Portugal Wins Euro 2016: So Is Ronaldo > Messi?
Against all odds, and despite the fact that they won just one game in regulation prior to the final, Portugal beat the home team in France to win the European Championship; delivering Cristiano Ronaldo his first international trophy. And in true sports form, the win was immediately followed with an argument about his legacy.
The superstar has long been considered one of the greatest soccer players of all time, and the greatest of his generation along with Lionel Messi. And so the debate has raged on for years as to which player earns the title of "greatest."
The two players have faced off time and time again in La Liga, where Ronaldo plays for Real Madrid and Messi plays for RM's rival Barcelona. And since the sports world cannot love one player without hating another, most people who are Team Ronaldo are distinctly anti-Messi and vice versa. Think Peyton Manning vs. Tom Brady.
So when Ronaldo finally won an international tournament for his country, his fans were incredibly quick to jump on the fact that it's an achievement that has eluded even the great Messi. He and the Argentinian national team suffered an embarrassing loss against Chile in the Copa America tournament just a few weeks ago, and Messi promptly announced his retirement from international play. It was a move that many soccer fans viewed as unbecoming of a legendary player, and it's recency has only served to empower those who believe that an international win is essential to the "greatest" argument.
Of course, there's one tiny issue with that argument: Ronaldo didn't play most of the game. After suffering a rough hit to the knee in the 18th minute that left him in tears, he limped off of the field. He returned to the game shortly after, only to fall again and have to be take off on a stretcher. You'd better believe that people were not letting this fact go unacknowledged.
Now whether or not the Ronaldo-detractors have a point is debatable. But as an unbiased observer without a horse in this race, I can say that I think Ronaldo fans are defensive for a reason. Messi's style of play and quiet, unassuming nature have stood in stark contrast to Ronaldo's cocky bravado, despite the fact that the two men have had uncannily similar club success. Because of that, Messi has often been the media darling in the depiction of their rivalry.
Either way, I'm sure all of you American sports fans will recognize the rationalization from both sides for what it is: a neverending story. Each player has done enough to be considered one of the best that has ever played the game. At this particular moment, Ronaldo is at the top of the soccer universe. He may not have been able to play most of the game, but he was a leader and a captain that helped them fight to the finish with sideline coaching that will forever be a part of his legacy. And he was a crucial part of the wins that got his team to the final in the first place.
In my opinion, he might be the G.O.A.T. just for this incredible moment right here:
A MOTH LANDED DIRECTLY ON HIS TEARY EYE. That has to be a sign from the universe. Of what, I am not sure. But I'm quite convinced that it's something.
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