It’s Clasico day here in Spain and the while the BBC, understandably, leads with their coverage of Liverpool vs Manchester United, their second story is headlined: “Lionel Messi better than Cristiano Ronaldo, says Pele.”
Sure, it gets people reading, but does anyone actually care what Pele thinks about football’s two most recognisable faces?
And why should we really give a toss about the subject at all?
I’ll admit, I’ve been drawn into comparing Messi and Ronaldo many a time, with many different people over the best part of the last decade now, but have recently decided to save my breath.
As sports fans we are always looking for a way to quantify greatness. The frustrating truth, however, is that greatness is totally subjective and therefore causes arguments akin to those witnessed in Middle Eastern geopolitics.
Look, I get it. People have been comparing sports stars since sports began. It makes for excellent pub banter; something to jaw about when you’re washing down a packet of McCoy’s with a pint of Fosters at four o’clock on a Saturday afternoon.
What I don’t get, however, is this tribalism. This polarisation. This feeling that if we are in Team Kobe, anything that Team LeBron does is comparable to pushing your Grandma down the stairs.
We haven’t even mentioned team Jordan.
What is it about sports that makes us this way? Why do we have such a desire, such a need to belong to something?
How many times have you been on your favourite social media platform (take your pick) and been greeted with a picture of one of either Messi or Ronaldo? How many times have you scrolled down to the comments?
If you’re one of these people – like me – who gets some sort of cheap thrill from reading people’s unintelligent opinions on social media, you will know just how hostile people are when defending/chastising their favourite/least favourite sports stars.
Having said that, you might have just been looking for unrelated picture comments, in which case you’ll probably have scrolled passed the idiotic keyboard warriors. Good for you.
I look back to when I was a young teenager and regrettably think of the players that I didn’t appreciate due to formed biases.
Ruud Van Nistelrooy, David Beckham, fuck it, that whole Manchester United team from the early 2000’s, the World and European champions France, Michael Ballack, Andriy Shevchenko, Michael Jordan – the list goes on.
Instead of lauding these great talents and being thankful to witness them, my time was spent berating them. I was anti-Agassi because I was team Sampras; my love of Patrick Kluivert rendering it impossible to congratulate Raul Gonzalez, while Zinedine Zidane got a hard time for fisting Brazilian Ronaldo in the ’98 World Cup final.
The storied careers of those mentioned above are all finished now and all I have is YouTube compilations to go by.
Ronaldo and Messi’s rivalry has been fantastic for football. The world’s two best players, on the two best teams, breaking record after record, week after week. Why can’t we just all sit back, relax and enjoy watching these two phenomenons in their prime?
In twenty years, when Messi is managing Barcelona’s cantera and CR7 is making guest appearances on Soccer AM, we’ll all want to look back with nostalgia at the things that these guys achieved, not remember how much of a cock he was because you had a stiffy for the other.
Besides, they’re both shite compared to Zlatan anyway.