Searching for the real Messi and Ronaldo

Every sportsperson dreams of making his presence felt in the grandest stage of his chosen sport. Some achieve it in brilliant fashion, some does it in a rather subdued manner, while some others fail miserably despite having oodles of talent. It’s, in fact, a tough art to master and even involves a bit of theatre. 

Viv Richards did it in the most emphatic way you could ever imagine -- through his arrogant swagger, contemptuous chewing of gum and a deliberate tap on the crease with his bat before taking guard, the West Indian told the bowlers: “I am the master, you ‘effing lot.” Roger Federer expressed his genius more coldly, a largely emotionless persona conveying his purpose to the opponents. 

Then comes that third category, who ever so mystifyingly did not do justice to talent and expectations. Paul Gascogine was more creative than any of the English midfielders of his generation, but except isolated sparks, he never rose above mediocre in the world stage.

Graeme Hick was the king of county cricket, scoring runs by buckets but in 65 Tests for England the South Africa-born right-hander managed just six hundreds while a staggering 130 of them came from other first-class matches. 

It’s time then to add two more names to this perplexing world of extreme paradoxes -- Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. They were billed as the biggest names of this World Cup along with Neymar. Messi is easily the most decorated of the modern day footballers. Let’s take look at some of the stunning stats of the little Argentine, who plays for Barcelona. He has won FIFA’s best footballer of the year award four years in a row, an unmatched feat, to go with three European Golden Shoe awards, and he also has top-scored in four consecutive Champions League campaigns...only a player of the highest calibre can even dream of such records. 

Now, a player like Messi is expected to shine in national colours too, taking a relentless march towards true greatness. But that wasn’t the case. He began his World Cup stint with a goal against Serbia in 2006, but came a cropper in South Africa four years later. He was a pale shadow of his record-breaking Barcelona self in the uniform of Albiceleste, and failed to score even one goal. Injuries had curtailed Messi’s La Liga campaign this season, but his indisputable skills made him a top dog in the quadrennial mega show in Brazil. 

It wasn’t the smoothest of beginning. Never allowed any real space by the Bosnians, Messi struggled to stitch together those mesmerising run-ins, astute passes or ice-cool finishes, though he managed to score once. Ronaldo went through an absolute nightmare as Portugual captain against Germany. The speedy Real Madrid player was no match to the German midfielders, at least on that agonising Monday night. Sami Khedira, Philip Lahm and Mezut Ozil didn’t give Ronaldo a single chance to showcase his dazzling set of skills. ‘Rono’ even managed to find the one-man wall while taking a free-kick from outside the penalty area, such was the low he sank against the Germans. 

Perhaps, a knee injury was weighing heavily on Ronaldo’s mind, but he neither looked inspired nor managed to inspire his team-mates. It will be a huge loss, if Messi and Ronaldo don’t touch the expected heights in this World Cup for we may not see them four years down the line in Russia. Of course, they still have a few more matches in this tournament, and will we be able to see the real Messi and Ronaldo? 

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