Flea outpacing racehorse Ronaldo

MADRID - The battle for the World Player of the Year award had shifted to his home turf but Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo was again upstaged by Lionel Messi of Barcelona in Saturday's "Clasico" at the Bernabeu.

Fresh from hitting four past Arsenal in the Champions League on Tuesday, current World Player Messi netted Barca's opening goal, while the previous year's winner Ronaldo was limited to a few sprints, a couple of shots and a smattering of showy stepovers and flicks.

To add insult to injury, disgruntled fans whistled the Portuguese late in the match, suggesting they have yet to be convinced he is worth the record 94 million euros Real paid Manchester United for his services.

"Too much Messi for CR9," was the headline in Sunday's Madrid-based Marca sports daily, while its peer in the Catalan capital, Sport, trumpeted: "Leo makes a fool of Cristiano in the clash of the stars."

Silverware is key to winning the FIFA World Player award and Barca's 2-0 victory put the champions three points clear of their arch-rivals at the top of La Liga with seven matches left.

The defeat left Ronaldo and Real facing a trophy-less season after their exits from Europe and the King's Cup.

Barca, if they get through their Champions League semi-final against Inter Milan, will also have a chance to win a second successive title in May's final at the Bernabeu.

"All the fans have the same feeling right now: the sceptre for the best player in the world is Messi's - and it could be for a long time to come," Marca columnist Roberto Palomar wrote on Sunday.


The 22-year-old Messi, whose form will be crucial to Argentina's hopes at the World Cup finals, tops La Liga scoring chart with 27 goals to Portugal international Ronaldo's 18.

He is also the leading marksman in the Champions League with eight. Ronaldo managed seven before Real were dumped out by Lyon, the sixth season in a row they failed to reach the last eight.

"Lionel Messi showed yesterday in the Bernabeu that the second-best player in the world is light years from his level," Sport wrote on Sunday.

"As Leo was attempting to add to his goal tally, Cristiano was lost on the pitch, making pointless runs and expressing his rage with angry, excessive gestures.

"Ronaldo had to resign himself to the fact that his reign in the football world has ended and that's that."

The contrasting playing styles of Ronaldo and Messi were again showcased on Saturday.

With a low centre of gravity and tricky skills, the diminutive Argentine, whose nickname is "the flea," scampers around the pitch bouncing off opponents, while Ronaldo is more like a racehorse, galloping past defenders and firing thunderbolt shots from all directions.

However, writing in As daily on Sunday, J.J. Santos noted that Ronaldo's sprinting runs on Saturday had been generally ineffective and resulted in the 25-year-old tiring himself out.

"Cristiano turned into a roadrunner chasing shadows," Santos said. "By the time he found space and had the ball he was already exhausted and had to watch in despair as a genius like Messi destroyed Pellegrini's defensive network.