In the end there were 41,000 fans at Old Trafford for Portugal v Argentina (or Ronaldo v Messi) last night. Apparently that still wasn’t enough for the organisers to break-even but was more than I expected when I previewed this game in a post last week. I did get one thing right in that post though: I predicted that neither Ronaldo nor Messi would play for more than 45 minutes.
Both were substituted at half-time, leaving many fans disgruntled. Did they really expect anything else? One supporter was quoted on the BBC website saying: “Considering I had paid £50 to see them both, I thought it was shocking when they didn’t come out for the second half.” Considering what Real Madrid and Barcelona pay them to play, I think they would have been more shocked if the two had emerged for the second half.
Another fan that the BBC spoke to said: “They had obviously arranged beforehand how long they would both play for and, if I had known, I would rather have stayed at home and watched the Scotland-England friendly on TV.” Even if they had both played for 90 minutes I very much doubt it would have been worth the price of the tickets.
Ronaldo and Messi are both exceptional players and certainly worth watching but it’s clear that these friendlies hosted in a third country and put on by a private firm have only one aim in mind: making money from those who should know better or those who can afford not to. If it takes more than 41,000 people to turn up, at around £40/£50 per ticket, for a match like this to be profitable then the organisers really are living in a fantasy world.
The BBC report on the game notes that ‘this friendly was always unlikely to answer the question of which of the two is currently the best player.’ Well, quite. Imagine two blokes arguing in a Manchester pub last week.
Bloke 1: “Messi is clearly the greatest, not just now but of all time. He’s a phenomenon.” Bloke 2: “No way, Ronaldo is quicker, stronger and a more complete player. He’s undeniably the best in world.” Bloke 1: “They’re both playing at Old Trafford next week in a big glamour friendly. Let’s go and see it then we can settle this debate once and for all.”
The debate is set to run and run for longer and further than either player did last night. We still debate Pele v Maradona. Entirely erroneously in my view, Maradona is much the greater. As for Ronaldo v Messi, I think Ronaldo has had the better 2014 overall (despite a very mediocre World Cup) but that Messi is higher on the list of all-time greats – second only to Maradona for me.
In another friendly last night Scotland lost 3-1 to England. That’s all I’m going to say about that other than that I’m glad I didn’t get up at 4am to watch it.