Posted on 19 May 2009 by uefa.com
When two of the world's most famous clubs come together to contest the UEFA Champions League final on 27 May in Rome, so too will two of the planet's best players.
Such is the talent each side boasts, though, this statement could be applied to any number of the Manchester United FC and FC Barcelona squads: Xavi Hernández and Paul Scholes, Wayne Rooney and Samuel Eto'o, Thierry Henry and Dimitar Berbatov. The head-to-head of Barça's Lionel Messi and United No7 Cristiano Ronaldo, however, is perhaps the most mouthwatering contest.
Two of the most marketable footballers on the planet, are also two of the most deadly − Ronaldo is the joint leading scorer in the Premier League with 18 goals, quite a feat for somebody considered a winger, while Messi is not far behind the Liga's Pichichi contenders with 23. The 21-year-old Argentinian averages exactly a goal every two league games in Spain (54 in 108 matches), while United's Portuguese international is almost as prolific, with 84 in 196 domestic league appearances.
When put to the vote, Ronaldo holds the edge; according to his peers and journalists anyway. The 24-year-old won the FIFA World Player of the Year and the Ballon d'Or in 2008, both times nudging Messi into second place. Last season was a similar story in the UEFA Champions League scoring stakes as the former Sporting Clube de Portugal player edged Barça's No10 into the runners-up spot with his eight goals, including one in the final, to Messi's six. This term, though, Messi tops the charts with eight, while Ronaldo has scored just four to date.
'From another planet'
Asked which of the two players was the best, Barcelona's Daniel Alves opted for his team-mate, saying: "He's from another planet because his ability is unbelievable; the way he can unbalance a match." He added of the impending meeting with Ronaldo: "I think it will be quite a duel and I hope that Messi will come out on top." Messi, meanwhile, refuted the suggestion that it would be a Messi v Ronaldo final. "No, it will be Barcelona v Manchester. These are the best teams in the world and this is a final that the people hoped for."
In the news today
United 'suffer' pain of defeatby Paul Bryan from Rome
Edwin van der Sar admitted that Manchester United FC were made to "suffer" at the hands of FC Barcelona as the goalkeeper reflected on failing to retain the UEFA Champions League trophy for the second time in his career.
The 38-year-old was part of the AFC Ajax sides that defeated AC Milan in the 1995 final before losing out to Juventus at the last hurdle the following year. This time around Van der Sar felt his team failed to do enough to become the first team to win the tournament in successive seasons, following their triumph over Chelsea FC in Moscow last May. "We wanted to win and hold on to the trophy," he explained. "In the first ten minutes it looked like we could do that as we had some shots on target while they looked a little nervous. After they scored we stopped playing. They gained in confidence and we never really got hold of the ball in order to play our own game."
The United No1 was picking the ball out of his net after just ten minutes following Samuel Eto'o's near-post strike, while Lionel Messi's second-half header made the game safe for Barcelona's treble winners. "We had a couple of chances and didn't take them," Van der Sar added. "At the end we were chasing the game, but they kept the ball very well and made us suffer. [After the game] the manager told us to look at ourselves and not to complain about other things."
Cristiano Ronaldo was quick to agree with his team-mate. "They played better than us and controlled the game," the 24-year-old said. "They created more opportunities and I think they deserved to win. We knew that making bad mistakes tonight would cost us and that proved to be the case. We started very well in the opening minutes but after that I didn't see much more of Manchester United."