Posted: July 12, 2016. 9:45 a.m. CST.
By Bruce Chapman.: It is 2016 and the tide has certainly changed.
Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo each contested a major international tournament this summer. Both managed to get to the finals!
But only one came out a winner.
For years, Ronaldo has been seen by many as a one-trick pony that could only score goals and that was out for his own personal glory. And yet as the summer tournaments draw to an end, and perhaps as maturity settles in for him, the dynamic has shifted quite significantly in favor of the Portuguese star.
Different Styles of Play
Ronaldo and Messi will be compared through statistics and trophy count, yet one major intangible was on full display this summer between the two players, with Ronaldo ultimately dominating: Leadership!
Messi has often been noted as the selfless player who makes others around him better, while his rival was seen as one that wants everyone to play for him.
The script has remained steady throughout both tournaments, the Copa America and the Euro Cup, with Messi leading by example in the Copa and pulling out big moments, as Ronaldo’s selfish personality put Portugal in the wrong spotlight.
However, as the pressure mounted the two stars took diverging paths.
Messi had contested three finals prior to this Copa America 2016 finale. He failed in all of them. In this one, he was given a golden chance to lead his team to glory, getting an opportunity to put Argentina ahead in the penalty shootout. He failed, and the team imploded around him.
Ronaldo, meanwhile, has led Portugal all the way to the Euro final with a mix of performances. Yet, when the pressure was highest, he constantly rallied the troops, gave players faith and optimism, and made things count. He also didn’t fail to convert a crucial penalty in a shootout.
Perhaps Ronaldo’s defining moments came in a final that he had to sit out thanks to injury. Instead of rallying his troops, Messi isolated himself from the group after failing his penalty in the Copa finale against Chile. Ronaldo, in contrast, gave his teammates a pep talk in the locker room and pushed them on from the sidelines as an assistant coach. At the Euro final, he told Eder he would score the winning goal and constantly gave his teammates faith that they could succeed without him.
The truth is, Portugal won without Ronaldo on the pitch, and they got the boost from him when they needed it the most. Messi could have gone back to his team after his penalty miss and motivated them as nothing had been lost to that point. But he sulked.
When It’s All Said and Done
Messi had a far more talented group that was better positioned for success in all four occasions than Ronaldo’s troops, but could unfortunately, never get the desired result. He retired (for now) a loser in his country’s colors, yet still a champ in many of his fan’s eyes.
Ronaldo and Messi’s success at the international level will eventually define their respective legacies when both hang up their boots. Ronaldo has shown an ability to win in a number of ways for different teams. Messi can only win with Barcelona and the great players it places around him.
One did not give up when the odds stacked up against him. The other gave up after failing to lead his team to victory. Personality may play a huge factor, one might say. But what exactly should be the personality of a champion?
Leave me your thoughts!
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