Messi quietly stealing the limelight from Ronaldo
Real Madrid forward Cristiano Ronaldo has not not been shy in trumpeting his intention to win back the FIFA World Player of the Year award, but current holder Lionel Messi appears to have other ideas.
The monstrously-gifted Argentine has consistently stolen the limelight from the most expensive player in football history with a string of sublime performances for Barcelona in the first half of the season.
Ronaldo has not scored in three matches since Real’s 6-0 demolition of Zaragoza in mid-December, while Messi has netted five in his last two to go joint top of the La Liga scoring chart on 14, double Ronaldo’s tally.
The 22-year-old Messi, who was instrumental in Barca’s unprecedented haul of six trophies in 2009, netted his 100th and 101st goals for Barca against Sevilla on Saturday in his 188th appearance.
That made him the youngest player to reach the century mark for the Catalan club and took his tally for the season to 21 in 27 matches in all competitions.
“We don’t need to prove anything to anyone, not even to ourselves,” Messi, a product of Barca’s youth programme, said in an interview with the club’s TV channel on Sunday.
“We have the same mentality as last year, we want to carry on winning things and I believe we have demonstrated this.”
He said he was not letting the success go to his head.
“The truth is that, right now, as with all the important things that have happened to me, I don’t attach too much importance to them or I don’t notice them.
“I am taking it calmly, in a normal way and with a desire to achieve more.”
The contrast between the gifted pair, as players and personalities, could hardly be greater.
The diminutive Messi resembles a shy schoolboy, with a soft Argentine accent and modest demeanour, while Armani model Ronaldo, 24, oozes confidence and is fond of tearing off his shirt to display his bulging musculature.
With a low centre of gravity and tricky skills, Messi scampers around the pitch, bouncing off defenders, while Ronaldo is more like a racehorse, galloping past opponents and peppering his game with showy stepovers and flicks.
“I have the ambition to be the best,” the Portuguese told Marca sports daily last month.
“By God’s grace I have already won the trophy for the best player in the world and I hope to win it again, either this year or next, but I will win it again.”
Ronaldo has been hampered by an ankle injury this term but his season has failed to spark into life since his return and Real slipped five points behind leaders Barca after slumping to a 1-0 defeat at Athletic Bilbao on Saturday.
Silverware is key to winning the World Player award and with Real already out of the King’s Cup and lagging in the league he will need a spectacular performance in the second half of the season if he is to eclipse Messi.
The World Cup in South Africa and the Champions League final at Real’s Bernabeu stadium in May would be the ideal stages for him to prove he is worth the 94 million euros ($136 million).
PHOTO: Ronaldo and Messi shake hands before the start of the 2009 Champions League final in Rome. REUTERS/Albert Gea