Ronaldo v Messi match abandoned at half time

Ronaldo. Photo by: Themeplus

Ronaldo. Photo by: Themeplus

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.

Not much clamour for the glamour (friendly)

Photo by: Alex Jilitsky

Photo by: Alex Jilitsky

Argentina face Portugal in an international friendly next Tuesday at Old Trafford in Manchester, England, UK. Apparently just 15,000 tickets have been sold so far. The capacity of the stadium is over 75,000 so those spectators will have plenty of room to stretch their legs.

The perplexed organiser of the fixture, Leo Morales, said: “I don’t know why we haven’t had more sales.” The cheapest adult ticket is £40. So there’s one reason straight away Leo. It’s exactly six weeks until Christmas (yes, that shocked me too when I just looked it up) and most people probably have better things to spend £40 on right now.

The game is likely to be played on a cold, wet Tuesday night in November. I make that prediction with some confidence having lived in Manchester for a year. Most Tuesday nights after August are cold and wet. So there’s another potential reason.

Also, I’m assuming it might already have been pointed out to Leo that Manchester is not in fact in either Argentina or Portugal. Manchester is 6,950 miles from Buenos Aires and 1,073 miles from Lisbon. Manchester is a great city but when I lived there I don’t recall seeing huge communities of either Argentinians or Portuguese. Why on earth is this match not being played in Portugal?

Manchester United’s website refers to the game as a ‘glamour clash, produced by Torneos y Competencias and World Eleven.’ I had naively thought it would have been produced by the Argentinian FA and the Portuguese FA.

World Eleven’s website boasts that their ‘experience in efficiently managing international teams’ has allowed them to ‘obtain the exclusive rights to organize the Argentine national team’s friendly games.’ So what does Argentina’s FA do exactly?

The marketing and commercial expertise of World Eleven can be judged by the fact that 15,000 tickets have been sold (so far) for this game and the organiser remains confused as to why.

More and more of these ‘glamour’ friendlies are popping up and many get staged in the UK. British fans are obviously seen as among the most willing to pay for this type of fare but they already enjoy a diet of quite glamorous fixtures on a regular basis. Glamour friendlies are a bit like fast food; they are tempting but you tend to end up with a slightly dissatisfied feeling afterwards.

Argentina v Portugal is being billed as Messi v Ronaldo but it’s less than a month since we all tuned in for El Classico. That was a game that really mattered and it was brilliant to watch. I’ll be surprised if either plays more than a half next week and they will be conserving themselves for more meaningful tests ahead.

Messi and Ronaldo are undoubtedly the best two players in the world right now. If they can’t sell a glamour friendly these days then who can? Good luck Leo Morales.