ARNAV KHANNA | 28th November 2021

Today, we sit together in contemplation. A discussion on dethronement of the two celestials who have slowly but surely started showing humane cracks. The gold on their feet has started to rust. Might it be time to walk away from the hottest of furnaces that football has to offer?

We ask ourselves the ugly question:

Are Messi and Ronaldo worth it anymore?

Loaded question, but what does it really mean? What is the thing that purportedly tips the scale in its favor when weighed against the two?

The answer is the structural integrity of the teams they play for. Balance is everything and minus that, you can never witness teams taste success.

The iconic Galacticos side may make for legendary throwback posts on the ‘gram, but despite having Luis Figo, Roberto Carlos and David Beckham in the same XI, they finished 4th in La Liga in the 2003/04 season.


It goes without saying that when either of these two walks through the gates of a football club, all the decision-making has to start circumventing their personalities and style of play.

Now such a strategy was completely acceptable and even optimal just half a decade ago, when both of them could single-handedly drag their teams across the farthest of finish lines, but the trek of time spares nobody.  

Their skillsets remain, the burst of pace has waned. And whatever remains of that burst, is being used almost exclusively to when the ball is at their feet.

Basically what you have here is two players who are elite in their respective profiles but play with an air of solitude on the pitch. Modern football doesn’t allow for loners.

Or atleast the upper end of modern football doesn’t. Pick any of your Champions League favourites (Chelsea, Bayern Munich, Manchester City, Liverpool) and you can instantly see that the systems employed in all of these teams don’t revolve around any one individual, far from it.

You have names like Mo Salah and Bernardo Silva covering distances akin to half marathons each game. Pressing and counter-pressing is the holy grail and players are used as means to an end, rather than being the endpoint themselves.

Every player in your eleven that doesn’t play by these rules is effectively a net negative unless their output is ridiculous enough for the others to do their dirty work.

And now I ask again, have Messi and Ronaldo been worth it?

For their respective fans, maybe. Ronaldo harbouring a healthy 12 G/A over Messi’s 4, this piece might as well be directed solely towards the Argentinian.

But the question is not what they bring to the table, it is what they take away from it.

Starting with CR7, it’s not a hot take to suggest that he was a factor in the downfall of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer at Manchester United. Now, this isn’t to say that the Norwegian boss’ own tactical limitations weren’t his undoing.

But considering a defensive midfielder was the desperate need at United with the gaping hole in the middle of the park, his signing was not only unnecessary, but wrecked the balance of a frontline that was already set up in a disorganized press.

On the other hand, a tireless No.9 like Edinson Cavani’s work ethic would’ve ensured that there’s a fair division of labour, rather than the likes of Mason Greenwood or Bruno Fernandes having to cover double the distances for United’s greatest ever No.7.

A similar story in Ligue 1 exists.

Mauricio Pochettino would have been over the moon with a high-pressing outlet (Raheem Sterling perhaps?) to fix the fundamentals in his attacking trio, allowing Neymar to be flanked by two runners.

Instead, he now watches his preferred play style dissolve on the pitch, thanks to a static front three, consisting of three forward that could make the impossible happen, but closing down spaces is even out of bounds for them.

The overshadowing point being that neither of these players were “needed” by their managers as much as they were “wanted” by their club’s higher ups. Status symbols more than strategic signings.

What magnifies this issue is the amount of baggage these two bring with themselves.

The amount of rightful respect they command in the dressing room and the number of eyes they attract makes it near impossible to drop either of them to the bench for the team’s greater good.

They have been first names on the teamsheet for a decade and so should it continue.

But with neither of them being top scorers or assisters for their team this season, the scale against them keeps tipping further and further.

At the ages of 34 and 36 years respectively, both of our icons have reached a number where many decide to hang up their boots.

If not that, then many veterans decide to step down a notch, like David Silva going to Real Sociedad or Cesc Fabregas departing to Monaco. Lucky ones like Luis Suarez find themselves at a stable club where they fit like a glove.  

It needs to be said that none of this is their “fault” per se. Relentless running to assist their teams defensively has never been their game.

But football has moved on. It’s a case where, adding the GOATs is a greeat look, but does it neccesarily elevate a team to a level they haven’t reached anymore? Debatable.

The addition of a Messi or a Ronaldo in place of either Jota or Mane in Liverpool’s front 3 is a frightening prospect; but why fix the best attack in Europe that work their socks if it clearly ain’t broke?

This is what it boils down to. They’re superhuman freaks of nature that could turn a game on it’s head even when they’re old and grey but the world doesn’t revolve around Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.

It revolves around systems and a team’s dynamic and anyone that causes an imbalance is perhaps not worth it anymore.

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