Hipster’s Guide to the World Cup Vol. 3: The Kings of Soccer
Soccer fans can't contain their excitement as the three best soccer players in the world compete in Russia this summer.
Since soccer started, certain players always stood out, like Pelé in the 1950s and Maradona in the 1980s. All these players have left their mark on what the sport has developed into today. There is one important difference between then and now though… There are now three players who are competing for stardom and recognition as the Best Player in the World.
In the 20th century, it was easy to depict the best players in the world. Competition for strikers and attacking midfielders was low because many of the players still didn’t develop an elaborate skillset. This was especially true for defenders. If you go online and watch a video of how a soccer defense played in the late 80s or early 90s, you’d understand why it was so easy for Diego Maradona to dribble through an entire team. The players were incredibly clumsy with a slow reaction time between their feet and their head. It was a bit of a joke, so all it took was one good player who was ahead of their time to crash through and score. Oh, how the times have changed.
Defenders have become intelligent, hungry, and physically stronger than most of their teammates. Entire team strategies, such as catenaccio (the Italian tactic for “parking the bus” or pure defending), have taken over to lead many teams to victory. Heck, Atlético Madrid continues to thrive off this plan since 2012! However, even with such an increase in defensive talent, the amount of goals per game continue to be high as past records continue to be shattered. Why? Three names:
Cristiano Ronaldo; Lionel Messi; and Neymar.
These three players are considered to be so talented and ruthless that it is believed that they’re from out of this planet. This is the first time in all of soccer’s history that Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, and Neymar have proved to be in the same form at the exact same period of time. The competition and rivalry between the players grows every day. It’s absolutely insane. All that I have to say is that soccer fans better be grateful to be watching the game in this era because it might never happen again. This World Cup will showcase the ambition and hunger these players have to represent their countries, and win another trophy to add to their legacies.
Music has its Bruno Mars, Kanye West, and Beyonce. Films have their Leonardo DiCaprio, Meryl Streep, Tom Hanks, and Angelina Jolie. Well, soccer has its top three, and these players have changed the sport forever. It has expanded into more than just a 90 minute scrimmage on a huge terrain. They turned it into a show of passion and war. (I’m not exaggerating). Instead of watching teams play together, fans now focus on how well these players can outperform each other. Though it might get in the way of a team’s success, it usually brings triumph.
I remember my father telling me about Neymar when he was only 18 years old and still playing for Santos FC in Brazil. He has a flare that no other player has. His footwork is creative, fun and quick. When he combines these tricks with his acceleration, Neymar is unstoppable.
He is regarded as the most expensive FIFA transfer in history as French superpower, Paris St. Germain, bought him from FC Barcelona for a buyout fee of $263 million. Was he worth the money? In his first season for the French club, he has more than displayed his worth with 13 assists and 19 goals in 20 appearances. From the Brazilian’s perspective, it was also an intelligent move for him to leave the Catalan side. Although FC Barcelona are a magnificent team with a tiki-taka style of soccer (passing and possession over counter attacks), Neymar was never going to show his potential whilst under another player’s shadow… Lionel Messi.
By leaving the squad and joining his Brazilian teammates (Dani Alves and Thiago Silva) in Paris, Neymar has grown incredibly as a player. His success has given him confidence and a critical acclaim to glory that might set him up to be better than both CR7 and Messi. Unfortunately, Neymar suffered from a broken bone in his foot earlier this year, which led him to get surgery. He is currently in recovery and estimated to make a return for the World Cup. Lets hope that he makes it because without him, Brazil will be missing a crucial element to their starting eleven that proved to be disastrous to Germany in 2014.
Brazil won gold in the 2016 Rio Olympics after a well fought match that ended in a penalty shootout. Who else to score the game winning penalty other than the 26-year-old captain? Neymar, of course. Tears flowed from happiness after scoring the goal, and this is what we need in Russia 2018. He is a player with love for the sport where his heart and the game are one.
Cristiano Ronaldo: CR7 or the lady’s man. The Portugal captain continues to show that age is just a number as he breaks records in astounding fashion. Ronaldo has continued to lead his teams to victory. From Manchester United to Real Madrid, Ronaldo has set the standard for a direct form of attacking around the globe.
His speed, stamina, and strength are unbelievable. In a short document, Ronaldo: Tested to the Limit, his abilities were elite. The speed at which Ronaldo can movie his feet leaves defenders crying for mercy. Then when he shoots a knuckle ball, goalies prefer to dodge instead of blocking such a powerful shot. Early last month, Ronaldo led Real Madrid to another Champions league final— the third in a row. Not only that, but they defeated Liverpool 3-1 to grab the trophy, yet again.
The team couldn’t have made it without him or his majestic bicycle kick against Juventus. Trust me, it was glorious and in the end was the difference maker. In nine seasons with the Spanish side, he has scored a total of 450 goals, winning 15 trophies in the process. Not only that, he is also the top goalscorer in the Champions league with 120 goals (that’s 20 goals ahead of Messi)! His goalscoring ability is stunning, and to argue otherwise is ridiculous.
The Balon d’or winner matched Messi this year as he became the second player to win five trophies for best player in the world. The only trophy that Ronaldo is truly missing is the precious World Cup. Although he has already showed that he can lead Portugal to international victory, both on the pitch and off, CR7 hasn’t had the best experiences in the World Cup. In 2014, Ronaldo played with a persistent injury that caused him to play every game at around 70 percent, and it definitely showed. Although in subpar conditions, he was still able to make a joke out of the entire American national team with his tricky footwork. Cristiano is healthy now though as his club coach continues to keep him on reserve after an injury scare in the latest Clásico. The Portugal icon needs to win the World Cup in order to ultimately display that he is in fact the king of soccer.
Ronaldo gets a lot of hate for having an ego larger than Jupiter. It’s true, but at the same time, soccer is a game of mindset. If one is unconfident, especially as a forward, their scoring rate will be mediocre. Just look at Fernando Torres from Spain. He was an excellent player, until he played for Chelsea where he was criticized for his inability to score goals. He recently moved back to Spain, but his scoring prowess has disappeared. Ronaldo doesn’t want to go through the same experience. Instead, he believes that to be the best, you have to believe you are the best. The ones who say otherwise are the guys whose girlfriends are probably off buying CR7’s jersey. There’s a reason his net worth is $400 million dollars, and it goes beyond his skills.
“I see myself as the best footballer in the world. If you don’t believe you are the best, then you will never achieve all that you are capable of.” – Cristiano Ronaldo
Many call him the most talented and influential player in the game today. Although he is arguably the best player of all time, Messi has the most effective and unorthodox playing style I’ve ever seen. There isn’t anyone that can play like Messi— not even close, and this is a fact.
Messi has more than 520 goals with FC Barcelona as of January 2018, and his goalscoring count keeps growing. The forward led the team to win La Liga Santander this year with a 12 point difference between them and second place, Atlético Madrid. His chemistry with his teammates is what makes all the difference as him, Coutinho, and Luis Suarez make up one of the deadliest attack forces in the world.
The Argentinean forward has the ability to inspire a team, carry it on his back, and win. In the 2014 World Cup he proved this as an okay Argentinean side made it all the way to the final only to lose to Germany 1-0 in extra time. The only thing that kept Messi from victory was that he burned out after giving his maximum effort every game for the tournament, whilst his teammates did nothing. Germany had a balanced squad with a depth in the bench that proved to be more effective. This doesn’t take away Messi’s feat though as he won the Golden Ball for Player of the Tournament. Since Brazil, he has competed in multiple international tournaments where his team wasn’t able to give him the support to push them through the last obstacle. In both Copa Americas, Messi and his peers came in second to Chile.
“Being named among the best at something is special and beautiful. But if there are no titles, nothing is won.” – Messi
In the Centennial Copa America, played in the United States, Messi actually declared his retirement from the national team. His disappointment led him to grow tired of second place. Luckily, many factors played their roles and convinced the superstar to return to the team in order for the Argentinean side to leave a mark. Messi faces anxiety in international competitions because of the constant comparison to his predecessor, Diego Maradona, who won the World Cup in 1986. It must be tiring to hear that comparison. Do you have a sibling? It’s like when your mother or father continues to praise their achievements and say, “Why can’t you be more like him or her?” Messi wants to end this losing streak this summer.
All these players have something to prove, a country to fight for, and a legacy to leave behind for future players to overcome. This competition goes beyond the question of which team wins. It becomes a battle for the title of the Best Soccer Player of All Time. This summer will be the deciding factor, and as the players get older, this may be the last time we see all three of these powers in action on the most prestigious stage in the world.