Thursday, November 4, 2010

A duel at high noon

Back in March I posted about who was the best player in the world was, and at that time I chose Leo Messi. Now I won't go into all the reasons I chose him again, but the main one was that in terms of value to his team Messi trumped Ronaldo and....Wayne Rooney. Yes at that point Rooney was in the conversation, wow what a difference 9 months can make!

As the first installment of the the game known the world over as "El Classico" approaches later this month, arguably the two best players in the world will be going into the game in top form. As it stands now Cristiano Ronaldo and Leo Messi are 1st and 2nd respectively in La Liga goal scoring, Ronaldo with an incredible 12 in 9 games, and Messi on 7 in 7. They have also lead their respective clubs to the the top of the Spanish league table and to healthy positions in the Champions League group stages, which makes the upcoming installment of Real Madrid v Barcelona so intriguing. Not only will this be a battle for top spot in Spain, but it will also be a battle for top player in the world.

With all due respect to Wesley Snejider who is the pundits pick for the FIFA Ballon O'dor world player of the year, the true #1 contenders play in Spain. I agree that both Ronaldo and Messi endured poor World Cups this summer compared to their usually blistering form, but a one month tournament should not mask the 11 other excellent months.

When looking at Ronaldo, you have to acknowledge that he had a rather slow start to his first season in Madrid. Maybe he had issues adjusting to the slower pace of La Liga compared to England, or maybe he was trying to live up the massive transfer and contact that allowed him to become a Galactico. Whatever the case may be the first few games of the season he was struggling.

However great players, and he is a great player regardless of what you think of him as a person, find a way to produce. He did just that starting around October of last year, and aside from injury he hasn't really stopped scoring. He currently on the hottest goal scoring streak of his career, and this includes his 2007-2008 season with Manchester United when he scored 42 goals in all competitions and was named world player of the year. Under Jose Mourinho's leadership at Madrid he has been given more of a creating role on top of primary goal scorer. In turn this seems to have ignited the Portugal captain as he now does not have the entire burden of goal scoring on his shoulders, although he is a shoot first type of player.

As for my choice for best player on Earth, Leo Messi is just doing what he does best, score and set up beautiful goals. Granted Barcelona have not quite hit full stride in terms of their play this season, but Messi provides flashes of what Barca are all about. I had the great fortune to watch Messi in action live a few months ago and I can say I've never been more blown away by a players raw skill. He didn't score against AC Milan that night, but in the 20 minutes he played looked like he could score whenever he felt like it. His control of the ball is now legendary and his vision is second to none.

Unlike Ronaldo he has been fairly healthy over the past year, although he suffered an ankle injury early on this season which forced him to miss two matches. The other thing Ronaldo did not have last season was a European Golden Boot in his cabinet. Last season's unreal 47 goals in all competitions in my mind should stamp him as the world's best regardless of the fact he went goalless in South Africa.

No matter which team you support in the world of football November 28th should be marked down on your calendar. Not only are two of the best club sides in the world are set to battle in Barcelona, but also two of the best players in the world will state their case for the number 1 spot.


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