Ever notice how whenever there’s an argument about where to rank Cristiano Ronaldo, it is generally in comparison with Leo Messi?’
And yet whenever there is an argument about where to rank Messi, it’s usually in the context of Maradona and Pele? Of one we ask ‘is he the best there is?' Of the other we ask: ‘Is he the best there has ever been?’
Maybe it’s time to be fair to Cristiano. Maybe, just like the man he will meet at the Santiago Bernabeu on Sunday night, Ronaldo should be up there with Alfredo Di Stefano, whose feats he continues to surpass at Madrid; and with Pele and Maradona. It's snobbery to say otherwise.
Ronaldo is more prose than poetry, we know that. He’s never scored slaloming past defenders from the halfway line (it was the 10 year anniversary of that goal this week - see below). But the inexhaustible consistency: the sheer relentlessness, the ability to gobble-up records like Pac-Man swallowing pac-dots through the maze of his career, is just as worthy.
On Sunday at the Bernabeu, Messi comes into the second Clasico of the season having fallen face-first out of the Champions League, still not able to score past Gianluigi Buffon, and now in danger of finishing the season with only a Cup winners' medal. And Ronaldo, in contrast, arrives fresh from five goals in two legs against Bayern Munich.
He is playing fewer games than ever this season. Zinedine Zidane has convinced him that to have greater effect in the matches that matter, he needs to sit-out more of the games that don’t. He has been told to rest eight times this season – that’s eight times more than previous managers have dared to suggest he watch matches from the sidelines.
The idea is that he peaks in April and May. So far it’s working. If he scores on Sunday, April will have been his most prolific month this season.
His move into a more central position also threatens to put years on his career. It’s bad news for Karim Benzema – taken off on Tuesday night so that Ronaldo could play more centrally. And it’s bad news for Alvaro Morata, who will probably leave to join Chelsea in the summer. But it’s good news for those who took Jorge Mendes at his word two years ago when he said Ronaldo would go on playing and scoring at the top level until he was 40.
Read the full article on eurosport.co.uk: Messi, Maradona, Pele… and Ronaldo – Real Madrid’s finest belongs among all-time greats