Man being a sentimental animal, the football family ignored the most important danger facing the future of the beautiful game regarding its standard and instead continued consuming undue energy debating about the better player between two of its present incredible ambassadors.
There have been incredibly outstanding footballers ranging from Brazil’s Edison Arantes De Nascimiento, otherwise known simply as Pele, to Diego Armando Maradona of blessed memory. In their days, they stood out even if there were great players like Puskas,Eusebio, George Best to Franz Beckenbaur, Lothar Mathaus, Michel Platini, Zico, Socrates to the later days of Romario, Roberto Baggio, Ronaldo De Lima, Zinedine Zidane, Gorge Weah, Paul Gascoigne, Ronaldinho, Jay Jay Okocha, Samuel Etc’O, Yaya Ture…too many great artistes of the trade.
But recent memories revolve around two great performers that threatened to invade the dictionary in search of further superlatives to match their dominance for over a decade.
Lionel Messi, the near ephemeral Argentine, who came to Barcelona at the age of 13, has extremely done enough to dub him the tag ‘alien’. And it’s by no means an exaggeration. If the greatest player of all times in Pele ever did better, the cameras didn’t show the present generation. Only stats prevent Messi from usurping the tag of best ever from the still-respected Brazilian.
On his part, Cristiano Ronaldo came without much fanfare but incredibly worked himself to the level where he claimed five Ballon d’Ors in a very competitive list that involved his eternal rival, Messi. If ever there was a goal machine, the Portuguese fitted that accolade like the glove.
The football world is still divided between the two apostles of the modern game who could be termed the greatest ever but this is not all about crowning the best ever. Even if, both Pele and Maradona still have a say, a big say.
The biggest worry is if football will still retain the standard both mercurial performers have set in recent times. At 36 and 33 respectively both Ronaldo and Messi are leading scorers in their local leagues. And while Ronaldo now is more of a predator in Juventus, Messi still dictates play all over the pitch for Barcelona.
With 740 and 705 official career goals respectively for Ronaldo and Messi, only Pele still stands ahead of these insane performers. Officially, the new rating pruned down the great Brazilian’s 1231 hitherto recorded goals to just 757. Nonetheless, the eternal legend still holds supreme but only just. It will take an iron-clad hardliner to bet against the Brazilian losing this record before both present dictators hang their boots.
But the question is – will football discover another duo that could adorn pitches all over the world with such reckless dominance when eventually they go to bed, for go they certainly will.
This generation may not appreciate what they have enjoyed witnessing these two raise standards of performances but it is impossible to spot any area of improvement that could influence the game in their absence. Both gave everything which most times appeared impossible.
The best the football world could pray for is to see another player that could replicate at least one of them when they leave the stage. The Neymars, Mbappes, Haalands, Hazards and the likes of youthful era are only but noticeably humans. Messi and Ronaldo, particularly Messi, came in form of aliens. If the god of soccer would be magnanimous enough to send their likes back, it is not likely going to be in this generation.
So, enjoy them while they still have the energy to step out at the apex stage. You won’t see them again until aliens become part of this Earth.
Tai Emeka Obasi is a civil engineer, football and political analyst, an author and scriptwiter with so many titles to his name.