A win at the World Cup in Argentina ends the Messi Ronaldo debate

Most football fans have an answer. Not necessarily that they outwardly support one or the other player. Instead, they simply believe that one of the players is simply better than the other.

The debate between Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo has dominated the football world for the past year and a half. Their frequent duels between Barcelona and Real Madrid allowed fans to regularly see the two best players of their time. Scoresheet and league dominance propelled those two and the rest into the modern era player rankings.

Messi and Ronaldo made the Ballon d’Or almost insignificant. From 2008 to 2021, French football awarded the Golden Ball 13 times. Messi won seven and Ronaldo won five. Only Luka Modric could stop the hegemony of the Ballon d’Or.

There remains a legitimate reason for both players to claim they beat their individual rival. Messi supporters point to those Ballon d’Ors or his notable goals through goals and assists. The Argentinian also achieved the best individual season in perhaps the history of the sport. His 92 goals in 2012 are unparalleled.

Subsequently, Ronaldo supporters note that no player in the history of the game has scored more goals. Moreover, Ronaldo helped Portugal in this first international trophy. At the same time, he emerged as by far the best player in UEFA Champions League history.

Now Messi has the chance to do something Ronaldo never really got close to: winning a World Cup. Could lifting the one trophy he hasn’t won be the latest argument for placing Messi completely above Ronaldo?

International success

Messi and Ronaldo never played in a World Cup. It prevents the two from having tangible evidence in the debate to say whether one is better. It’s not like the multiple encounters in LaLiga, 18, Champions League, six or the other leagues.

Instead, the World Cup serves as a marker in the debate between Messi and Ronaldo. The ebb and flow of the careers of both Messi and Ronaldo have seen the Argentine light up Spain and Europe. A few years later, no one could stop Ronaldo from doing the same. Each player has Ballon d’Ors, LaLiga titles, Copa del Reys, Champions Leagues, Club World Cups, Pichichis, Golden Boots in Europe and more accolades.

The only decisive point was Ronaldo’s success with Portugal. Success in this case is simply winning a major international competition. Messi may be more consistent with three appearances in the Copa America final and a World Cup final loss in 2014. Still, Ronaldo’s crowning achievement was in 2016, helping Portugal win its first major international trophy at Euro 2016.

Messi didn’t have that moment. That is, until he equaled Ronaldo with the 2021 Copa America title. At that tournament, Messi was the tournament’s top scorer and top assist. Unsurprisingly, he won the tournament’s most outstanding player award, the second time he’s won it.

How the World Cup fits into the debate between Messi and Ronaldo

Messi will look his best in the 2022 World Cup. His five goals have him tied with Kylian Mbappé for most goals at the tournament. He is tied with three assists on top of that leaderboardat.

Depending on what happens against France, Messi could win his second Golden Ball at the World Cup as the tournament’s best player. Of course he will care more about the World Cup trophy than about the Ballon d’Or.

Moreover, winning the World Cup would be the biggest achievement in the little Argentine’s illustrious career. In fact, in early 2016, after winning his fifth Ballon d’Or, Messi said he would trade all five individual trophies for one World Cup with Argentina.

“The World Cup is the highest you can achieve as a player,” said Messi. “So the World Cup, for sure.”

The World Cup is the only international competition with which Messi and Ronaldo can measure themselves directly. Ronaldo is the first person to score in five World Cups. Messi will become the league’s all-time leader with his 26th in the 2022 World Cup Final. They are in the tournament’s record books.

If Messi won the World Cup, he would have an unparalleled upper hand in the debate against Ronaldo. Sure, Ronaldo could climb back in 2026 at the age of 41 to win with Portugal. He is not one to shy away from the chance to play at the highest level.

Still, it would take tremendous effort and achievement to match what Messi has done to Argentina in this World Cup. In the Final, win or lose, he goes out in the biggest game of his career.

Competing legacies

Portugal’s greatest player of all time is Cristiano Ronaldo. There is little to no doubt about that as the closest competitor would be Eusebio. Eusebio dominated at the 1966 World Cup, Portugal’s best-ever finish at the tournament with a third-place finish. Ronaldo finished fourth at the 2006 World Cup as a 21-year-old star. That included the decisive penalty against England in the quarter-finals.

Still, Portugal’s expectations are tame compared to Argentina’s. Portugal has never been in a World Cup final. The 2022 final will be Argentina’s sixth. Therefore, the importance of the World Cup to Messi is much greater than what it means to Ronaldo.

A World Cup win would do much more for his legacy than making it to the final for the second time. Argentine fans often compare Messi to his predecessor in Argentine football, Diego Maradona. Many supporters say that Messi can never be of the same caliber as El Barrilette. Never mind that Messi single-handedly carried Argentina to the 2018 World Cup. Ignore Messi as the country’s all-time top goalscorer in all competitions and the World Cup.

Argentines care about one thing: Argentina win the World Cup. If Lionel Messi and Argentina can win it, he will surpass Cristiano Ronaldo’s performance with Portugal. Along the way, he will have eclipsed the Portuguese’s personal achievements apart from scoring goals. All that matters now is the World Cup, and it’s the greatest piece of history a player can achieve.

PHOTO: IMAGO/Icon Sportswire – Richard Gordon

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Cristiano Ronaldo,Debate,Best of all time,Lionel Messi,Weekly,World Cup 2022,World Cup opinions

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