Football

Published on December 9th, 2017 | by Paco Polit

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Cristiano Ronaldo may be good, but he’s not the greatest

🕓 Reading time:3 minutes

A bold statement from freshly-crowned Ballon d’Or winner, Cristiano Ronaldo, makes a bold claim that his talent cannot back says Paco Polit

Last Thursday, French magazine France Football deployed all of the usual pomposity to announce the 2017 Ballon d’Or winner. The award went straight to a Cristiano Ronaldo, in a move that many in the football world regard as baffling – more on that later. The Portuguese striker, however, wasn’t content with amassing five of these trophies: he wanted to make a point about it.

“I don’t see anyone better than me. No player does things that I cannot do myself, but I see things others can’t do. There’s no more complete player than me. I’m the best player in history, in the good and the bad moments”.

You couldn’t come up with statements like that on your own without being accused of making them up, but those are verbatim words spoken by Cristiano in an exclusive interview with the French outlet. The best thing that can be said about them is that they’re bold words from a bold man; the worst, that they may be the biggest showcase of ego and arrogance of the year.

Let’s do a bit of fact-checking, shall we? Traditionally, the Ballon d’Or used to praise the best player of the season, on an individual basis and (obviously) with how his performance impacted the success of his team. In the last decade, however, things have changed slightly. Stats and impact have been all over the place in the usual two-horse race between Ronaldo and Barça’s magician Leo Messi.

A head-to-head duel that has been extrapolated to other areas of confrontation: the battle also involves Madrid and Barça, Nike versus Adidas, and so on. In seasons where Messi’s dominance on the pitch resulted in trophies for his team, Cristiano used to have a shot at winning the Ballon d’Or due to his impressive scoring ability.

The criteria suddenly changed in years such as the one that’s about to end, where Cristiano has won the award even if Messi scored more goals throughout the year, assisted more times, created more chances and dribbled more times successfully.

No fault to the Portuguese player, of course: the deeper issue lies in the voting ‘system’ and the random weight and importance allotted to the Champions League and LaLiga trophies.

It would be absolutely idiotic to downplay just how great Cristiano is as a player. Something that isn’t proved by his individual records (even though they’re very relevant for him, they actually aren’t that important when compared to the impact he has on his team), but by his overall mentality and attitude on the pitch.

The best Cristiano is a voracious attacker, with plenty of power and skill on display to score pretty much from any position and with any part of his body. His development in the latter years has moved progressively away from the skillful dribble into the world’s most lethal striker. Again, facts back up this claim.

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But Cristiano’s rep will always stumble when he opens his mouth and pettily declares himself as the GOAT. No hard feelings, mate: it’s just that no Greatest Of All Time has ever, ever, called himself so. Michael Jordan didn’t do it. Michael Phelps didn’t do it. Yeah, Muhammad Ali did it often, but it actually was part of the show.

For example, when Cristiano says that “no player does things that I cannot do myself”, he forgets that Messi dribbles and runs circles around defenders every single game. Let’s repeat that. Every. Single. Game. Even when things look bleak for Barça, the little guy always performs the equivalent to a mid-season highlight reel in a mere ninety minutes.

Meanwhile, Cristiano has had problems for a while in his 1v1 due to the (arguably logical) product of aging. No physical regime, as Spartan and demanding as it may be, gives you back that ‘edge’ that currently Ronaldo lacks and Messi seems to have effortlessly.

And that is only one bullet point on the list of counter-claims to his over-the-top statement. We could rant forever about the differences between both and how they are the greatest in the game nowadays, but I believe the point is shared by everyone in the football world that isn’t blinded by the Madridista colours of their shirts: Ronaldo is an excellent player, one of the best ever… but not the best ever. Not by a long-shot.

Pelé, Diego Maradona, Johan Cruyff or Alfredo Di Stefano ought to be considered higher in the ranking. Even Messi, with all of his modesty and lack of boastful claims to the throne, insists every game on performing stuff and scoring goals never seen before. And he seems to be happy enough with that. Ronaldo, though, is in for a hell of a reality slap if he doesn’t keep his delusions in check.

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About the Author

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Paco Polit is a Valencia-based journalist with over ten years experience reporting La Liga, covering both Valencia CF and Levante's news, signings, ups and downs. Madrid and Barcelona are huge, indeed, but the Spanish La Liga is much, much more: regarded as the top football competition in the world, he enjoys explaining why to every reader from abroad.



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