The match was billed as an epic battle between two great giants of the sport, and once again, it was Cristiano Ronaldo who emerged as the champion.
It wasn't that Lionel Messi was horrendous in attack for the Catalan club en route to a heavy defeat and that he no longer deserves the Ballon d'Or trophy he's claimed for the past four years. The focus of the night was all Real Madrid and their brilliance on the counterattack, which inevitably came down to the value and significance of their superstar winger.
Ronaldo netted a brace and had more chances than Messi has had in his past three matches, with the Argentinian finishing without a single shot on goal. For a man who's a clear leader in seemingly every goal-scoring category existent in the past 18 months, that's a remarkable statistic indeed.
Yet the story out of the 2013 Copa del Rey was not that of Lionel Messi any more than it was about Barcelona's recent struggles to show their teeth in attack. The only storyline that was played out at Camp Nou with any significance was that of Real Madrid, who beat Barca in one of their most complete performances this year and one of their greatest wins in club history.
And once again, on the big stage, it was Ronaldo stepping up to the spotlight with a dramatic brace whilst Messi fell away innocuously in the shadows.
Again, that's not a statement to suggest that Messi is not the greatest player in the world, for the records and the achievements show that to be true.
Yet on the big stage when backs are completely up against the wall, Messi has a tendency to struggle to score big goals that his team needs. He can score many in a big 6-1 or 5-0 victory, but when the games are tight, Messi sometimes does not have the same success and dominance.
It's important at this point that we recognize this is something the Barca striker is improving in, with the 2013 season so far testament to that. The year so far has shown Messi's game-winning heroics and his ability to get the goals that Barcelona desperately need.
But the argument still remains the same: On the bigger stage, Ronaldo trumps Messi. In big games with big expectations, Ronaldo trumps Messi.
The 2013 Copa del Rey proves it to be true.
By no means does one win automatically change their standings in terms of greatness, for that is something that Messi is still in front on. He may very well always be in front of Ronaldo in that regard, but in terms of big matches, his opponent must be recognized as the clear leader.
And depending on how you define value, he might well in front in that also.
Is Cristiano Ronaldo a better big-game player than Lionel Messi?
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