Ronaldo plays second fiddle to Lionel Messi, again

AFP, MADRID

Thu, Jan 10, 2013 - Page 19

Cristiano Ronaldo picked up a Spanish League champions medal last year. Last year, he also became the first man to find the net against every La Liga team in a single season and score 40 or more in two consecutive campaigns.

On the face of it, the Portuguese, who moved to Real Madrid from Manchester United for a record-breaking US$128 million in 2009 and is one of soccer’s highest-paid players, has a strong claim to be the world’s best.

However, once again “CR7” has had to play second fiddle to Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi, whose mesmerizing skills on Monday made him the first man to win four Ballons d’Or titles.

While the little Argentine goes on rewriting the record books after a monumental, and unprecedented, 91 goals in a calendar year, Ronaldo could be forgiven for feeling hard done by. Were it not for Messi’s brilliance, Ronaldo — who was world soccer player of the year before his rival’s winning streak began — could easily have five FIFA crowns to his name.

Instead, the 27-year-old from Madeira awoke on Tuesday to a blizzard of praise for his Barca counterpart — and the realization that he is now 4-1 down in their personal duel.

Ronaldo was happy to play down the outcome in Zurich, insisting that he did not feel overshadowed and there was no ill-feeling between him and Messi.

“I am calm about it — it’s not a matter of life and death. Life goes on. I don’t feel frustrated,” he added.

However, so too does a Liga contest that may almost be over for Real this season, as they trail a Messi-inspired Barcelona side by 16 points, with the Catalan giants having won 17 out of 18 games to date.

Ronaldo, though, will soon have the perfect chance to show off his game-changing skills when Real meet his old side Manchester United in the Champions League as he looks to add a second European title to the one he won with United five seasons ago.

Messi won one at Ronaldo’s expense in 2009 and another in 2011 as Barca overcame United on both occasions, though he did not feature in the 2006 win over Arsenal.

Regarding their respective Ballon d’Or tallies, Ronaldo says he and Messi have no problems with each other.

“There is no rivalry as to who wins more. Of course we are here to win, but there’s no rivalry,” he said on Tuesday, though before the Zurich denouement he had said that he would vote for himself if it were possible.