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Ronaldo vs Messi: Could World Cup 2022 change Mikel Obi’s mind?

08:41 WAT 30/11/2022
Ronaldo Messi
The retired Nigeria captain believes the Argentina superstar wins the GOAT debate but events in Qatar may sway the former Chelsea midfielder

Mikel John Obi is still getting dog’s abuse. It is never easy staying neutral in the now rather tedious Cristiano Ronaldo versus Lionel Messi GOAT debate, and you are bound to get severely reprimanded when your opinion was as strong as Mikel’s.

Pick one side and be sure the other will come down hard at you, forgetting everyone is entitled to their preferences and very little separates the superstars who took the sport to another level.

“I’ve never been a Ronaldo fan really,” Mikel told Dubai Eye after the Portugal international left Manchester United last week.

“For me, when a player has so much ego, I don’t really get it. He’s never been one of my favourite players and that’s why I always go for Messi really.”

Mikel’s interview happened shortly after Ronaldo’s United contract had been mutually terminated and you wonder if his stance would have been the same if the question was asked six months back after the 37-year-old ended his Red Devils return with 18 Premier League goals in 2021-22.

It should be noted that the former Chelsea midfielder did not stop short of admitting the former Real Madrid star’s greatness and standing among the pantheon of football’s best players.

The criticism was with the extraordinary interview with Piers Morgan and its timing, although it was perfectly orchestrated by the ex-Man United star who got his way—departing Old Trafford.

“Listen, he is Cristiano Ronaldo; he’s one of the greatest players ever to have played the game,” said Mikel. “But for me, it’s just a horrible scenario, he’s done so much for the club, and to see it end this way, it’s just horrible.

“On his part really, I would say that interview shouldn’t have been done, wrong timing as well.It’s just not right. It doesn’t look right for such a player that has achieved so much in the game.”

At the time of writing, both players are currently representing Portugal and Argentina in Qatar. This could change on Wednesday if Messi and his teammates fail to get the better of Poland in their final group game.

That eventuality will precipitate even more toxic, tedious conversations on social media, with Ronaldo’s fierce support mocking the Argentina superstar whom observers were tipping to reign supreme in what is likely to be his final World Cup.

With Portugal already through to the Round of 16, an early exit for the Albiceleste would be accompanied by excessive schadenfreude. “This was meant to be Messi’s World Cup, but he couldn’t even make it to the knockout stages. Ha ha!”

Mikel Obi is likely to be caught in the cross-fire, with observers making both jocular and fierce remarks over the turn of events following the ex-Super Eagle captain’s assertion.

Of course, Argentina are favourites to make it through to the Round of 16 and are likely to on Wednesday, but how the rest of the global showpiece plays out could have ramifications in the GOAT discussion.

Neither player has set the world alight with their performances in Qatar, with Portugal securing progress to the Last 16 with minimal contribution from their captain while Argentina have looked like a team of individuals in their opening two fixtures against Saudi Arabia and Mexico.

Messi netted amazingly against El Tri — a moment that raised the roof at the Lusail Stadium north of Doha in front of a record 88,966 spectators in a World Cup finals in 28 years — and set up Enzo Fernandez’s first Argentina goal.

But he was hitherto anonymous, having to drop really deep to get the ball, and Fernandez’s goal was mostly the burgeoning Benfica midfielder’s doing.

Portugal have been the more cohesive side, in spite of Ronaldo’s average involvement and look the likelier to make it farthest at the showpiece. Much of this would depend on the bracket after the group stage concludes on Friday.

The Selecao are not favourites to reign supreme in 2022, but neither were they at the European Championship in 2016 when they claimed their maiden honour at France’s expense.

The technical quality of this iteration is superior to that group from six years back, although Fernando Santos’ pragmatism is criticised. It is undoubtedly a strange perception because tournament football often requires said pragmatism to triumph.

Portugal have never featured in a World Cup decider but will back themselves to make it there after failures in 1966 and 2006. Success for Ronaldo would sway a plethora of opinions in the GOAT debate, even if he continues to contribute little.

But it is what it is. That eventuality will leave Mikel with egg on his face. Well, that is what Ronaldo fans would have you believe.