Without a doubt, the contest for the greatest footballer between Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo has been fierce and divided the fans of these great footballers. At last, Messi won the World Cup with all hopes and aspirations for him to help Argentina replicate what the Late Maradona did in 1986. The 2022 World Cup final match developed a clear frontline difference between the players.
I am a fan of Ronaldo ahead of Messi for an unpopular reason, except for a few groups of performance and organisational development coaches like me. In my home, I am always the lone ranger among my boys when the topic of Messi versus Ronaldo is on the table. Praise, boy, 7, will constantly taunt me with the phrase ‘Messi is the best’. His brother Favour, boy, 11, will support him with technical knock-out rhetoric ‘Messi is the GOAT’- the Greatest of All Times.
To their older brothers, Tayo and Victor, I dare not attempt to argue that Ronaldo is better than Messi without the fear of being pointed to a website or a comment or statistics on their idol’s performance against Ronaldo. That is the extent to which the influences of the duo of Ronaldo and Messi permeate the world and the history of football at this time and for ages to come.
Why do I prefer Ronaldo until two days before the World Cup final? Two days before the final match, I succumbed to pressure in my household by openly declaring my desire for Messi to win the last game and retire as a World Cup winner. I was happy to make my change an open declaration to end my boys’ long faceoff against me.
Ronaldo is a machine; Messi is an artist. Ronaldo was preferred to me based on my coaching experience. People with little talent that embraces hard work are rare to find.
Ronaldo is an example of someone who had taken the life God gave him into a style of handwork to produce a lifestyle of consistent performance across countries. Unlike Messi, Ronaldo puts his money where his mouth is always.
He wanted to be number one. He knows he needs to do extra to be number one and make working hard his priority. You cannot take anything away from Ronaldo’s work ethic that elevated him to match the greatness of the enormous deposit of talent in Messi.
As good as his achievement is, making being number one a goal is destructive. I am concerned about Ronaldo’s mental and emotional health since the world cup ended. If I were his coach, I would have made him release a sincere congratulations message to Messi to lighten his mood and accept that setting a goal to be number one is not primordial. If your goal is number, then your fulfilment based on your goals’ achievements is in the hands of those who will judge or vote whether you are number one or not.
Do not chase greatness but strive to be the best of yourself and make an impact that will help as many people as possible. I do not think Jeff Bezos founded Amazon in 1994 on the premise of being the number one or the wealthiest person in the world. Making the number one position an objective is archaic for organisations, teams, and individuals in this age of information and emotional intelligence. What if you are not considered number one?
A nervous and emotional breakdown will be the outcome. It is not worthwhile to start an incredible journey with competition in mind. Starting with being number one is like going on a five hundred miles journey with a desire to get to your destination ahead of someone going on a trip of ten miles with the same start point.
Our focus should be on service, not position. Organisations should therefore set objectives that build relationships, create value, and provide unbelievable customer services. You should first be number one with those you serve and leave the rest for the people.
I shifted to Messi’s camp when I watched the video where he charged his teammates after the game against Croatia. In his charge, Messi mentioned the sacrifices they have made without being at their homes for forty-five days, the need to remain focused, and he said ‘God’.
Mentioning God helped me instantly port to Messi’s side against the marvellous French team with huge potential to be the world champions. I am an advocate for God’s factor in whatever we achieve though God has given us the liberty to make our choices and decisions.
I am sure there are God’s factors in Ronaldo’s blossoming career. Many talented young footballers lack opportunities or sponsorship and have been shipwrecked in the process of trying to express their talent.
The world wanted Messi to win the world cup because of his personality beyond his skills. Unlike Ronaldo, who had claimed he was working to be number one in every interview, Messi had never mentioned being number one as his goal.
Instead, he had high respect for Ronaldo. He did show that when he rated Ronaldo in the same class as his and mentioned coming stars like Kylian Mbappé and Ousmane Dembélé behind his fierce rival, Ronaldo.
Messi has been humble, focusing on being the best of himself and not chasing number one. Being number one is not within the control of any mortal being. We should focus on being the best version of ourselves in the relationship and service we give to others.
The 2022 world cup final was a performance debacle, and I would not conclude without mentioning the unimaginable substitution made by the French Coach, Didier Deschamps.
He replaced two famous key players, Dembele and Giroud, for unknown players. An average leader will be hopeful where hope is exhausting and keep prominent players on for fear of retribution.
Didier Deschamps realised things weren’t going his way and decided to look for something else other than allowing the opponent to have a free day on his team. He made changes that could have earned him massive criticism but were suitable for him. His decision is like what Chief Adegoyega Onigbinde did in the 2002 World Cup.
Nigeria lost her first two matches to Argentina and Sweden with the first-choice goalkeeper, Ike Shorunmu, in goal. The last game against England would have allowed Ike Shorunmu to impress and get a contract with an England-based football team.
As supposedly close as Ike is to the Coach, Festus Onigbinde denied him and instead gave a newbie Vincent Enyeama his first world cup debut. Vincent became Nigeria’s first-choice goalkeeper for fifteen years, with an additional three world cup appearances.
As leaders, making tough decisions in the best interest of the future is essential to have infinite influence and create a lasting impact that stands the test of time.