Posted November. 29, 2008 04:09,
Among the estimated 270 million soccer players in the world, Cristiano Ronaldo of Manchester United and Lionel Messi of FC Barcelona are expected to be the top two figures in the sport.
Ronaldo was named World Player of the Year for 2008, while runner-up was Messi. The French soccer association will announce the winner of the Ballon dOr (French for golden ball) Tuesday. The inaugural winner of the award was English player Stanley Matthews.
The winner of the Ballon dOr is chosen by 96 soccer writers. Ronaldo is a leading candidate for this years honor, and is likely to sweep all major awards in the sport this year.
The Portuguese national has gained more votes than Messi in voting conducted by UEFA and FIFA.
The soccer world has gone through a cycle of 50 years. Like Matthews, Ronaldo and Messi are wingers but the two active players are different in playing style and personality.
They also have different physiques. Ronaldo is 185 centimeters tall and Messi is as short as Argentine icon Diego Maradona, who now coaches his national team. Messi, however, is known for his consistency.
Ronaldo is well known for his blazing speed and lightning quick feet. His fast but balanced feet movement is reminiscent of a ballerino. Messi moves smoothly while avoiding tackles like an eel sliding through a narrow creek.
Messi has precise passes and is considered Barcelonas top player, beating out the likes of Xavi Hernandez, Andres Iniesta, Thierry Henry and Samuel Etoo.
When Messi plays, Barcelona scores every 27 minutes. Without him, the team needs 71 minutes to score.
Manchester United has no comparative data, but Ronaldo scored 42 goals last year. He can be compared to West Ham United Coach Gianfranco Zola, who once played for Chelsea FC.
Like Maradona, Messi is able to immediately break the other teams defense and catch the ball with his feet. Ronaldo cannot match Messi in this department.
United, however, won both the English Premier League and the Champions League titles. Half of the teams success is due to Ronaldo.
Ronaldo runs just like an athlete to create a scoring opportunity. When opposing players focus on containing the wunderkind, his teammates capitalize to score in his stead.
Ronaldo is a great player, but Messi also has vast potential. Ronaldo is cocky while Messi is more modest. Messi, at 21, is two years younger than Ronaldo, and probably will shine brighter than his United counterpart.