Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 19 January 2020

Diego Forlan: Who is better: Ronaldo or Messi? Just be grateful to be around to watch them

I do not like to say Ronaldo and Messi are the best players ever. In any case, they have not won the World Cup like Diego Maradona or Pele did, and the World Cup is still the best tournament in the world. But they are the best of their generation.
Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates one of his goals against Malmo in the Champions League on Wednesday night. Anders Wiklund / TT News Agency / Reuters / September 30, 2015
Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates one of his goals against Malmo in the Champions League on Wednesday night. Anders Wiklund / TT News Agency / Reuters / September 30, 2015

Cristiano Ronaldo scored his 500th career goal on Wednesday. The man is unbelievable, a killer in front of goal, a machine. His goal ratio of more than one a game for Real Madrid is incredible. He will overtake Raul as Real Madrid’s greatest-ever goalscorer soon, too, despite having played over 400 fewer games. But I am not surprised.

I have played with him and watched him go in search of perfection when we were at Manchester United together. Many times after training it was just the two of us left practising shooting. Practice makes perfect and he wanted to be the best and everyone knew that. But he was highly motivated, a decent person too. I am pleased at what he has gone on to achieve.

We both left Manchester for Spain and if you look at the list of the top scorers in Spain over the past seven years then you will see the following names at the top. Ronaldo, Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, Messi, Ronaldo, Messi and then me. In 2009, I won the Pichichi, the award for Spain’s top scorer, for the second time with 32 league goals in 33 games. It was the most anyone had scored in Spain since the Brazilian Ronaldo in 1997. Christian Vieiri, Raul, Salva Ballesta, Diego Tristan, Roy Makaay, the Brazilian Ronaldo and Samuel Eto’o are just a few of the names that had previously won it. I was in very good company.

If you look at the list of the top scorers in Europe from all the major leagues, you will see the following names going back over the past seven years: Ronaldo, Ronaldo, Luis Suarez, Messi, Messi, Ronaldo, Messi and then me, in 2009. That was my second European Golden Boot, four years after my first.

I am not saying that I am at the same level as Messi or Ronaldo. They are the best two players in the world, but I am very proud that I managed to finish above them in the goalscoring charts, especially as I was playing for Atletico Madrid, not Barcelona or Real Madrid.

My 32 goals in 33 games were a huge amount, in any season. But every Pichichi winner since then has averaged more than a goal per game. That is Messi and Ronaldo, two magnificent footballers who need each other, who drive each other on. Competition keeps you young, it motivates you, it challenges your ego. Messi and Ronaldo have this with each other.

I do not like to say that they are the best players ever. That is subjective and you do not need to compare players from different eras. In any case, they have not won the World Cup like Diego Maradona or Pele did, and the World Cup is still the best tournament in the world. But they are the best of their generation.

Ronaldo has changed as a player. When he was younger, he was more like Messi. He liked to dribble and do fancy things. Now he is more direct, a killer who scores a lot more goals. The pair are driven by goals, but Messi still has something that Ronaldo does not. Messi is more likely to produce magic, to make a difference in a game, to get out of a spot when surrounded by four players. It is harder for Ronaldo to do that. He is bigger, he needs more space to go one-on-one with a defender, to allow him to beat them for pace. Earlier in his career, he used to dribble more like Messi does. Now, he dribbles less, yet makes and scores more goals. Maybe Ronaldo needs a teammate to help change a game, but Messi can do it alone.

Ronaldo can score every type of goal. He can use both feet, his head, take free kicks, finish from close range or outside the box. He has everything.

I do not buy into the argument that it is easier to score in Spain, either. The Spanish league has the best teams, as is shown by how well they do in European competitions. Is anyone telling me the best teams are the easiest to score against?

Ronaldo will go on and on. He has the physique, the talent, the motivation. He also has Messi to keep driving him. They have been playing against each other for years and they will be up against each other for many more.

I think Messi is slightly better, but others disagree. And do not believe it when you hear a Barca or Madrid player say Messi or Ronaldo is the best, they are obligated to say their teammate.

We are just lucky to be able to watch Ronaldo and Messi at their best. Enjoy them while they last, they are special talents.

I would like to get back among them in the goalscorers’ chart again, but I’m 36 now, so maybe that will be a little tough. I am just pleased that I was once among them.

sports@thenational.ae

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Updated: October 1, 2015 04:00 AM

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