Outspoken former Italy forward Antonio Cassano has let loose on the eternal Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi debate, claiming that the Portuguese is a “a manufactured talent”.
Cassano, who retired in 2017, went on to praise Messi as someone “we will never see again” and compared him to Roger Federer, Michael Jordan and Diego Maradona in terms of having an immense individual talent.
The 38-year-old Cassano was himself a lavishly gifted player who failed to make the most of his abilities, despite winning La Liga with Real Madrid and Serie A with AC Milan.
Yet Cassano controversially claimed that Juventus ace Ronaldo cares more about his social media image than his team.
“Cristiano Ronaldo is a manufactured talent,” said Cassano, according to Spanish media outlet AS. “You also notice it on social networks where you see him doing sit-ups with his children.
“There is a lot of talk about him, less about Messi. But in football they are two completely different things. CR7 is very strong, but he has a built talent.
“Messi, on the other hand, is Federer, Jordan, Maradona; something we will never see again in life, he has immense talent as a gift from nature.”
Cassano went on to explain that, while many view the peak Barcelona team managed by Pep Guardiola as a collection of world-class players – with Messi as the best of a brilliant group – he believes that the Argentine “made” a lot of his teammates.
“I often hear that Messi played with phenomenal [players] in Barcelona. I only remember Xavi and Iniesta, then at the beginning there was also Ronaldinho,” he said.
“But Messi also made players like Pedro, Dani Alves, Mascherano and others become champions. He made many players grow with his talent.
“Ronaldo’s aim is to score goals, he doesn’t give a damn about the team or the assists. Messi, on the other hand, makes the whole team grow and he is my idol.”
Cassano named his second son, born seven years ago, Lionel after Argentina’s all-time top scorer. So it’s clear where his views lie on this debate, despite Cassano being a former Real Madrid player.
The mercurial Italian certainly failed to fulfil his potential in Madrid, however, where he was nicknamed “Gordito” (or “Chubby”) and fined for being overweight. “Food, sex and football is the best there is in life”, he once said.
He’s hardly the first player to suggest that Messi is a more naturally gifted player than the incredibly determined Ronaldo.
But one thing we can say for CR7, rather than Cassano, is that by the time the 35-year-old retires he will have extracted the absolute maximum from his on-field abilities.
All imagery: PA Images