Messi & Ronaldo. How it’s going so far

The summer transfer window in the European pre-season of 2021–22 was one of the biggest seen in recent years. The biggest news to break was perhaps the transfer of two of the greatest attacking footballers seen- Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo to Paris Saint Germain and Manchester United respectively. The former had run out of his contract with FC Barcelona, with whom he had been since he first started football professionally while the latter was shipped of by Turin’s Juventus FC, who could not keep him in their books any longer with his huge wage bill mounting with each season.

Messi’s transfer was perhaps the bigger of the two because no one in their right mind could possibly see him leaving FC Barcelona, with whom he shares a more than cordial relationship. He was destined to be a one-club man, etching his name along the likes of legends such as Steven Gerrard, Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes, Francisco Totti and Paulo Maldini among others. However, fate had other plans for the dimunitive Argentine, who recently won the Copa America with his country by defeating their arch rivals Brazil in the final. Messi even insisted on cutting down his wage bill, but things did not work out for him in the backroom of Camp Nou, and he had to leave for the greener pastures of the Parc des Princes in Paris.

Ever since he made the move to Paris Saint Germain, Messi has not exactly lit up the world with his antics. He has featured in two Ligue 1 matches, one against Reims and the other against Olympic Lyon. He was also a part of a UEFA Champions League match, which was against Belgian side Club Brugge, held midweek. The legendary Argentine has failed to score in each of these games, leading to speculation whether he has still got it to succeed at the highest level. I would like to remind all such doubters that form is temporary, and class is permanent. It also needs to be remembered that a player like Messi does not go through a lean patch for a very long period of time.

What was a little surprising about his induction in Paris was the fact that he has still not played all ninety minutes of a game in the Ligue 1. In his first match against Reims, he came off the bench in the 66th minute, but had a less than desirable impact. In his second league match, against Olympic Lyon, he was substituted in the 76th minute when his side was possibly drawing 1–1. It was left to a fellow Argentine- striker Mauro Icardi- to score in the dying stages of the game and pocket all the three points available for the home team. However, Messi did feature for his new club in the only Champions League game that they have played so far, but could not get on the scoresheet. This meant that his side drew with their opponents by a 1–1 scoreline.

In contrast to the reception that Messi has had in Paris, his competitor Cristiano Ronaldo has had a gala of a time in cold and windy Manchester. Making his second debut for the club that signed him first as a teenager in 2004, Ronaldo struck two goals in a massive 4–0 win for the Red Devils against Newcastle United on 11 September. The fact that this game was played in front of a filled Old Trafford Stadium added its relevance. The Portuguese legend had a fantastic debut and the players around him seemed to enjoy his presence in the frontline. Although originally a right-winger, Ronaldo was played up front as a lone striker by manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and his piercing runs inside the opposition’s half made life very difficult for Steve Bruce’s men.

While the first goal he scored was a simple tap-in, the second demonstrated the brutal force he generates in each of the shots he strikes. He also fell back to defend when the need arose and his work rate was more than impressive. It was the same when United played their first Champions League game of the season, against Young Boys in Bern. Although the Red Devils lost the game by a whisker due to an unfortunate error on Jesse Lingard’s part in the last minutes of the game, Ronaldo was on the scoresheet again. He had been the only United scorer in a match that they lost 1–2. Ronaldo has a tremendous record in the Champions League and it remains to be seen how far his presence takes Manchester United in this season’s competition. Although it is still early days, the Red Devils can not be written off due to just one lackadaisical performance in Switzerland.

In his second Premier League game, against a resurgent West Ham United at London Stadium on Sunday, Ronaldo scored again, although this was again through a simple tap-in thanks to an unfortunate fumble made by the goalkeeper of the Hammers, Lukasz Fabianski. It, however, needs to be said that the Portuguese has this knack of often finding himself at the right time at the right place and that is how he bags most of his goals. One can often find him lurking deep inside the opposition’s six-yard box when crosses come in and with his tremendous athletic abilities to jump from a standing position, he succeeds in getting his head to them infrequently.

The game against West Ham United ended in a thrilling contest, with Ronaldo himself being part of a piece of action against centre back Kurt Zouma in which the former was denied a penalty. West Ham United were given a penalty at the other end of the pitch soon afterwards, and it was only through a miraculous save by United’s Spanish goalkeeper David de Gea that they managed to go on to win the game 2–1. It was Jesse Lingard, incidentally, who scored a worldlie to bag all three points for the Red Devils.

All in all, it is still early days for both of these superstars and even though Messi has not quite hit the ground running in Paris, there is no question about his commitment to the cause. He is bound to find the back of the net sooner rather than later, and when it takes place, we are sure that he won’t stop at just one. And with Ronaldo, long may his run of form continue!

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