Ronaldo tore Spain asunder while Lionel Messi missed the 24th penalty of his career. There will never be an argument to convince me that Messi isn’t the best player of all time, but is there a difference between pure ability and greatness? You’re seeing it play out. Again.
Any side winning that many Champions Leagues in such a sport space of time is unthinkable given all the money floating around the top sides in Europe. A nation like Portugal, with all due respect, shouldn’t be winning Euro 2016.
Spain completely outclassed Portugal on the pitch in terms of style and approach – but what exactly does that matter? Very little it seems, when the projected outcome would obstruct Ronaldo from meeting eternal adoration.
These are not coincidences. He’s one of two players that can grab a game by the scruff of the neck and completely change its course. Messi is the other, but the best technical player that the footballing gods have ever given us is hilariously foiled by the far-less-likeable egotistical perfectionist that is the self-branded CR7, and all the constructed ability that comes with his obsession.
For a long time we’ve craved a difference maker between the sides and this could be the one that people speak about in 50 years. ‘Remember the 2018 World Cup? Argentina had the strongest squad they’ve had in over 20 years, while Portugal had ten farmers and a chiselled-Christ-like-out-of-position centre forward.’ From first impressions, Ronaldo’s in far better position to make a run at edging out his rival.
Audiences wouldn’t have been convinced Messi was burying that penalty, despite his technical prowess. Did that same doubt hang over Ronaldo’s spot kick against the best goalkeeper in the world? Absolutely not. Why? Not because he’s better from twelve yards, even though, by 10% conversion rate, he is – but also because he’s calmness personified.
For all Messi’s clear brilliance, it’s almost like his own humble nature that endears him to so many people holds him back, while the cockiness of a downright pr*ck extends a legacy beyond the niceties associated with the ‘best’ player we’ve ever seen.
It’s hard to write Portugal off, too. They were fairly much laughed at as they seamlessly progressed through the last major tournament they participated in – until they won it. An RTE commentary team spoke during their broadcast about needing a group of world class players to win a tournament.
You see, that’s not true – and that’s why it’s such a loved tournament. It maintains a status quo for seeding, but it’s a free-for-all by and large; ready to be grabbed by any nation who can lean on an individual talent.
If that talent can’t be stopped, then it’s a wise approach rather than a helpless reliance. If Portugal lean on him, then he will likely produce. He has form with that. There was an inevitability about him scoring that free kick. There just was.
For footballing debates with painful amounts of subjectivity attached, sometimes it’s nice to lean on certain pillars without requiring rationale as to why we’re doing it. The World Cup is the biggest sporting competition on the planet, so maybe, just once, we can throw down the stats and let that glaring sense of inevitability versus the underlying sporting insecurity determine who’s exactly what on the grandest stage of them all.