International friendlies are often devalued as meaningless games that carry no real significance, but when two of the biggest countries in world football come head to head the football world stands up and takes notice.
Portugal meet Argentina on November 18th in a game which has already been labelled as another Cristiano Ronaldo versus Lionel Messi clash, with unarguably the best players on the planet playing against one another for their respective countries. It not only promises to generate a bumper attendance in northwest England at Old Trafford, Manchester, but also attract millions of viewers across the globe as the world’s best players take centre stage.
Ronaldo currently holds the bragging rights after Real Madrid triumphed in the recent El Clasico against Barcelona, but Messi will hope to gain revenge for the 2014 World Cup runners-up who put seven past Hong Kong in their last friendly match. Backing Portugal to win with Betsafe could be made all the sweeter if Ronaldo turns on the magic, but there is the danger that Messi is more than capable of winning the game on his own for Argentina.
The 2013 Ballon d’Or winner has shown no signs of relenting in his pursuit of becoming the greatest player of all time, with continuously flawless performances for Real Madrid illustrating a player at the peak of his powers. Although Ronaldo was not at his best for Portugal during their disappointing World Cup campaign, albeit despite battling through the pain barrier caused by a knee injury to represent his country, he remains in a great position to retain his crown as the number one player in world football.
Scoring 17 goals in just 9 La Liga games this season has taken his record with Real Madrid to a mind-blowing 194 goals in Spain. Only Jonathan Soriano has scored more goals than Ronaldo in the calendar year, but the upcoming game against Argentina could be the perfect opportunity to further increase his goals tally and top the 2014 charts.
The four-time Ballon d’Or winner may miss out the prestigious award this year, but the mercurial Argentinian rightly deserves his place alongside Ronaldo as the best players in the world. They stand head and shoulders above the rest, with Messi showing signs of recovering the fire in his belly this season and recapturing the sort of form that meets his, and everyone else’s, highest expectations. Equalling Raul’s long-standing record of 71 goals in the Champions League at the age of 27 highlights what a special talent Messi is, although Ronaldo is right on his shoulder on 70 goals.
Both players have often been criticised for not reproducing the same level of performance at international level as they do for their respective clubs, although both have tended to redress the club-country performance gap in recent years. Manchester United’s famous “Theatre of Dreams” is the perfect stage to add to their astonishing feats while wearing the shirts of their respective nations.
by Michael Georgiou