Ronaldo has the opportunity to leave Messi in the shade
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[July 09, 2016]
If history ultimately judges the
finest talents by their achievements on the international stage,
where neither player has tasted success, then the Portuguese captain
could use Sunday's Euro 2016 final to land a haymaker blow in one of
football's great rivalries.
Ronaldo has overcome rumblings of discontent at the tournament, with
his form and attitude subjected to microscopic analysis, to lead his
side into a showpiece finale where they will face hosts France in
Should he end the occasion holding aloft the trophy, it would not
only crown a remarkable career, it would perhaps settle once and for
all a debate that has divided fans across the world.
Ronaldo and Messi have been jostling for the World Player of the
Year title for years, often with little to separate them in the
scoring charts or in their burgeoning trophy cabinets.
They have hoovered up eight Ballon D'Or titles between them (Messi
five, Ronaldo three) and been the cause of innumerable arguments
among fans and pundits who have picked over their various merits.
Yet neither has led their country to glory in a continental or World
A rivalry that stretches back a decade and includes two of the
world's biggest clubs in Ronaldo's Real Madrid and Messi's
Barcelona, could be about to witness a defining moment.
And timing is everything.
When Messi's Argentina failed to beat Chile in last month's Copa
America final it proved too heavy a blow for the diminutive
playmaker, who announced his international retirement in the
A multiple trophy winner with Barcelona, the 29-year-old Messi had
been part of four final defeats with the national team, three in the
Copa America and at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
Fast forward a few weeks and Sunday's final offers Ronaldo an
opportunity to stamp his authority decisively on the debate. Victory
against France would elevate him into a pantheon of former greats
who have tasted international success.
Pele, Diego Maradona, Zinedine Zidane, Franz Beckenbauer and Michel
Platini all claimed international trophies to cement their standing
as the best players of their generations.
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Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo during training. REUTERS/Regis Duvignau
It is a list that Ronaldo would no doubt like to join and he is
coming into form right on cue.
The 31-year-old, who suffered disappointment in the 2004 final when
his side were beaten by Greece, began Euro 2016 with his influence
on the team under scrutiny.
As Portugal failed to win their first five games inside 90 minutes,
Ronaldo was frequently pictured scowling at team mates and throwing
up his arms in despair as passes went astray and chances went
He threw a reporter's microphone into a lake when he was asked a
question during a team walk and was criticized for disparaging
remarks he made about Iceland after Portugal drew 1-1 with the rank
outsiders in their opening match.
Yet for all the theatrics, when the curtain rose on their biggest
match of the tournament, he was the undoubted star of the show,
scoring once with a magnificent header and setting up another goal
in their 2-0 semi-final victory over Wales.
The current Portugal side are far from the most talented in their
recent history and Sunday's opponents France are heavy favorites but
a Ronaldo-inspired victory would, for once, leave Messi firmly in
his rival's shadow.
(Editing by Clare Fallon)
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