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We now have a quickfire editorial for you folks from our Spanish football editor, Ben Hayward, who believes tonight's performance from Madrid has put an end to Barca's Liga dominance.
Collected, controlled, and champions-in-waiting: Madrid's disciplined Clasico display all but ends Barcelona's domestic dominance
So that's us for today. I think you will all agree that a very interesting discussion between two guys who certainly know their football. When it comes to the likes of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, there is always going to be contrasting opinions and the fact these two superb footballers are still in the prime of their careers, makes comparing them to past legends even more controversial for some.
We hope you enjoyed reading the opinions of both Carlo Garganese and Martin del Langer Palacio. On behalf of you all, I'd like to thank them for their time and opinions this afternoon.
Make sure you join me, Luke Matthews, for coverage of Clasico on Goal.com at 16:00CET on Saturday afternoon in what is sure to be THE game of the season. Goodbye folks and thanks for your contributions, we'll be sure to do this again!
And now, before I bid you farewell for this afternoon, we can hear from our very own Carlo who believes Martin's views on the matter are too simplistic. Never one to back down, aye.
Carlo: Martin's one main argument is that the reason why Messi and Ronaldo are the greatest is because players are fitter than they have ever been before. For me, this is a simplistic argument. Yes, the game has changed today and players are faster, fitter and stronger than they have ever been, but players are also technically (and defenders) weaker than they have been in over 40 years. The game is faster today not just because players are fitter but because of changes in rules and footballs.
It has never been easier for attackers – Messi and Ronaldo would never have scored 50-70 goals in the 1980s when the rules and footballs didn't benefit attackers, and defenders and defences were littered with world class talent.
If we talk individually about Ronaldo and Messi: Ronaldo's record in the big games is not good enough to be considered anywhere close to the best of all time. The best are separated from the rest by what they do in big games, quality over quantity. Messi can't be considered the greatest until he stars for Argentina. Nine competitive goals for his country and just one in two World Cups is poor by any standards.
Thanks to Martin, a very interesting debate and one I always enjoy having!
With many interesting points made by both Martin and Carlo, and some fantastic input from you folks, it's time to hear some concluding statements from our two editors. First up, let's hear from Martin who you will be unsurprised to find out, is sticking to his guns on Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo being the greatest ever.
Martin: I think I have made my point clear about why Messi and Ronaldo are the best players in history. But I also want the emphasise that doesn't mean any lack of respect for the likes of Maradona, Di Stefano and Cruyff.
The game has evolved and has become more demanding so the players have had to adapt to the new circumstances. The stars from the past were fantastic for their eras but from an overall point of view, they are nowhere near the players we have the luxury of watch week in week out. Thanks to Carlo and everyone for this very entertaining and insightful debate!
Before we wrap up this debate, Carlo would like to make a few points about how changes in the game, such as that of the offside rule have made it easier for attackers in the modern era.
Carlo: One thing people need to consider when singing and dancing about Ronaldo and Messi's achievements is how the rules today have made it so much easier for attackers. The inactive offside rule has made it virtually impossible to play the offside trap. This, somewhat ironically, has made man-marking impossible because attackers are able to drag a defender anywhere, thus penalising a defensive line.
The ending of the backpass rule (which I agree with, by the way) has made it much easier for attackers, keeping the ball in play much more, as has the multiple ball system. Synthetic footballs have also made the game incredibly fast and frenetic, so fast and frenetic that defenders are unable to read the game and use their brain like they were before. The smoother pitches also benefit forwards. It has never been so easy to be a forward. Everything in the game, all the rules, are there to benefit attacking play. It is a deliberate ploy by Fifa, Uefa and the rulemarkers in order to try and attract more artificial fans.
Ismail Abubakar has asked Martin: "Do you not surely think Messi and Ronaldo need to win the World Cup to be considered the greatest, like Pele, Maradona and Zidane did?
Martin: No, I don't think so, for the reasons I stated earlier. The World Cup question would be relevant if we were talking in relative but not in absolute terms. Let's put it this way. Wilt Chamberlain has the record of more points in an NBA game than any other player, but nobody would say he's better than, let's say, Kobe Bryant. It's exactly the same case here.
Imoleayo Ifatujosin has asked Martin the following question: "If Ronaldo and Messi are the best, where do you put Pele and Maradona in your ranking?
Martin: I can't place Pele or Maradona in a particular place, because in absolute terms they are way below most of the game's current top stars. They were fantastic for their eras, but couldn't compete in this one for the reasons I stated previously.
With the debate in full swing, I think it's time we take a few of your questions from Twitter and Mohammed Asi asks Carlo: "What players do you think are better than Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo?
Carlo: I don't have long enough to go through all the players who I think are better than Ronaldo and Messi, but what I will say is that Ronaldo is certainly not in the top 50 players of all time, at least (a year ago I said 100). I think Messi is already in the Top 10 of all time, and has the potential to go higher. Messi could have played in any era at the same level, Ronaldo couldn't.
The reason Messi is not higher is because of his poor international record. In two World Cups, Messi has scored just one goal. In two Copa Americas he has only scored 2 goals. He recently went two and a half years without scoring a competitive goal for the national side. He has only scored nine competitive goals for Argentina. Again, is this record good enough to be considered the greatest of all time? I don't think so. Until he proves himself for Argentina, he can't be considered better than someone like Maradona.
Following on from Carlo's opinion on looking at the strength of competition in both eras, we now have Martin's view on the subject and he thinks that while football may have been better in the 1980s, La Liga certainly wasn't.
Martin: Ok, I agree with Carlo that Maradona was good for Barcelona, although he was far from what Messi has done in both numerical and silverware terms. But you just have to look at the pitiful Spanish National side of 1982 and weigh in the fact that you could only use three foreigners per team to understand that La Liga just wasn't very good at the time, with Serie A being way better.
And again, the standard of football in the 80s might be better in relative terms, with Zico, Platini, Maradona, et al, but way inferior in absolute terms. If you watch videos of the time, they have a lot of time to think, pass and shoot, with defenders just looking at them as they created havoc.
Moving on, I feel it's worth looking at comparing the strength of competition so as an example, let's take La Liga in the early 80s when Diego Maradona represented Barcelona between 1982-84 and compare it to the Primera Division today. Here are Carlo's thoughts...
Carlo: Barcelona and Real Madrid are certainly much stronger now than the Barcelona and Real Madrid of 1982-84, although there was more strength in depth back then as the two Basque clubs, Real Socedad and Atheltic Bilbao, had excellent sides, whereas Barca and Madrid have had no competition in La Liga for the last few years. If this question is implying that Maradona failed at Barca then that is one of football's biggest myths. He scored 38 goals in 58 games, despite suffering some shocking injuries at the hands of the likes of Andoni Goikoetxea, and scored a host of amazing goals.
However, one thing is absolutely certain, the standard of football overall was much higher in the 1980s than it is today – there was much more competition between club teams both domestically and in Europe. Today, you can count on one hand the teams who can challenge for the Champions League, while in Spain, England, Germany, and even Italy, there are very few competititors for domestic glory. The talent pool is small, which helps make Messi and Ronaldo look even better.
In response to Carlo's opinion that Cristiano Ronaldo would be 'nowhere near as good as he is today' in the 1970s and 80s, how do you respond Martin?
Martin: The thing is, you can't say if Pele or Maradona would be better with present day technology for the simple reason that there's no way of knowing. On the other side, you can easily argue that Messi and Ronaldo would be faster and sharper than the players from the past just by watching videos.
Messi and Ronaldo, in a lesser extent, are not just better because they are physically more able but also because they had to adapt to the present day conditions since they were very young. They react faster, have less space and less time to do what they want to do. And they're not just doing it, they're completely dominating their era, breaking every record there is to break.
Carlo continued: If you took Messi and Ronaldo back to 1970 or 1986, I believe that Messi would have still been world class. But I have no doubt that Ronaldo would have been nowhere near as good as he is today. Today's game is about pace, power and physicality, not skill and artistry. So many skills have disappeared from the game (mostly because of the synthetic footballs) – these include through passes, and long and medium range passes, which are almost impossible now because of the way the faster ball zips off the turf.
Shooting was more of a skill – only a player with great power and technique – like a Gigi Riva or Peter Lorimer – would be a specialist. Today, there is less skill in shooting with these synthetic balls. Chips from outside the area were possible, and only the best could do them. The thinking side of the game was more important. Today it's all about reactions. Free kicks also were about curling over and around the wall, and not hitting the valve as hard as you can like Ronaldo does. These disappeared skills, I don't think Ronaldo has the natural technique of a Maradona or Pele to have been able to master.
Some very strong views from both of our guys so far and in particular, Martin's rather controversial comments stating that Pele and Diego Maradona would look too slow and out-of-shape if they were playing the game in the present day. What are your thoughts on this Carlo?
Carlo: The players in today's game are undoubtedly fitter than players from Pele and Maradona's era (dangerously fit, in my opinion). If Pele and Maradona enjoyed their careers in the present day, of course it would take time for them to reach the fitness of Messi and Ronaldo, but they would reach the same fitness levels when provided the same training as the Liga duo. And when they do, they would easily be able to cope with today's style of football because athletically these players were just as strong as they were technically and mentally.
Yes, Maradona missed the odd training session at Napoli and put on weight into his thirties, but this was because he was allowed to, and it never affected his game at his peak. That's how good he was. Imagine Maradona with today's fitness regimes ...
And we can't have a debate without getting an opposing opinion so here is Carlo with why he thinks Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo are NOT the best to ever grace the beautiful game.
Carlo: Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi will no doubt go down as the two best players in the post Zidane-Ronaldinho era (even if personally I put Xavi above Ronaldo) but I don't believe they can be called the two best players of all time, not yet anyway – and remember they still have a good five to eight years left at the top in their respective careers.
There are a number of reasons why I hold this opinion, ranging from my belief that this is a weak era of football, that defences today are poor, that today's rules benefit attackers, and individual reasons like Ronaldo's less-than-perfect record in big games and Messi's disappointing international statistics. I also believe that Ronaldo would have been nowhere near as good as he is now without these modern advantages if we took him back to the 1990s, 80s, 70s etc.
So first up we have Martin's view on the subject and here are his reasons why he believes Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi are the greatest players of all time.
Martin: Messi and Ronaldo are the best players in the history of the sport. The reason is both logical and impossible to debate. According to names such as Alex Ferguson or Arsene Wenger, 21st century football is more demanding, faster and more skill is required than in previous eras.
Both Leo and Cristiano are dominating the game like no other player has done before them. So, using pure logic, they have to be better than the stars from the past in absolute terms. To say it clearly, if you sent Messi and Ronaldo to 1970 they would completely obliterate the opposition. If you were able to send Pele or Maradona to the present day, they would look slow and out-of-shape.
Good afternoon folks! Today we're bringing you a rather special LIVE debate on a subject that is sure to be very close to your hearts. With the highly-anticipated final Liga Clasico of the season tomorrow, all eyes will be on Barcelona's Lionel Messi and Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo to lead from the front.
The pair are often declared the two finest players at the present time in world football, and with this, brings the obvious argument of who is better. However, we're not looking at that today. What we're looking at is could the duo be considered the greatest of all time?
Well, Goal.com Spain editor, Martin del Palacio Langer certainly thinks so and over the next few hours, we will find out exactly why. However, understandably there are those that would disagree with Martin. Step forward Goal.com's International deputy editor, Carlo Garganese. Never one to shy away from a debate, Carlo will be educating us on why he feels the Liga twosome should not be labelled as the best to ever grace the beautiful game.
So with that, let's get this started! Throughout the debate we want YOU to send in your comments and questions to Martin and Carlo to our Twitter and Facebook pages!