If you don't know by now ,then you must have been living under a rock for the better part of a month, but this month's World Cup play-off between Sweden and Portugal brings together two of the biggest names on planet football: Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Cristiano Ronaldo.
The pair, whose nations finished behind Germany and Russia respectively during their World Cup qualifying groups will do battle on November 15 in Lisbon before meeting again four nights later in the Friends Arena, Solna, for the right to take their place at next summer's finals in Brazil.
However, the lead-up to the match itself has been somewhat overshadowed by the mouthwatering clash between the two captains on show—Messrs. Ibrahimovic and Ronaldo.
Their goals, their larger-than-life on-field showings and their god-damned brilliance means the majority of attention has fallen on the pair.
Leading to the question: Who is better?
Here's an attempt to answer that question...
(all stats via Transfermarkt)
Final Third Decisiveness and Goals Record (Out of 10)
Both are utterly brilliant, magnificent, phenomenal (*delete as appropriate) players in the final third, giving their respective sides the edge more often than not during their careers, and certainly since maturing into bona-fide world stars.
Paris Saint-Germain star Ibrahimovic, no matter where he has been throughout his career, has always grown and matured into the top man—Barcelona the glaring exception.
AC Milan, PSG, Internazionale, Ajax and even Juventus under Fabio Capello have all seen fit to make the Swede the focal point of their attack, and as he has grown older and wiser, his ability to make increasingly decisive contributions each and every week has only grown also.
Since his final season at Inter under Jose Mourinho in 2008-09 where he scored 25 goals and had eight assists in 35 Serie A matches—29 goals, 12 assists in 47 matches altogether—Ibra's numbers have continued to impress:
Barcelona 2009-10: 45 matches, 21 goals, 13 assists
AC Milan 2010-11: 41 matches, 21 goals, 13 assists
AC Milan 2011-12: 44 matches, 35 goals, 15 assists
PSG 2012-13: 46 matches, 35 goals, 18 assists
PSG 2013-14: 17 matches, 15 goals, 5 assists
Additionally, on the international stage, the Swedish talisman has helped himself to 46 goals in 94 appearances. Not bad at all, particularly given Sweden aren't what one would call "elite."
Nevertheless, as impressive as the mighty Zlatan's record undoubtedly is, Cristiano Ronaldo's is quite simply earth-shattering.
Having been seen as something of a show pony during his formative years at Old Trafford, the Portuguese star has matured into one of the most devilishly devastating forwards EVER to play the game.
His final three years at Manchester United were excellent, featuring 155 matches, 91 goals and 42 assists.
However, since moving to the Spanish capital in the summer of '09, Ronaldo has quite simply gone stratospheric with the kind of figures that make him arguably one of the greatest ever and possibly Real Madrid's greatest-ever star.
2009-10: 35 matches, 33 goals, 12 assists
2010-11: 54 matches, 53 goals, 18 assists
2011-12: 55 matches, 60 goals, 17 assists
2012-13: 55 matches, 55 goals, 14 assists
2013-14: 17 matches, 24 goals, 7 assists
All in, that's 216 games and 225 goals (68 assists) during his time at the Santiago Bernabeu.
Quite simply, the £80 million Los Blancos spent on Ronaldo has been made to look an absolute bargain.
Ibrahimovic 9 Ronaldo 10
Current Form (Out of 10)
As the above shows, both have grown into absolutely fantastic top-level powerhouses and the World Cup will be poorer because one of them isn't around.
But based on current form, who is the better player at this present moment in time?
Sweden coach thinks Zlatan is worlds best player. Portugal coach thinks Ronaldo is. What a couple of free thinkers.— Ian Ladyman (@Ian_Ladyman_DM) November 14, 2013
Well, so far this term, Ronaldo has helped himself to a remarkable 24 goals in 17 games for his club, as well as four goals in three games for his country.
Included have been four hat-tricks, against the not-insubstantial Galatasaray, Sevilla, Real Sociedad and Northern Ireland (who were 2-1 up before Ronaldo had his say), and performances which have been firmly out of the highest drawer.
It's no surprise that Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger recently revealed the Portuguese as his choice over Lionel Messi as the world's best, as per The Mirror.
Ronaldo has proven that, despite Gareth Bale's arrival in the Spanish capital, he remains THE man in Madrid.
Ibrahimovic, meanwhile, has also enjoyed a standout start to his second season as the leader of the Paris Saint-Germain attack, striking 15 goals in 16 matches for les Parisiens whilst notching five goals in four games for his country.
Included have been a recent treble against Nice, a four-goal salvo in Belgium against Anderlecht and a brace in a 3-0 defeat of Benfica at the Parc des Princes, as Laurent Blanc's side have taken charge of both Ligue 1 and their Champions League group.
As such, Ronaldo has the advantage, while he has also proven a more consistent scorer so far this campaign: In only four of Real Madrid's 17 games has Ronaldo not hit the net, whereas Zlatan has surprisingly failed to score in nine of his 17 matches for PSG so far.
Ibrahimovic 7 Ronaldo 10
Penchant for the Outrageous (Out of 5)
Both players are bona-fide match-winners and both are capable of the truly spectacular.
But whereas Ronaldo has increasingly moved away from the box-of-tricks winger that in his early years so often delighted/frustrated Old Trafford in equal measure into an ultra-consistent attacker who bludgeons opposing defences more often than Miley Cyrus seeks controversy, his penchant for the truly ridiculous has somewhat slowed down.
It's not often Ronaldo scores or produces a moment of genius where you think: "Wow, I hadn't seen that before."
There is plenty of genius forthcoming from him and plenty of sublime moments no doubt, but for the most part, it's all rather routine—well, as routine as being other-worldly on a regular basis can be.
But that's not to say he isn't producing; witness the wonder goal against Galatasaray.
On the other hand, Zlatan remains the player on the planet most capable of producing some kind of touch, flick or finish that so takes the breath away—the unbelievable bicycle kick against England in November 2012 immediately coming to mind.
His long-range thunderbolt against Anderlecht was so utterly brutal that it was startling while his mid-air back-heel flick in the win over Bastia was so delicately delicious you could scarcely believe it was the same man doing it.
For having such versatility, Ibrahimovic gets the nod.
Ibrahimovic 5 Ronaldo 4
Trophy Haul (out of 5+5)
Both players are among the most heavily decorated of the past 15 years, both on an individual level and at team level.
Ibrahimovic has claimed more league titles—a staggering 10 if you include the pair he won during his time with Juventus—but has always gone without success in the Champions League.
In comparison, Ronaldo—who won a Champions League during his time with Manchester United—has more individual honours but has only one league title to show for his four years at Real Madrid, while the all-consuming decima continues to frustrate los Blancos.
Ajax: Eredivisie winner (2), Dutch Cup (1), Johan Cruyff Shield (1)
Juventus: Serie A (2) (both revoked due to Calciopoli)
Internazionale: Serie A (3), Italian Super Cup (2)
Barcelona: La Liga (1), Spanish Super Cup (2), UEFA Super Cup (1), FIFA World Club Cup (1)
AC Milan: Serie A (1), Italian Super Cup (1)
Paris Saint-Germain: Ligue 1 (1), Trophee des Champions (1)
Serie A Footballer of the Year (3), Serie A Top Scorer (2), Serie A Foreign Footballer of the Year (4), Ligue 1 Player of the Year (1), Ligue 1 Team of the Year (1), Ligue 1 Top Goalscorer (1), UEFA Team of the Year (2), UEFA Euro Team of the Tournament (1)
Manchester United: 3x Premier League winner, 1x FA Cup, 2x League Cup, 1x Community Shield, 1x Champions League, 1x FIFA Club World Cup
Real Madrid: 1x La Liga, 1x Copa del Rey, 1x Spanish Super Cup
PFA Players' Player of the Year (2), PFA Fans' Player of the Year (2), PFA Young Player of the Year (1), FWA Footballer of the Year (2), Barclays Player of the Year (2), Premier League Golden Boot (1), PFA Premier League Team of the Year (4), La Liga Top Goalscorer (1), UEFA Champions League Top Goalscorer (2), UEFA Club Forward of the Year (1), UEFA Club Footballer of the Year (1), UEFA Team of the Year (7), UEFA Euro Team of the Tournament (2), European Golden Shoe (2), Ballon d'Or (1), FIFA World Player of the Year (1), FIFPro World Player of the Year (1), FIFPro Special Young Player of the Year (2), FIFA FIFPro World XI (6)
Team Awards: Ibrahimovic (5), Ronaldo (4)
Player Awards: Ibrahimovic (4), Ronaldo (5)
The Eye Test (out of 5)
Everybody who watches football likes to think they can pick a player and has their own opinions on who is and what makes a player.
Here's my lowdown on the pair:
The 32-year-old centre-forward may be something of a maverick, but down the years he has proven far more, particularly that he is a world-class striker and that he is certainly a winner.
Standing 6'5" and cut like he is made of granite, Ibrahimovic is a massive physical presence—and he puts every inch of his frame to good use.
With his back to goal and the ball at his feet, he's nigh on impossible to dispossess, such is his strength and awareness, while technically, the phrase "good feet for a big man" may as well have been invented for him.
Has there ever been a player who has scored stunning goals of such extraordinary variety (dribbles, volleys, taekwondo flicks) as Zlatan?— Tom Williams (@tomwfootball) October 24, 2013
Mixing clever touches, instant control, wonderful technique and a wonderful striking ability, there is little that the Swedish talisman cannot do as a No. 9.
Throw in his ability to drop into deeper central areas, almost as a No. 10, and his capacity for sculpting and dictating play, not to mention the tricks he possesses to beat a man, Ibra is a quite fantastic specimen.
And one of the great things about Zlatan is his mental strength and capacity for carrying a team. For three years at Inter, two at Milan, with the national XI post-2006 and thus far in his time at PSG, Ibra has been THE focal point for his respective sides, the go-to guy when a moment of magic has been needed.
But more than that, he has also proven himself capable of raising the performances of players around him on a regular basis—his title achievements and assist totals would more than back up such a remark.
And even though he is now into his 30s, he continues to amaze. A phenomenal talent he has been and a phenomenal player he continues to be.
Simply put, the 28-year-old Real Madrid star is nothing short of a phenomenon who is very much the prototype of the modern forward.
Mixing explosive pace, the power of a light heavyweight boxer, superb technique, clever footwork and clinical finishing, Ronaldo is a formidable attacking presence and has matured into one of the game's all-time greats.
The Portuguese skipper has developed into one of the most fearsome strikers of the ball in the game today, and his station on the left-wing allows him to accelerate inside and fire shots at goal with his favoured right foot.
Additionally, he has all the mesmerizing tricks of a flamboyant winger—stepovers, rabonas, Gringos, Cruyff turns et al—at his disposal, whilst he is more than capable of beating a defender to the byline through sheer pace and determination before whipping over a cross with his weaker left foot for a colleague.
Lot of talk of Ribery winning Ballon d'Or. He's had a great year but I think Ronaldo should win. It's for the best player not the best team.— Gary Lineker (@GaryLineker) November 14, 2013
Moreover, it is almost impossible to second-guess what he is going to do.
And as he's become older and gathered more experienced, Ronaldo's movement has become more intelligent and shows far greater refinement than in his younger days. Every dart infield or beyond an opposing backline is done with a purpose and that purpose usually means he is either firing a shot at goal or scoring. His aerial ability, also, is unrivalled.
Now at the peak of his career, he is perhaps the most devastating force in world football; a fully-fit Lionel Messi would argue otherwise.
All of the above may not be scientific, but right now, there isn't anyone who can stand toe-to-toe with either Cristiano Ronaldo or the Barcelona and Argentina star: not even Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
Ibrahimovic 8 Ronaldo 10
Zlatan Ibrahimovic 38 Cristiano Ronaldo 43
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