In La Liga it is a debate we have each season: Who’s the best player in the world, Messi or Ronaldo? Well, with Portugal out of the World Cup and a Messi-inspired Argentina now through to the quarter-finals, the stage is set for him to confirm his place as No1.
That is an opinion shared by Italy’s World Cup-winning defender, Alessandro Nesta, after Messi’s latest man-of-the-match performance saw him lay on the winning goal for Angel Di Maria to steer Argentina into an intriguing last-eight clash with Belgium.
Messi’s own goals tally of four sees him sitting, menacingly, in joint second place in the race for the Golden Boot. They are the kind of qualities that make Nesta, a Sony Team Ambassador for the World Cup in Brazil, re-enter the discussion about who’s the best.
“Globally, looking at the whole career, the highest peak is touched by Messi,” said Nesta. “Unfortunately, one year I played against him four times in a season, I’ve been very unlucky and already pretty old!
“He has something special, a real out of the ordinary player. CR7 is a great champion too, but Messi is special, is the toughest one for a defender. Messi can make ten sprints in a row, it’s impossible for you to stand against him.”
As the Swiss discovered, even deep into extra-time the Barca magician can find reserves of stamina and strength to produce a match-winning moment, drawing in defenders on one of his mazy runs before his exquisite assist for Di Maria. “You’re already more than tired while he’s fresh and reactive, there’s no match against him, he keeps the ball like no one else,” added Nesta.
“CR7 radically changed his style of play. I remember when I met him in Manchester, he was very tricky, a dribbling-lover, now he is much more effective, he always shots on target, he’s very dangerous just for this. He changed a lot his style, now he uses his skills to be more effective rather than just to make a show.”
But if Messi can add a World Cup to his glittering collection on July 13, the perennial debate may well come to a close.