There has been a lot of talk over the years with regards to who the greatest footballer on the world is at the moment and each generation has had its fair share of footballers who had staked claim to that title, which is currently shared by Brazilian legend Pele and the Argentine messiah Diego Maradona. However, the turn of the century, especially the middle parts of it saw two new, young names thrown into the mix of it all – Portuguese glamour boy Cristiano Ronaldo and Argentine prodigy Lionel Messi.
It was in the early 2000s that English Premier League club Manchester United snapped up an 18 year old Ronaldo from Portuguese club Sporting Lisbon for a whopping £ 12.5 million fee, a huge sum in those days for a teenager. Slowly but steadily, the lanky, showboating youngster, given the task of filling the void left by David Beckham and his number 7 jersey began to manifest some of the skills that had prompted Sir Alex Ferguson to pay so much money for him. And in a couple of years, Ronaldo was all over the place as his scintillating displays earned him many fans.
Around that time, another teenager from Argentina, Lionel Messi was going up the ranks at Barcelona and under the tutelage of Brazilian superstar Ronaldinho; he was slowly becoming the player that we had grown accustomed to seeing. As Messi began to develop, Ronaldo led Manchester United to a UEFA Champions League title in 2008 which earned him the FIFA World Player of the Year and Ballon d’Or.
However, the comparisons with Messi started to intensify and reached its pinnacle when Ronaldo moved to Spanish giants Real Madrid for a world record £ 80 million in 2009. In spite of his personal successes at the Santiago Bernabeu, it was Messi who was winning the titles with Barcelona, be it the Spanish League or the UEFA Champions League or the Spanish King’s Cup. These displays of Messi earned him three straight FIFA World Player of the Year and Ballon d’Or titles.
But 2011/12 has been the best season for Ronaldo in Spain, having tasted League success with Real Madrid, the Portuguese maestro has almost single handedly led his team Portugal to the semi finals of the EURO 2012 where they will meet Spain for a place in the finals.
With Messi missing out on the titles this year and his form having marginally dipped, the semi final and a possible final against Italy or Germany gives Cristiano Ronaldo the best opportunity to pip Messi for the first time in three years and reclaim the title of the best player in the world, something that he had been dreaming of ever since he left the island of Madeira to move to Old Trafford in 2003. Having to hear the chants of Messi in the crowds has gotten to him on many occasions but at EURO 2012 saw a Ronaldo who was bent on taking his team through and if he manages to win the title for the team, then he will arguably be named as the best player in the world.