Messi or Ronaldo? We’ll get to that pretty quickly, but first, we need an introduction. Part V of Sportige.com’s best-by-position in the world of soccer today, on to the Wingers and supporting strikers among us. Sorry to Gareth Bale, Frank Ribery, David Silva, Thomas Mueller and Milos Krasic who didn’t make the top 6 cut but still deserve a mention. And now, on to the six best supporting strikers and wingers in the world today –
Number 6 – Angel Di Maria, Real Madrid and Argentina
Until not too recently, Di Maria was one of Real’s best players this season. The return of Kaka and the general sloppy performance from Real Madrid has effected Di Maria as well who hasn’t scored since mid-December. Still, the Argentinian who had a fantastic season with Benfica last year, full of pace and trickery, purchased for 25 million Euros, has been a success at the Bernabeu, scoring 5 goals and adding six assists. Still, it probably won’t be enough to catch Barcelona.
Number 5 – Nani, Manchester United and Portugal
Now in his fourth season at Old Traffod, Nani is finally living up to all the potential hype following him since his younger days with Sporting. Much more decisive and effective, Nani is enjoying the attention and finally stepping out of the Cristiano Ronaldo shadow, at least for club. With 8 Goals and 10 assists in 21 league games this season so far, Nani just might the front runner for player of the year in England. Pretty much the only spark of creativity on a very dull Manchester United team that still manages to lead the Premier League without too much trouble from the rest of the pack.
Number 4 – Arjen Robben, Bayern Munich and The Netherlands
Has played only three league matches since returning from his long injury, keeping him out of the Bundesliga stadiums since the World Cup. Robben was fantastic in 2010 up until that injury, winning footballer of the year in Germany, scoring 16 goals and adding 7 assists while leading Bayern Munich, along with Ribery on the opposite flank, to the Bundesliga title and the Champions League final. He scored two goals for the Dutch en route to the World Cup Final, missing two one on ones with Casillas that could have sent the masses to celebrate in Amsterdam.
Robben has already scored 2 goals since returning from injury and if he sheds off the rust quickly enough, might give Bayern the needed spark to make one final push at the title which currently seems very much in Dortmund’s hands.
Number 3 – Pedro, Barcelona and Spain
If 2009-2010 was the season Pedro put himself on the world’s soccer map, this season is the one in which he becomes a superstar. The 23 year old is following the World Cup, in which he gradually cemented his place in the Spanish starting line up with a brilliant 2010-2011 for Barca, scoring 12 league goals in 22 matches so far, adding 7 assists. It always helps playing with the most talented players in the world, but Pedro is showing week in and week out that he’s the perfect sidekick to Messi, Iniesta Xavi and Villa, somehow always a bit forgotten behind all the glitter and star power that Barcelona pack. With his ability to score and assists from both wings with both feet, Pedro is quickly becoming one of the best players in the world.
Number 2 – Cristiano Ronlado, Real Madrid and Portugal
Forget the World Cup. Ronaldo wasn’t the only star who failed to impress there. Anyway, the center and focus of the world today is club football, and Ronaldo has only one player better than him there. The numbers sometimes speak for themselves – 24 goals and six assists in 22 league matches, 34 goals in all competitions. He has reached 50 league goals for Real Madrid in 50 matches, faster than any other player, including Di Stefano, Raul and a horde of legends. He’s too much of a soloist, which hurts the team, forcing his teammates to channel the game through and towards him, but there is no player who can shoot at goal from pretty much anywhere on the pitch, with both feet. And he’s never shy of trying – 167 shots at goal this year – 8 a match!
Number 1 – Lionel Messi, Barcelona and Argentina
He’s so good it’s boring at times, like his hat trick on Saturday against Atletico (his third of the season). It’s impossible to prevent him from scoring when he’s in his zone, and he’s so often in int. The difference from Ronaldo is the attitude and the way he blends into the team. If you isolate their individual abilities, Ronaldo probably has the edge. But Messi is on the perfect team, and the perfect finisher on a side that is arguably the best one ever. And his stats? 24 Goals and 14 assists in 19 league games. He only needed 94 shots on goal to reach that number. He has scored 40 goals in all competitions this season and has reached 112 league goals for Barcelona since joining the senior team. A world cup is all that’s missing from this fella’s legacy and his bid to be the greatest of all time.