‘Messi was one of the best ever’ – Manchester United’s Mike Phelan lauds the Ballon d’Or winner in comparison with Cristiano Ronaldo

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Whenever Lionel Messi has been in the headlines, there seems to be a rush to bring out the Cristiano Ronaldo comparisons, and vice versa.

There never appears to be a moment where either player can bask in their glory without having to listen to stats to pad out the argument against them.

Manchester United’s Mike Phelan has been in the enviable position of managing the Portuguese and attempting to stop the Argentinian, which has happened on a few occasions over the years.

Rather than pit one against the other, Phelan spelled out what it was that makes both players great.

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“The one thing about Messi and Ronaldo is that both had an extreme desire to be the best,” he said in Messi – The King of Camp Nou.

“They’ve been at the pinnacle of their careers for years now and done it at the top level consistently. That’s what they both had in abundance.

“I can only observe Messi because I never worked with him, but they are challenging individuals, both to themselves and to the people around them.

“They’ve maintained that challenge for a long, long time. The differences between them from my point of view are certainly not attitude and application, they’ve both got loads of that, but they have different styles.

“Ronaldo’s all-round game is probably more robust, more dynamic from the point of view of power and speed, whilst Messi is down to technique, skill and awareness.

“An awareness of players around him, and an understanding of space.”

“Ronaldo was the real deal as far as him and football goes. Could he develop the team ethic along the way? He ended up being a far more capable player than when he was at Man United, and he was brilliant for us, but he took a lot of things from his journey in football which was different to Messi’s.

“Leo was at one club for god knows how long, since he was a kid, an association that’s been unbelievable really, but Ronaldo’s journey was different.

“He experienced different things at different clubs and, as such, had a different perspective and understanding of the game.”

There’s always been a question mark over Messi because he’s not played in England, even if he almost always scores against English teams in the Champions League.

“As to the question of whether Messi could do it on a wet Wednesday in Stoke (laughs), he would’ve adapted,” Phelan added.

“With his intelligence and his football ability, he would adapt to anything. He’s a footballer that wants to play football and football is played all over the world in the same way.

“Same rules, same regulations. He would’ve found a way, just like Ronaldo found a way from Portugal to England, England to Spain, Spain to Italy.

“They were driven enough to find a way, and Messi was one of the best ever, in any division in any part of the world.

“Talent like that is for everybody to see and he used it wherever he wanted to play football.”

All quotes obtained first hand by the author. Messi – The King of Camp Nou is available from December 16.

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