Logical cross-examination of the most recent criticisms of Cristiano Ronaldo

Another year, another prime selection of milestones achieved for Cristiano Ronaldo. Portugal’s most capped player. The only player to ever score in four Euros. Another Champions League title with Real Madrid. Portugal’s first major tournament trophy. Now, his 4th Ballon d’Or.

Certainly not a bad year. But perhaps it wasn't as good as I thought? I was reasonably convinced that Ronaldo's 2016 was his best ever until reading a piece by respected football writer, Graham Hunter. I recommend that the reader pause here to give his article the once-over before proceeding:  http://www.dailyrecord.co.uk/sport/football/football-news/cristiano-ronaldo-decline-hes-not-9444338

It’s important from the outset that I emphasize the intent of this piece. It is indeed meant as a riposte against Mr. Hunter’s argument as well as the generally negative reactions to whenever Ronaldo wins an award. However, while pointing out that logically fallacious reasoning is unbecoming, I’d like to make an effort to recognize that Mr. Hunter’s article does have some merit. However, I believe his assertions to be lacking context, thus distorting whatever truth value they might otherwise hold.

The title of Mr. Hunter’s article juxtaposed with the opening paragraphs leaves some doubt regarding the true intent of the piece.  The “Ronaldo in decline / he’s not as good as Messi” title quickly becomes a query about whether Ronaldo is in fact worthy of being included in the conversation on great footballers altogether, particularly with respect to the likes of Marco Van Basten, Johan Cruyff, and others.

It would be easy for me to mischaracterize Mr. Hunter’s comments, but whether intentional or unintentional, there is clearly a dismissive tone with regard to the legitimacy of not only Ronaldo’s 4th Ballon d’Or, but the claim that he is a great footballer altogether. That Ronaldo’s status as a football legend is still being challenged, even through masked or camouflaged questioning, is lamentable on a number of levels. How does one substantiate that a player as singularly distinguished as Ronaldo not be included in a discussion about football’s greatest-ever players? Well, I don’t know, so I’m not going to attempt that irrational feat.

What Graham Hunter seems to be insinuating is that it is an affront to those great players of football past, the Van Bastens, the Gerd Müllers, the Zidanes, to include Ronaldo in this discussion. Why? I cannot begin to assume, and I’m not going to linger on it because the more significant fallacy committed here is that this discussion has absolutely nothing to do with whether Ronaldo is in decline or not as good as Messi. Opining about comparisons between Ronaldo and other great footballers is a separate line of reasoning that in no way addresses Ronaldo's skill or how well he equates specifically with Messi. In logic, this is known as a Red Herring fallacy, an irrelevant distraction that subtly diverts the reader’s attention away from the core issue. It is a premise or set of premises (“Ronaldo probably shouldn’t be considered as great as Zidane, Van Basten, etc) that has no genuine relation to the original proposition (that Ronaldo is in decline/not as good as Messi).

The next section of Mr. Hunter’s assessment of Ronaldo’s Ballon d’Or credentials is equal parts offensive and uninformed. First, that “big old lump” as Mr. Hunter so crassly describes him, is not named Éder. It’s simply Eder, no accent. This is significant because it leads me to question how many additional facts in this discussion were investigated with similar negligence to detail.  Here’s one other finding just to round out that claim: Mr. Hunter describes Portugal’s Euro 2016 squad as a “team of relatively limited ability.” This is despite Portugal’s Young Player of the Tournament winner (Renato Sanches, although you might argue that Raphael Guerreiro was even more deserving) and several others selected in the Team of the Tournament including Ballon d’Or nominees Pepe and Rui Patrício.

In his article, Mr. Hunter seems to be asserting two mutually exclusive rationales: that Portugal weren’t a very good team that required Ronaldo to push them onward, AND that Portugal as a team (or maybe just Eder) actually won the Euros independent of Ronaldo. Stated in this fashion, only one side of the argument can be true at any given moment. Wouldn’t it be more rational to conclude that Portugal were truly one of the top teams at the Euros AND were buoyed by Ronaldo’s critical contributions? Instead, Mr. Hunter tries to simultaneously deprive both Portugal as a team, and Ronaldo as an individual of any real credit, and no matter how hard I try, I cannot rationally authenticate that particular conclusion.

This paragraph culminates with the proposal that Messi’s plight over the last few years has simply been harder than Ronaldo’s, what with all those Copa America and World Cup finals defeats. 3 finals in a row, and not one victory. Why? According to Graham Hunter only because the likes of Higuain, Kun Agüero, Ángel Di Maria, and others couldn’t do for Messi what that “big lump Éder” did for Ronaldo.

But categorically his assertion is a Begging the Question fallacy in which the argument made – that Messi’s effort to win a major tournament with Argentina has been fraught with greater difficulty over the course of his career – is a foregone conclusion. It is regarded as fact before it has been reasonably proven with logical argument. In an effort to prove his point, Mr. Hunter simply blames Messi’s teammates for falling at the last and crucial hurdle, ultimately depriving him of the Ballon d’Or. Would Messi himself agree with that assessment?

Moreover, Mr. Hunter seems to be ignoring the fact that an overwhelming majority of voters apparently disagree with his stance that Messi had the better year as evidenced by the landslide margin in favor of Ronaldo (745 votes to Messi’s 316). He’s free to disagree with them of course, but within the international football community at large, the case in favor of Messi clearly isn’t as cut and dry as he claims it to be.

This brings me to my final point regarding Mr. Hunter’s article before I speak more generally about Ronaldo’s reputation. Op-eds like this one are meant to provide a stage for a writer to declare their free thoughts and ideas. In that sense there is certainly room for anecdotal observation and even some emotional appeal. Graham Hunter and others are justifiably entitled to declare their opinion that Messi is a better footballer than Ronaldo.

The problem is that argument nearly always hinges on some form of logically erroneous paradigm. As Ronaldo has aged, and as he collects more accolades, there seems to be a similarly growing “emotional need” to try to discredit him. There are many reasons why this is the case. Admittedly, some of it is a reaction to Ronaldo’s overactive ego. Some of it is that Messi is considered to be the more likable person of the two. A portion of it is evidence-based, and Mr. Hunter does include some reference to player metrics (goals/assists) and other means of assessing individual worth. (If he had simply said, "I consider Messi to be superior because he scored more goals and created more assists," I might not agree with that assertion entirely, but at least it'd be rational.)

But a large segment of the effort to discredit Ronaldo entails unmitigated disregard of facts, specifically those facts which are uncomfortable for anti-Ronaldo propagandists to accept. The intent isn’t as much about comparing him to Messi as it is to suggest he’s not deserving, period. Those are two very different assertions. Most people seem to want to find a way (any way will do) to prevent Ronaldo from being labelled as one of the greatest ever footballers. But if you compare his achievements with those of other footballing greats, there is clearly every reason (even outside the 4 Ballon d’Ors) to include Ronaldo alongside them. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't see anyone making similar inquires about Messi, nor should they. His status like Ronaldo's isn't debatable any more. Why then is it acceptable to constantly undermine Ronaldo's claim as a footballing legend? Because people don't like him? Is this really an acceptable standard for rational argument in our day and age? I sincerely hope not, but I fear in this case it is.

To invoke a scientific platitude, Ronaldo’s career status as one of the greatest footballers of all time has been substantiated “beyond a reasonable doubt” by the myriad of individual and team achievements he has collected. The body of evidence is so convincing in fact, that it requires football writers, fanboys, American pundits who know nothing about football, and everyone else to try to fashion an emotionally charged, logically invalid contention that is usually more directed at Ronaldo’s character than anything else. Is Ronaldo in decline? Maybe, but not nearly as much as the potency of those arguments meant to deprive him of the prestige that he has rightfully earned.

I’ll close by pointing out that I have made no personal attacks against Graham Hunter, Messi, or anyone else for that matter. But whether you consider Messi to be superior to Ronaldo or not, shouldn’t we all agree that they are both going to be regarded as two of the greatest of all time? Isn’t it remarkable that Ronaldo has 4 Ballon d’Ors, period?  

I’ve always despised the Ronaldo-Messi debate because it provides just the right stage for incoherent and unreasonable babble that is too rooted in prejudice to have any real merit. I hate to see Graham Hunter get caught up in that because I’ve always liked his work. But enough is enough, Ronaldo is one of the greatest ever footballers, full stop. All this talk of him never deserving anything needs to come to an end. There’s so much more I could say, but I don’t have time or space.

I’m appealing to reason. If you don’t think Ronaldo is as good as Messi, ok, but that opinion should never be used to suppress Ronaldo’s worth as a footballer. There’s never been much to separate Ronaldo and Messi, and that was just as true in 2016 as it has been in every year since 2008. But realize it isn’t necessary to disprove everything about Ronaldo’s worth as a player just to esteem Messi. They can both be great. They both are great. This isn’t a zero sum game. Stop feeling and start thinking. Ask harder questions, submit your own arguments to greater scrutiny, and appreciate that you got to see Ronaldo at the top of his game this year.

 

by Nathan Motz

 

Comments (18)

  1. Francisco

Thanks Nathan. Great article. The man is one of the all time greats full stop. There is no question. On a pure consistency basis at the top level across all forms, the greatest ever. Nobody else has the records, stats that this guy has, bar a...

Thanks Nathan. Great article. The man is one of the all time greats full stop. There is no question. On a pure consistency basis at the top level across all forms, the greatest ever. Nobody else has the records, stats that this guy has, bar a world cup. When did being ruthless and efficient become a bad thing? When compared to Eusebio, Muller, Van basten etc there isn't even a question. The man is the first Portuguese player to qualify for every single major tournament. Who is Portuguese history can say that? Eusebio did it once! Its no accident that two of the worlds greatest clubs built teams around him. But the thing that means the most to me is the fact that he NEVER EVER EVER ducks his duty to the national team. He passion is not in question, you don't see him throwing a huff when frustrated and retiring. He is Portuguese first and foremost and is an example to all. It is with this in mind that i was very disappointed in futre for saying that Ronaldo has enemies in Portugal because he celebrated at Atletico Madrid. Anyone Portuguese that doesn't appreciate Ronaldo, should be ashamed.

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  1. Chris

Nathan, your only issue in this article is that you are trying to rationally and coherently debate a moron who cannot even review his work once to check for a multitude of spelling and chronological errors (I never realized Portugal won the 2014...

Nathan, your only issue in this article is that you are trying to rationally and coherently debate a moron who cannot even review his work once to check for a multitude of spelling and chronological errors (I never realized Portugal won the 2014 Euro cup until Mr. Hunter re-wrote history).

All you need to know is that thi sperson has authored a book called; Barca, The Making of the Greatest Team in the World. That tells you where he is coming from and de-legitimizes any of his points quite frankly.

Aside from that, everything you pointed out is fair, factual and true. But those traits don't go very far in a world where Donald Trump can become an elected official. Sadly, in this world, the verbal diarrhea of people like Graham Hunter who have no objectivity or even a coherent argument, are passed off as journalism.

I respect and admire your work here, and certainly enjoyed reading this article, but the reality is that people will always hate the success of others. Messi has his share of detractors as well. Pep Guardiola, once (undeservedly) seen as the second coming of Jesus in the coaching world is now seeing what life is like when you don't just get to stroll onto one of the best European team's locker room. And we are seeing his critiques come out as well.

Finally, I think it is important to talk about the British media. Unfortunately, the media industry in England for football is possibly as toxic as the political media is in America. People's opinions are passed off as facts, and there is an inherently negative context associated with any type of success or adversity for these athletes. I frankly classify British footballing media as below Fox news in legitimacy, accuracy and relevance. It really is the lowest of the low, and Graham Hunter is clearly part of this.

Thanks again for a great piece Nathan, the true footy nerds and die-hards who know the game will appreciate both of these great players as well as many of their deserving contemporaries currently playing who get overshadowed all of the time.

Cheers.

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  1. Val

Great piece as usual Nathan but as Chris said above it is impossible when you are dealing with agenda based individuals. In this case a writer who only writes positive things about Barcelona. To have anyone with the audacity to beat Messi at...

Great piece as usual Nathan but as Chris said above it is impossible when you are dealing with agenda based individuals. In this case a writer who only writes positive things about Barcelona. To have anyone with the audacity to beat Messi at anything is so alien to people like Hunter, you can picture the temper tantrums in his moms basement.

Graham Huntard is a Farca fanboy and that means he is anti-Madrid and very anti Ronaldo. People who make a living off taking a dump on others are pathetic. He knows when he uses the name “Ronaldo” everyone will click on the article. Nothing that he writes is journalism, it is simply hate filled blogs posted on sites who don’t care about the integrity of writing or the sport of football. If they did this guy would be laughed off as another internet crazy.

You obviously care (like so many of us that post here) beyond just the colours of our team jerseys and for that you can’t argue with morons like Hunter.

As Ronaldo himself says, stats are stats and there is NO argument when it comes to Ronaldo statistics. They are incredible and some may never be equalled.

Ronaldo is in the same boat as Maradona was when he played. I am old enough to remember how unpopular Diego was as a player and yet after he retires and we look back we can’t imagine anyone coming along being better. People will look back at videos of CR7 and think “wow, how cool would if of been to see him play.”

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  1. SupremoGino

It's the same argument every year from these buffoons. When Ronaldo outperformed Messi statistically in previous years, but Messi won more club trophies.. they said Messi was the better player and this media bias even propelled him to win a...

It's the same argument every year from these buffoons. When Ronaldo outperformed Messi statistically in previous years, but Messi won more club trophies.. they said Messi was the better player and this media bias even propelled him to win a couple Ballon d'Or trophies that he might not have necessarily deserved. Now when Ronaldo loses the stats battle but wins the most prestigious trophies Champions League and Euros (which is far superior than a La Liga title or those Spanish coffee cups) they still boast Messi's name. These journalists are hypocrites and can never be taken seriously and being that this is coming from an English newspaper, it's safe to say somebody is still butt hurt from getting their asses whooped in a penalty shootout 10-12 years ago.

P.S - Invalid reCAPTCHA response is a recurring problem when trying to post on this site as a GUEST.

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  1. Tom Kundert

@SupremoGino, thanks for alerting us to the comment posting problem. We're now working on it.

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  1. Arnaldo

I consider Ronaldo a better player for one reason. Barcelona, and Argentina (when successful with Messi) have to put the team together to fit Messi. CR7 on the other hand can play on any team and fit in. Everything Messi is hyped, but CR7's...

I consider Ronaldo a better player for one reason. Barcelona, and Argentina (when successful with Messi) have to put the team together to fit Messi. CR7 on the other hand can play on any team and fit in. Everything Messi is hyped, but CR7's critics never bother to notice the little things he does. True, he can no longer feint defenders like he used to , but CR7 can still out run them, out jump them, and out muscle them. And if the refs ever gave him the same calls Messi gets, he certainly outscore Messi. I'm tired out CR7 getting hacked and the refs ignoring due to thier general disdain for CR7's game theatrics.

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  1. Steve

Chris...care to debate what you see on Foxnews as illegitimate or possibly fake news?

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  1. Chris    Steve

What is there to debate exactly?

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  1. Nathan

Thanks for all the comments everyone. Chris, I agree that many people won't respond to any attempts to discuss these things in a reasonable way, but my goal isn't really to change their minds. It's simply to provide an alternative and hopefully...

Thanks for all the comments everyone. Chris, I agree that many people won't respond to any attempts to discuss these things in a reasonable way, but my goal isn't really to change their minds. It's simply to provide an alternative and hopefully more rational interpretation of Ronaldo's success and what it means for Portugal/world football. Big things are in store for us over the next 2 years. Should be loads of fun being a Portugal supporter I think.

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  1. Chris    Nathan

And this is why I appreciate your work Nathan, because you are so respectful and objective in your analyses. You do not stoop to the level of people like Hunter when making counter-arguments. You manage to argue the facts about Ronaldo without...

And this is why I appreciate your work Nathan, because you are so respectful and objective in your analyses. You do not stoop to the level of people like Hunter when making counter-arguments. You manage to argue the facts about Ronaldo without having to sully Messi's work.

I agree with Val, I think as time passes, and after they both retire, Messi will fade a bit and Ronaldo will come to be more appreciated than he is now. What I will say is that no matter which team mate or former team mate of Ronaldo's you speak to, no one has ever spoken ill of him, and go on about how professional he is, how hard-working he is, and in many cases how he personally welcomed them to the team.

I know many of you have seen this already, but this just shows who he really is to his peers:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x2caiuZwc7Y

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  1. Axis

Hunter is biased, no doubt about that. But are we really any less biased when it comes to Ronaldo?

Hunter wrote down the wrong year. Who cares, mistakes happen.

Writing a book in support of Barca does not make a persons opinions automatically...

Hunter is biased, no doubt about that. But are we really any less biased when it comes to Ronaldo?

Hunter wrote down the wrong year. Who cares, mistakes happen.

Writing a book in support of Barca does not make a persons opinions automatically invalid. Each point should be argued on its own merits not dismissed out of hand because of a book that could imply bias or because of a typo, If their is bias but a point is true, the bias doesn't make a difference. I've often disliked Hunter's writing style and analysis but I've never dismissed anything he's ever said for that reason.

To be fair, is there not a strong case to be made in support of the argument that the Barcelona squad Hunter was referring to, I.e. Peak Messi Xavi and Iniesta era, was one of the best if not the best ever?

To make a blanket statement like Graham Hunter has no objectivity or even a coherent argument is as bad as Graham Hunter Making a sweeping generalization about Ronaldo. I've read Hunter over the years on various occasions and frequently been annoyed by his biased and occasionally ill informed arguments, but he also does make some decent points from time to time.

You're basically confirming exactly why someone like Trump won the election, I.e. You can't see that not every single piece of journalism produced by an obviously biased and terrible Fox News is absolute and utter garbage. And you probably haven't even watched a single Fox News broadcast in years if ever, but continue to live in an echo chamber that closes you off from alternative viewpoints you disagree with. Part of the reason trump won and people were so surprised is because people wrote off anything that diverged from their worldview and didn't see what claims and issues were being raised by the other side. They just dismissed them as idiotic, or racist, etc. I feel like if you were to actually read Fox News right now, you'd see some actually normal articles that might surprise you. I say that because I've been doing more to expose myself to the right in an attempt to not be so closed off and it's actually good to know that not everything is batshit crazy. Same goes for Graham Hunter.

British media toxicity, well. There's definitely a lot of shoddy journalism in Britain no doubt. But there's also brilliant football journalism in places like the guardian, on various blogs, the BBC, etc. So to make even more blanket statements like that is way off the mark.

All this to say, Hunters analysis is often terrible, but it's good to assess it with Nathan's approach, not just resort to blanket emotionally charged generalizations over and over. I'm just so tired of seeing these same type of arguments being raised in the comments. We all love Portugal and Portuguese players but let's keep it as rational as possible.

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  1. Chris    Axis

Mr. Hunter, thanks for visiting the site!

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  1. Axis aka Mr. Hunter

You're welcome. There's nothing I love more than calling myself a biased, I'll informed and terrible writer.

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  1. Val    Axis aka Mr. Hunter

I agree with everything in your post. Good show man. Not every writer can set the bar lower and lower every time they write. That is a skill few have.

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