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Ballon d'Or award reignites the Ronaldo-Messi rivalry

The award has sparked the debate whether it is bestowed according to personal merit or team performance

Nibir Deka 

Ballon d'Or award reignites the Ronaldo-Messi rivalry

Second time in a row, Real Madrid player and Portugal captain on 7th December beat to win the prestigious Ballon d'Or. Neymar, former Barcelona and now PSG forward, came third. Messi and Ronaldo are on an even keel by winning the award five times in a row and have been the only recipients of the award since 2008. The last footballer apart from Messi and Ronaldo to win the prestigious award was Ricardo Kaka, from Brazil, back in 2007. After drawing level with in terms of Ballons d'Or won, Ronaldo told France Football magazine that he has "never seen anyone better than" himself. This has re-energised the Messi-Ronaldo rivalry, which is footballing world’s equivalent of Federer-Nadal rivalry. There’s the brand divide of Nike and Adidas along with an ideological debate between purists siding with Messi and the modernists who back the goal scoring Ronaldo. There is also the Spanish vs the Catalan rivalry, as seen during the El Classicos played between Real Madrid against Barcelona. Ballon d'Or criteria: The FIFA Ballon d'Or award is given to the world's best male player according to on-field performances and overall behaviour on and off the pitch. The winner of the award is selected by a diverse international jury made up of the current coaches, captains of national teams and specialist journalists. The award has sparked the debate whether it is bestowed according to personal merit or team performance. The ‘Rules of Allocation’ state that the award is presented “according to on-field performance and overall behaviour on and off the pitch”. A brief comparison of statistics between Messi and Ronaldo during 2017 calendar year and 2017-18 season to understand their recent form preceding the

Total (2017) Messi Ronaldo
Apps 61 56
Assist 14 13
Goals 52 49
Goal ratio 0.89 0.88
Hat-tricks 3 3
Total (2017-18) Messi Ronaldo
Apps 22 18
Assist 5 3
Goals 17 12
Goal ratio 0.77 0.67
Hat-tricks 2 0
2017, in numbers: Messi and Ronaldo have good numbers in the calendar year 2017. However, it was Ronaldo who won the UEFA Champions League, La Liga, Club World Cup, Uefa Super Cup 2016-17 season with Real Madrid. Ronaldo was also the highest goal scorer with 12 goals, followed by Messi with 11 in the Champions League. He also scored a brace in the Champions League final. Messi won the Copa Del Rey, Spanish Super Cup 2016-17 with Barcelona.
Personal stats: Messi has netted more goals in both the calendar year 2017 and the current 2017-18 season. However, the goal ratio is similar to Ronaldo in 2017 because Messi has played more games. In the current season, Messi is leading the goals tally but Ronaldo became the first player to ever score in each of the six games of a Champions League group round, which is a new record. Ronaldo is the top scorer with 9 goals, while Messi has scored 3 goals in the ongoing Champions League. On an international level, both players helped their countries qualify for the 2018 World Cup, despite some minor setbacks along the way.

With Argentina's qualification hopes in the balance, 30-year-old Messi pulled out one of his best ever performances for his country, with a hat-trick against Ecuador, becoming the joint top scorer in CONMEBOL qualifying in the process. In Europe, Ronaldo was also setting records with Portugal. His hat-trick against the Faroe Islands helped him become the highest scorer in UEFA qualifying with 29 goals during his career. In addition, Ronaldo also overtook Pele on the list of all-time international goalscorers, taking his tally to 79 international goals. In overall 2017, Messi has the most assists, chances created, successful dribbles, key passes and man of the match performances. So, the basis for Ronaldo winning the Ballon D’or has led to fans question whether team trophies are more important than personal stats. This further leads to the criticism by certain fans as Real Madrid midfield consists of the likes of Luka Modric and Toni Kroos, the supply chain to Ronaldo’s exploits. What’s next: With the coming of World Cup 2018, Ronaldo believes club success won’t fetch him a 6th Ballon d'Or. He says, “There are so many competitions to play in the next year with Real, then the World Cup with Portugal. That World Cup will be crucial in the running of the Ballon d’Or.” The 6th Ballon d’Or contest seems interesting as both Messi and Ronaldo will try their best to go for what many believe may be their last attempt with a host of youngsters like Pogba, Neymar and experienced world class players like Hazard, Kane making strides towards Ballon D’or glory. For that both Messi and Ronaldo would need to go all the way to the World Cup finals. Speaking to France Football Magazine, Ronaldo said: “There’s no player more complete than me. I play well with both feet, I’m quick, powerful, good with the head, I score goals, I make assists. There are guys who prefer Neymar or Messi. But I tell you: there’s no-one more complete than me.” Cristiano Ronaldo Photo: @cristiano (Twitter) Messi-Ronaldo All Time Stats:

Total (For club) Messi Ronaldo
Apps 605 882
Assist 199 202
Goals 524 620
Goal ratios 0.87 0.7
Hatricks 39 48
Total (International) Messi Ronaldo
Apps 123 147
Assist 37 27
Goals 61 79
Goal ratios 0.5 0.54
Hatricks 5 5
Fun fact: Ronaldo has scored 98 penalties in his career missing the target 21 times whereas Messi has scored 76 missing 21 times.
The bigger debate: The most recurring question is, Who is the world’s greatest footballer of all time? The answer to that question can’t be drawn quantitatively through mere awards and statistics. Players like Zinedine Zidane, Ronaldinho, Ronaldo (from Brazil) have led their teams to world cup glory and so did the old legends like Pele and Maradona. However, as Messi and Ronaldo draw close to retirement with 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia quite possibly being their last, the stakes are high for a closure. The World Cup has been a chink in both of their otherwise formidable armours as both Messi and Ronaldo have not yet tasted the ultimate international glory. Will it be fair to expect Ronaldo to deliver with an inexperienced team Portugal team? If Maradona could in 1986, Ronaldo has to too.

First Published: Sun, December 10 2017. 15:16 IST