Tactical Insights

Messi, Ronaldo ‘can’t stand each other’ and Carragher reckons 8/10 people prefer Barca legend

In the final instalment of an exclusive three-part series in which Jamie Carragher sits down with F365 to discuss the Messi-Ronaldo phenomenon, the Liverpool legend reflects on the impact the duelling GOATS have had on each other, the nature of fandom and future generations of football stars.


There are many ways in which the rivalry Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi shared while on opposite sides of the Real Madrid-Barcelona divide was unique and likely irreplicable: the eye-watering haul of trophies – both individual and collective – they won; the epic Clasicos in which they went to battle, each desperate outdo the other; the sheer volume of goals they scored and created.

But for Jamie Carragher, who played against both Messi and Ronaldo during his Liverpool career, it is the longevity of the two superstars that means their iconic duel for the right to be called the best in the world will never be matched.

“I think it’s a one-off – both in terms of the competition between two players at that level, but also in how far ahead they were of other people,” Carragher says.

👉 How Man Utd’s ‘big problem’ helped create their ‘best team’
👉 ‘The best player of all time’ didn’t show it against Liverpool

When I was a kid and before these two came along, you’d think about whoever was the best player in the world and maybe they’d be the best for a year, two years. Then somebody else would come along or there’d be another tournament and it would be someone else.

For me, my first was [Diego] Maradona. Then Ruud Gullit came along. Then Roberto Baggio came along in the early 90s. And then [Zinedine] Zidane appears, then Ronaldinho. Every couple of years there was a new Ballon d’Or winner.

It’s unbelievable how many Ballons d’Or they’ve both won, considering they were competing with each other. Normally, if someone would win the Ballon d’Or two or three times, they were an absolute god. These two were both winning it five, six, seven times. And you’d think, ‘If Ronaldo wasn’t here, Messi probably would have won the Ballon d’Or 12 times.’

I’ve never seen anyone have the longevity at the top of those two. Maybe someone could get to their level for two or three years, but to go for as long as those players have, I’m not sure we’ll ever see that again.

It has long been hypothesised that neither player would have attained the standards they reached were it not for the presence of the other; that – through competitive spirit, club rivalry or raging jealousy – each drove the other on. It’s a theory to which Carragher subscribes.

“They didn’t want to lose out to the other for trophies like the Ballon d’Or – that was always the big rivalry for them every season,” he says. “They definitely made each other better. But I think they probably can’t appreciate that until they’ve finished. While they’re playing, I bet they can’t stand each other.

No matter what one did, the other would come back at them. They could never rest. They could never enjoy what they’d done as much because they knew the other one would be coming back at them to go and get more goals. I always felt that if one of them scored a hat-trick, the next night the other one would go and get a hat-trick. They had to always completely outshine each other.

It must have been tough mentally, that Messi-Ronaldo thing. And I’d say more so for Ronaldo, because I think probably seven or eight people out of 10 would say Messi was the better player. That really must have driven Ronaldo on. No matter what he did, people still said that. That was a big thing in his career, his mentality.

And while the pair have proved inspirational figures in driving standards of play, preparation and discipline throughout their careers, their influence on the game, it could be argued, has not been wholly positive.

There is a sense that, among the generation of players that followed, the Messi-Ronaldo rivalry fostered an unhealthy degree of individualism, with a brighter light shone on individual awards like the Ballon d’Or than ever before.

They altered the nature of fandom, too; especially among the online football community. The rise of the rivalry coincided neatly with the advent and growth of social media. For as long as these platforms have existed now, debates have raged over who is the better player: Messi or Ronaldo. There are innumerable fans whose entire online identities are shaped by an ardent support of their chosen GOAT, and a venomous opposition to the other. No matter which club either player joins, these supporters follow.

Even now, with both players in their mid-to-late 30s, this phenomenon persists among the game’s youngest supporters. Pick almost any park or playing field around the world and you will not have to wait long before encountering an Inter Miami or Al Nassr shirt.

“People think of it more from a Ronaldo point of view that he was all about himself,” Carragher suggests, “but I still think Messi was desperate for those Ballons d’Or as well and to beat Ronaldo, no doubt about it.

You have fans around the world now who support players, rather than clubs. You look at the social media numbers – players are sometimes bigger than clubs; certainly those two. It’s the first thing anyone speaks about when they sign for a club – the social media for the club has gone through the roof, the sales of memorabilia and shirts has gone up. When he was at Man United, it almost felt as if Ronaldo was bigger than the club in some ways.

I’m always keen to see what the next generation of supporters or best players in the world will be like and whether it sticks that way; whether a supporter follows a player around to his other clubs.

More than a decade into retirement, Carragher is able to reflect fondly on having shared a pitch with two of the game’s greats. And, relatively untroubled by either player at the time, the Liverpool legend can do so free from the kind of scars worn by many of the defenders who encountered Messi and Ronaldo at their apex.

“I played against both of them, but I’m not sure either were at their peak yet,” Carragher says. “Ronaldo was probably at his best in the last year or two at United and then the first three years with Real Madrid. And Messi was still three or four years away. So maybe I played them at a good time.”

Source link

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Back to top button