by Vinay Kshirsagar

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Eder (right), 2015. Source: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/4/4e/20150616_-_Portugal_-_Italie_-_Genève_-_Andrea_Ranocchia_et_Eder_2.jpg

(see also our article about Gonzalo Higuain)

I personally had not heard of Eder until the 2016 Euros. He came on in the 79th minute of the final against France, long after Cristiano Ronaldo had left the field with an injury. Ronaldo still had his impact on the game though, for after he got his knee taped up he made energetic motions on the touchline and yelled to his teammates as much as he could. [1][2][3]

In the 109th minute, Eder struck the ball from 21 yards out, beating Hugo Lloris and eventually winning the Euro for Portugal.[1] Having been spoiled by Greece in the final 12 years prior, Ronaldo finally won an international trophy, and he wasn’t even on the pitch! Does it even count then? Yes, of course it counts. It was clear how much emotion and work Ronaldo put into winning this competition with his national team. But it wasn’t he who was responsible for the winning goal, it was Eder. He had to rely on his teammates to win the trophy.

Soccer is a team sport, after all. While Messi and Ronaldo have amassed very impressive individual accolades and statistics, trophies are won by a team, not by an individual. And so, the fates of great players are often in the hands of supporting cast members. Does that mean we can’t judge greatness by team success? It is difficult to ignore national team success in the great debate, but it is a tricky topic, because it also feels unfair for the legacies of these two great players to depend on factors beyond their control.

This also brings up the debate as to whether a Euro for Ronaldo is comparable to a World Cup or a Copa America for Argentina. Portugal have never won a World Cup, and they never seem to really be in contention. Argentina has a historically great team, and a culture of winning World Cups. Because neither player chose their national team, they’re stuck with the hand they’ve been dealt. This year, Ronaldo recognizes that Portugal are not favorites to win [4], while Messi and Argentina will feel that they have a chance to do better than they did last year. Because of the circumstances, I feel that Messi winning the World Cup is closer in magnitude to Ronaldo winning the Euro, than Messi winning a Copa America. They are both continental competitions, but Argentina’s standard is higher than Portugal’s.

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[1] “Portugal spoil France’s party with extra-time win.” UEFA. July 10, 2016. http://www.uefa.com/uefaeuro/season=2016/matches/round=2000451/match=2017907/postmatch/report/index.html#portugal+beat+france+final. Accessed April 23, 2018.

[2] “Cristiano Ronaldo stretchered off in Euro 2016 final against France.” FOX Sports. July 10, 2016. https://www.foxsports.com.au/football/the-euros/cristiano-ronaldo-stretchered-off-in-euro-2016-final-against-france/news-story/c8d093e146868887db63bac4cd85ef06. Accessed April 23, 2018.

[3] “Ronaldo’s greatest assist: His impact from the touchline.” Brendon Netto. July 12, 2016. http://sport360.com/article/football/european/185630/cristiano-ronaldos-greatest-assist-portuguese-star-played-his-part-in-the-euro-2016-final-as-supporting-cast-took-centre-stage. Accessed April 23, 2018.

[4] “Ronaldo Names Four World Cup Favorites, Snubs Portugal.” Kurt Buckerfield. February 27, 2018. https://www.soccerladuma.co.za/news/articles/international/categories/messi-ronaldo-neymar-watch-1/cristiano-ronaldo-names-four-2018-fifa-world-cup-favourites-snubs-portugal/289228. Accessed April 23, 2018.

How to cite this page:

“Messi vs. Ronaldo – The Final Showdown?” Written by Philemon Kiptoo and Vinay Kshirsagar (2018). World Cup 2018 Guide, Soccer Politics Blog, Duke University, https://sites.duke.edu/wcwp/tournament-guides/mens-world-cup-2018-guide/messi-vs-ronaldo/ (accessed on [date]).