates or is deserving or more hatred in each category. The player that gets the more category wins will be proven beyond a shadow of a doubt (or at least according to me) to be the one most deserving of being hated by football fans across the world.

Welcome, ladies and gentlemen, to the Ultimate Hatred Showdown!!

Category #1: Hairstyle

Ronaldo: Always taken care of to the millimeter, probably with some special very expensive H&S product.
Messi: Sometimes he cuts it shorter, but mostly he just lets it be.

Verdict: Advantage Ronaldo

Category #2: Family life

R: Is a single father, supports his sister’s disastrous musical “career”, and would never dare to say no to his mum. 
M: Is a proud dad of two boys, has his mom’s face tattooed in his shoulder, and his dad is his agent.

Verdict: Tie

Category #3: Romantic life

R: Has dated Alice Goodwin, Gemma Atkinson and Irinia Shayk, but remains single. He’s rumoured to be gay
M: Is married, and the proud father of two. Previously dated Argentinian models. Is not rumoured to be gay.

(Conservative) Verdict: Ronaldo

Category #4: Work Ethic

R: First one to arrive to the training pitch, last one to leave. Legendary work ethic.
M: Treats training like most players - boring af.

Verdict:  Ronaldo (Click here if you don't understand the judges decision on this one)

Category #5: Charity

M: Charity games were investigated for allegedly being used to launder money from drug trafficking.

Verdict: (Alleged) Advantage Messi

Category #6: Government relations

R: The autonomous regional govern of Madeira has erected (pun intended) a statue in his honour.
M: Is being investigated for tax evasion, and was seen two summers ago with the president of Togo - (who makes Melisandre look like a the most child loving person in whole Westeros)

Verdict: Tie

Final Score: Ronaldo 3 - 1 Messi

And here we are, finally aware of why Ronaldo is so much more hated than Messi. 
The result is the equivalent of Messi taking the Oscar for best movie, best director and best actor while Ronaldo sweeps 9 technical Oscar categories (including sound effects).

In the end, the Head & Shoulders commercials, his potential homosexuality and his silly obsession with training  are Ronaldo's undoing.

But haters gonna hate. I will keep my first row seat on the Ronaldo bandwagon. I will keep watching every game knowing that, one day, my grandkids will come to me every holiday and beg me to tell them how it was to watch Ronaldo and Messi play for 133th time. And I will tell them how amazing it was. How they made jawdropping plays seem routine every week. And how Ronaldo was right to make sure his statue didn't suffer from the same disproportional  measures his predecessors' did. And I will tell them that deep inside, every one of us dreamed of being him. Of being like him. The most professional of football players, with the most well taken care of body and the most beautiful women the sport has ever seen. I will them about all the times he took a whole nation on his back, even when half of it was spitting down on him. I will tell them, with a tear in my eye, about that game in Lyon against Hungary. Because, win or lose, tomorrow I have a 4th row seat to watch my GOAT taking the 11 million of us on his back for yet another ride. And win or lose, I'll do it with him. Because he was, he is, and he will still be for years to come, our best shot at glory. Tomorrow, we rise together or we fall together. But we do it as one. As a nation. Até amanhã Cristi!


8 comentários:

  1. "I will them about all the times he took a whole nation on his back, even when half of it was spitting down on him."

    LOL Sabes qual é "mal" do Ronaldo? É que tem muitos defeitos, mas nenhum deles é ser um bêbado que agride mulheres. Por isso o Eusébio é o maior símbolo da lampionagem em TUDO, e ainda bem.

    Vam'bora Ronaldo!!

  2. Ah! I see the shadow doctoral thesis--or is it socceral thesis?

  3. Nine out of ten football writers consider Lionel Messi to be the best player in the world. The tenth is Portuguese.

  4. Nas estatísticas, quase iguais, falta referir que Messi é muito mais novo. Quais os números que Ronaldo tinha com a idade que Messi tem hoje?

  5. A diferença é um ano e meio. Tendo em conta a passagem pelo sporting e o periodo de adaptação no Man Utd, as carreiras acabam por começar ao alto nível praticamente em simultâneo. Mas tens razão, mas enquanto as carreiras não acabarem não me parece que falar da diferença de idades faça sentido, até porque é perfeitamente possível que o CR acabe por conseguir extender a carreira mais que o Messi dada a superioridade em termos físicos. Time will tell.

    1. A diferença são mais de dois anos.
      Se tiverem longevidades iguais, o Messi tem mais duas temporadas pela frente que Ronaldo.

    2. E o Ronaldo joga em terrenos mais avançados que o Messi, pelo que a comparação dos golos marcados me parece deslocada mas, a ser feita, pende para o lado do Messi, por esse mesmo motivo. Não estamos propriamente a falar de dois pontas-de-lança.

    3. Por acaso, acho que o aspecto físico favorece o Messi, em termos de longevidade. O Ronaldo depende muito mais da sua capacidade física e de explosão que o Messi. O Messi é aquilo que se chama um jogador "de bola colada ao pé" e um jogador que faz a bola jogar, enquanto que o Ronaldo, sem o seu desempenho físico, será como o Sansão após lhe cortarem o cabelo.


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