Liverpool legend Steven Gerrard is the latest figure to weigh in on the longstanding debate around Barcelona’s Lionel Messi and Real Madrid striker Cristiano Ronaldo, insisting he favours the former due to the fact he is more of a team player.
Gerrard, now a part-time BT Sport pundit, was quizzed on which of the two illustrious players he would prefer. After some deliberation he opted for Messi, but insisted both players used to frighten him as opponents, per Mike Walters of the Daily Mirror:
To split them is almost impossible. If I was forced to pick one, I would probably go for Messi but that’s only because he’s slightly more of a team player—he might just provide more assists or final passes, but it would be 51 to 49 per cent in my mind. If that.
We are all blessed that we are seeing these two in the same era.
They are the only two opponents I’ve been afraid of in my career, because they are the only two who have been operating on a different planet to everyone else. The reason I was scared of them is because they are deadly in the final third of the pitch.
Barcelona had to make do without Messi on Tuesday after he picked up a knee injury against Las Palmas on Saturday, ruling him out of action for up to eight weeks. Still, the Blaugrana got by thanks to goals from Sergi Roberto and a stunning winner from Gerrard’s former Liverpool team-mate Luis Suarez.
As we can see here, Messi wasn’t far from the mind of the Uruguayan as he celebrated the goal to put Barcelona 2-1 up, per Emenderk:
Ronaldo has endured an up and down beginning to the campaign. Earlier this month the Portuguese rattled in eight goals in two matches against Espanyol and Shakhtar Donetsk, with a hat-trick in the latter clash pushing him ahead of Messi as the Champions League’s all-time top goalscorer, with 80 goals in European football’s top competition.
Ronaldo is currently chasing a goal to draw level with Los Blancos legend Raul in Real Madrid’s all-time top scorer list; it’s a strike that would be the 500th senior goal of his career too. But as we can see courtesy of Sky Sports Statto, he seems to be trying a little too hard to get to that illustrious landmark at the moment:
Figures like the aforementioned do paint a picture of a player who is a little selfish with the ball at his feet. Ronaldo definitely does enjoy the responsibility of leading the line and if there’s a chance to shoot at goal, typically he’ll take it on. The creative side of the Madrid man’s game is a little understated, though.
Indeed, as we can see here courtesy of WhoScored.com (h/t barcastuff), over the course of the previous domestic season, there was little to split Messi and Ronaldo in terms of assists:
That is likely to change in the years to come as Ronaldo seems to be becoming more and more of an orthodox No. 9 rather than a left forward. It means he will be the final point on attacking moves and subsequently, will end up with more goals, but his assist figures may suffer.
By contrast, Messi, when he does return from injury, is likely to become even more of a team player than he currently is. The Argentina star may have lost a little dynamism from his early playing days, but he has the vision, technique and cerebral instincts to play a much more withdrawn role in the Barcelona team and thus take on more creative duties.