It is the debate that crops up all the time. Xavi might argue the case against. Andres Iniesta might also stake a claim. The way he’s playing, Manchester United’s Robin van Persie might even have a shout. But despite the excellence of others, there is little disputing that Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo are the two best players in the world and as Real Madrid host Barcelona at the Bernabeu tonight, we should be thankful that we have yet another opportunity to marvel at their talents.
The Copa del Rey semi-final first leg is the 15th Clasico in 26 months, but can you really have too much of a good thing when Ronaldo and Messi are the main attractions?
I would suggest not (Ronaldo certainly would suggest not) and as we look towards yet another head-to-head involving two of the greatest footballers ever, the whole country is still transfixed.
But who will come out on top? In the 3way result market, Barcelona are favourites to take an advantage back to Camp Nou at evens, with the draw at 57/20 and Madrid at 11/5, but the betting between the little Argentine genius and the Portugeezer is just as interesting.
Of course, it irks Ronaldo that many people consider Messi to be the better player – nobody loves Ronaldo as much as Ronaldo himself – and as last Sunday showed, when Ronaldo scored a perfect hat-trick in an astonishing ten-minute spell, only for Messi to go and score four later on in the day, the Argentine can’t help but get the upper hand most of the time.
But over the last year, it could be argued that the former Manchester United star has had the better of the personal duel. The Argentine might have won the Ballon D’or once again, but Ronaldo won La Liga, scoring 46 league goals, and had a fine Euro 2012.
Of course, Messi broke the record for number of goals in a calendar year in 2012 with 91 goals for club and country, and to be honest, choosing between the two is a bit like asking to pick who you would rather date out of Cheryl Cole and Beyoncé.
Well, obviously it would be Cheryl Cole, because I wouldn’t fancy having Jay-Z on my case.
But you get the point: that is the whole fun of the ‘rivalry’ and there are some interesting markets as the two go head to head tonight.
The pair are obviously favourites to score first, with Messi at 11/4 and Ronaldo at 7/2, but they are not as extremely short to find the net at any time as they usually are.
It should be 11/20 on Barca’s number ten and 7/10 about CR7 to score at any point, but bwin’s enhanced markets have the former at 3/4 and the latter at even money to hit the net, both of which look decent.
But the head-to-head quotes perk my interest: Messi is 6/4 to score more goals than Ronaldo during the 90 minutes at the Bernabeu, with the Madrid star 9/4 and the tie priced up at 6/4 as well.
I think at those odds, it might be worth siding with Ronaldo. The £80 million man has netted in each of the last six El Clasicos – something no other player has ever managed to achieve in the history of the rivalry between the two Spanish giants – scoring seven times across those matches.
He is also in great form despite Real’s patchy La Liga performances this season, scoring ten goals in six matches since returning from the winter break and hitting eight in his last four home games.
Messi has fired seven in his last six, which includes the four against Osasuna, and is capable of scoring at any time against anyone, but at bigger odds and with home advantage, Ronaldo looks the shade of value.
If you think either can score more than one, Messi is priced up at 11/4 to score twice and 12/1 for a hat-trick or better, while Ronaldo is 7/2 for a brace and 14/1 for a treble or more.