Gary Neville and Jamie Carragher disagree that Cristiano Ronaldo or Lionel Messi should be considered the greatest player of all time.
Ronaldo’s return to the Premier League sparked new debate over his position in football history and Neville asked an intriguing question to help provide the answer on Monday night football.
“If you were a coach and you could pick any player in history to come off the bench at its peak to win you a game and you only had one replacement left, who would it be?
“It would be Cristiano Ronaldo,” Neville said.
“It would absolutely be Cristiano Ronaldo.
“I looked at his distribution of goals. He can score with his left foot, his wrong foot. He can score with his right foot. He can score from distance. He’s probably the best poacher in world football right now.
“He can score penalties. And if you put him in the box and hang him there, he’ll go and score with a header. He might even score with a free kick.
“So if you think about who is the greatest player of all time, I think he is the greatest football player who ever lived. He is the player who could win me a football game of the ways the most different. He is the most complete player. “
This opinion will undoubtedly upset fans of Ronaldo’s big rival, but Neville has explained why his former teammate is ahead of Messi.
“There is no doubt that Messi has scored an obscene number of goals, he is a ridiculous player,” added Neville.
“But Ronaldo, the three big differences are the heads, which Ronaldo has scored four or five times more, the goals on the wrong foot, that Ronaldo has scored 30 or 40% more, and he has scored more penalties.
“It just got me to the point where it’s more complete.
“The international goals, the Champions League wins, in teams that weren’t as good as the ones Messi played in, brings me to the point where I think he’s the greatest player of all time . “
Jamie Carragher strongly disagreed.
“You talk about the different types of lenses,” Carragher said Monday night football.
“It doesn’t matter how a ball goes into the net. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a header or a free kick. Messi has a better goal record than Ronaldo.
“Messi is a playmaker too. Messi can make a game. Ronaldo can’t do that. Again, that’s not a criticism. But there’s no way in the world he’s the most great player of all time.
“You talk about who you’d want to come off the bench. Messi has scored double the number of goals on the bench. It’s a ridiculous thing to say. It doesn’t matter if Messi’s goals all come with his left foot, the statistics prove that he is more likely to score.
“Two wonderful players. In terms of all attributes, Ronaldo is a more complete player. He can do things that Messi cannot do with his weaker foot and in the air.
“But Messi can take you to a place where you can’t really believe what you see. What Ronaldo does is what other players can do, Messi can do things you have never seen before . “
Neville explains how Ronaldo’s game has changed
At 36, Ronaldo who returned to Manchester United is considered to have passed his prime, but if he has proven against Newcastle he can still have a big impact.
“It’s a different second time for Ronaldo,” Neville said.
“We know he’s the most alert, he’s the one who anticipates in the box, he’s the most motivated to score goals and create big numbers.
“The best way to see his career and how he evolves, his involvement in the build is limited. If you look at his touches he goes 65 touches to Manchester United and it’s decreasing year by year.
“He’s going from a winger who plays regularly to someone who now plays mostly in the penalty area and has a lot less touches.
“Again, his dribbling is almost half of what they were at Manchester United. He doesn’t go wide, doesn’t get on the ball or pass people. That doesn’t mean he doesn’t. never will, but it has decreased dramatically.
“The chances he creates for others, again, have diminished tremendously over the past 10 to 15 years. His assists that you can see are decreasing. His shots are decreasing a lot. His shots from outside the box decrease.
“So all of these stats tell you that he is a penalty footballer who restricts his game outside the box, more than at any point in his career, due to his age.
“But then you look at his stats getting higher, stats getting better. The shot conversion went from 12% at United to 17% last season at Juventus, their highest level, the best of their career.
“His goals, he is 0.93 goals per 90 minutes last season for Juventus. It has always been high since his third or fourth season at Manchester United.
“It just tells you what Manchester United have signed. It’s a number nine. It’s no longer the player who regularly counterattacks from square to square in games.
“He will live in and around the box, he will live in and around central defenders, he will anticipate, he will make remarkable moves between defenders.
“He hopes – from Manchester United’s point of view – to make a big difference in games where the margins are tight.
Manchester United recorded seven zero-zeros last season, the most in Premier League history. They drew 11 games in total and lost six, finishing 12 points of Manchester City.
“If you’re Ole Gunnar Solskjaer thinking about Cristiano Ronaldo you look at stats like that. Is he the man to score a goal in narrow margin games. they can convert those zero-niles into wins then Manchester United are champions.
“That’s the question now. Will Cristiano Ronaldo be enough to become Manchester United champions this season?”