Despite not having Neymar alongside, after the Brazilian standout signed this summer with Paris Saint-Germain, Messi shined again at home. Barcelona defeated with ease Juventus at Camp Nou, 3-0, avenging last season’s loss. The great Argentinean striker scored twice and recorded an assist in the other tally. Messi also scored on veteran Italian goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon for the first time in his career.
The very next day the show belonged to Ronaldo, who had another great performance at home. Sparked by Messi’s outing, the Portuguese came out showing amazing poise and goal hunger at Santiago Bernabeu stadium. Ronaldo also scored twice in the contest in which Real registered the same scored a Barça did the previous day (3-0), defeating Apoel Nicosia from Cyprus.
Messi and Ronaldo have polarized the stardom in planet football in the last decade. Adding their efforts they have won the last nine Golden Balls (the Argentinean five and the Portuguese four) and have placed their respective clubs, Barcelona and Real Madrid, at the summit of European soccer. Anyway, they have failed when representing their National Teams, mainly at the World Cup. Messi (30) and Ronaldo (32) have each played in three World Cups. Leo has scored five goals (one in 2006 and four in 2014), while Cristiano has recorded only three (one in each tournament). They have never been able to command their National Teams to the place expected at the beginning of each World Cup.
In Germany 2006, a very young Messi showed his great potential, but did not have enough playing time and Argentina lost against the host country in the quarterfinals in penalty kicks. Four years later, with Leo already in the star role, Argentina was eliminated again by Germany in the quarterfinals in a lopsided game in which the Europeans won by 4-0. Messi did not score a single goal in the whole tournament. Overcoming several hurdles in Brazil, the Argentineans made their way to the 2014 championship contest, losing again to the Germans, 1-0 in overtime, to claim a disappointing second place.
Ronaldo’s case is very similar. The Portuguese reached the semifinals in the 2006 World Cup, but the Frenchmen ended their dreams in a close contest, 1-0. Four years after, Spain eliminated Portugal, by the same score, in the round of 16. The failure in Brazil 2014 was much worse as the team did not make it beyond the groups round after an unfortunate draw, 2-2, with the United States.
The Golden Ball acknowledges club playing more than National Team performance. Despite Portugal winning the last Euro Cup, neither Messi nor Ronaldo have achieved good enough results with their countries to deserve such award, both players keep ruling planet football. But to be remembered amongst the very best in the history of soccer a player must win at least a World Cup (Pelé, Beckenbauer, Maradona…) To do it Messi and Ronaldo first need to lead their respective countries to solve complicated situations in the World Cup qualifiers. If they do it, each will focus individually in making history in Russia 2018. Messi will look to lead Argentina to its first championship since 1986, Ronaldo will look to guide Portugal to its first World Cup title ever.