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Battle of the GOATS: Lionel Messi ageing gracefully at World Cup as Cristiano Ronaldo fights father time

Cape Town – The debate between who is better between Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi is one that will rage on forever.

It’s about time that we just accept both as great athletes who are among the greatest of all time. Both are unique in their own way with also their own set of weaknesses.

For now, it’s safe to say that bar Ronaldo’s hardcore fans, most agree that Lionel Messi is conducting himself better as a professional.

Messi is ageing gracefully and could well call time on his international career after the World Cup which represents the final chance for both players to win the event.

Ronaldo, 37, on the other hand, is a player who is finding it hard to accept a new reduced playing role in his teams and also appears to be finding it hard to accept that father time is calling him.

The veteran is suffering psychologically as a result of staying on top of his game for an abnormal amount of time. Now that he is slowing down and clearly no longer the player he was up to four years ago, he is finding it hard to accept a new reduced role in his teams.

This was what led to his early and abrupt release from Manchester United as well as what led to him being benched by Portugal coach Fernando Santos, a known Ronaldo loyalist during the nation’s most recent 6-1 World Cup last 16 win over Switzerland.

From a football perspective, there is an argument to be made that Ronaldo should not be starting games at the World Cup. He was used sparingly by Manchester United this season with Santos starting him ahead of players who had clocked in more minutes at club level.

Ronaldo can consider himself lucky to have benefited from Santos’ loyalty towards him. Had he been playing for the likes of France or England, he may have not been starting games at all due to his lack of minutes at club level.

Ronaldo’s current conduct risks damaging his legacy.

Should he opt not to end his international career after the World Cup and a new coach replaces Santos, who has attracted criticism from the public in Portugal, the new coach will have valid reason to deem him surplus to requirements ahead of the next World Cup cycle.

Messi is embracing his new role within the Argentina team. The 35-year-old is not as prolific in front of goal as he was in yesteryear but continues to use his strengths to his advantage even though he may not be as quick as he once was. This mindset from Messi to embrace the situation rather than wallow in self-pity is allowing him to outclass Ronaldo at the moment.

The question over whether Ronaldo or Messi were better players during the course of their careers is one that will always be up for debate. At this time, there is no doubt that Messi is the better player.