At a time of financial hysteria, mass political corruption and a seeming shift toward the worse of humanity’s moral compass, the sporting field of play is providing some much needed rejuvenation. In tennis, viewers are bearing witness to the golden era; in snooker, golf and formula one, battles for the top prizes have intensified to their most competitive to date; and football? Football has brought to the fore the age of the El Classico – the age of Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi.
While many speak of the disenchantment of a world losing its spiritual value, there is nothing disenchanting about the way Ronaldo – of Real Madrid – and Messi – of Barcelona – continuously mesmerise colleagues, opponents and supporters alike. Indeed, the Portuguese winger-come-forward and his Argentine adversary have set La Liga – and every other competition they have graced – alight, aptly dispersing of any question as to which two players are (by far) the greatest on the planet. Though, the question of which of the two is superior perhaps depends on whether your allegiances lie with the Santiago Bernabeu or Camp Nou.
…mastering this talent…
In terms of talent, Ronaldo and Messi have it in abundance. But in terms of mastering this talent through years of training, perfecting their technique and learning from the best coaches in the business, the Los Blancos no 7 and Blaugrana no 10 are any young boy’s virtuous role models. Attacking-wise, there has been no bigger threat to defenders this season: on average, the pair are the only two players in Europe to have scored more than one goal per game. Ahead of the crucial El Classico fixture of this weekend gone, this stunning goal-scoring ratio had amassed Ronaldo and Messi 118 goals between them; to put it into perspective, this is almost three times as many as Liverpool have scored all season in the Premier League.
Ronaldo’s unrivalled ability to strike a ball (regardless of whether he even has a direct view of goal) has befuddled goalkeepers across Spain and the rest of Europe. At the same time, Messi’s magical runs have penetrated a long line of defences that isn’t likely to end any time soon.
…now immortal duo…
But far from being at their peak, this season’s evidence suggests the now immortal duo are only going from strength to strength. In La Liga alone, before El Classico, Ronaldo and Messi had scored 41 goals each, blitzing their tallies of yesteryear with five fixtures still remaining; and, though the former Manchester United star is very much in Messi’s shadow in terms of popular opinion, the league efforts of the two echo an ‘anything you can do I can do better’ race to the finish. The finish – for all we know – could be after several more years, roughly translating as another several hundred more goals… on average.
Lionel Messi’s special skill is playing every game for the Catalan giants as though it was his first back home in Rosario; his childlike enthusiasm has led to 63 goals in 53 games – a record-breaking feat even before the season has finished. The tally includes 14 Champions League goals (a record) – five of which were scored in a single match, against Bayer Leverkusen in the round of 16 (yet another record: the most goals scored by a player in a Champions League match). Indeed, Messi alone can account for a majority of recent history’s European nights to savour, also having the highest amount of shots on goal in the competition thus far . Though, his La Liga campaign has arguably been an even greater success, providing 11 more goals than in the whole of last season, accompanied by 13 assists. The Argentine is always there, always involved and always performing supremely – the statistics are breathtaking.
…53 goals in 49 games…
But opposite the little maestro, Ronaldo lurks in the all-white kit, bringing a charisma and flamboyance to his game that even the most glamorous A-list celebrities would struggle to match. His 53 goals in 49 games is 10 more than the nearest ‘other’ European goal-scoring outlet, Klaas-Jan Huntelaar of Schalke – and this is from a role that sees him start mainly as anything but a traditional centre forward. Alongside his monstrous goal tally sit 11 La Liga assists, proving Ronaldo’s value to those around him in conjunction with the keen eye for goal that has seen him take 212 shots.
Ronaldo’s immense strength allows him to brush defenders aside, whilst his soaring pace alleviates slower defenders from even having to worry about the former. Yet, when an opponent does bring him down, it often results in one of Ronaldo’s specialties: the dipping free-kick – a sight to behold. The combined total of all of these factors, along with an unhindered execution rate from the 12-yard spot, has seen him crucify back fours with seven hat-tricks thus far.
…most influential people…
Yet, there is almost certainly even more to come – and at a rate so rapid that we may be prompted to look back on this season as a mere warm-up for future spectacles. It is unthinkable. In all his glory, Lionel Messi has even been named in TIME’s list of the 100 most influential people in the world. The saying goes that when Cristiano Ronaldo claimed he had been sent down to earth by God to teach people how to play football, Messi shrugged and murmured: ‘I don’t remember sending anyone’.
And so, even if all else is going wrong with our tiresome, gloomy existence, we can all sit and inhale the brilliance of Ronaldo and Messi – the remarkable, the scintillating. The best in the world.