Gary Lineker insists that, while he’s a huge fan of Cristiano Ronaldo, the long-running debate over who is the better footballer between him and Lionel Messi is “not even close”.
The BBC Sport presenter has long been a fan of Messi’s work for his own former club Barcelona, and frequently lauds the Argentinean’s efforts on social media.
Such is the tribal nature of the debate between Messi and Ronaldo, almost any suggestion that one player is better than the other is then immediately shouted down by those who insist that their choice is the right one, but Lineker is adamant that it is Messi who is best.
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“People get very tribal in all sorts of ways in life, and Messi versus Ronaldo is one of them,” the former England striker told BBC Sports.
“Often the choice seems to come down to whether you support Barcelona, Real Madrid, Juventus or whoever, which is fine – I understand that.
“I am a huge fan of Ronaldo too, but if you’re talking about the best player ever, there shouldn’t even be a debate that it is Messi. That’s just my opinion, but it’s not even close for me.”
Lineker added that one of the arguments against Messi – that he hasn’t switched clubs whereas Ronaldo has – doesn’t stack up to scrutiny.
Labelling that argument “strange”, he added: “Messi has obviously played in some great teams during his time there but, whoever has been alongside him, his amazing numbers have carried on exactly the same.
“He has proved the doubters wrong, time and time again.
“Even for the past couple of seasons, when the Barca team has not been anything like as strong as it was in the past, his contribution has not dipped. In fact, they have been a real mess without him.
“It’s rare for any player to stay with one club now, in the way Messi has with Barcelona, let alone someone who moved there from a different country like he did when he left Argentina for Spain, aged 13.
“But, if he had left for any reason, Messi would have been accused of being disloyal. He cannot win, basically.
“And why would he want to move anyway? He started with one of the greatest clubs in world football.
“Leave Barca and you only move sideways at best. You are never going to move up.”