The age old debates that rage throughout football tend to be about which team is better than the other. Fans are obsessed with stating their case for why their side is the greatest of all time, but what we should be focusing on is the players themselves. For example – is the flawless trio of Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar greater than the historic triplet of Raul, Ronaldo and Zinedine Zidane?
First off, that’s a hell of a lot to unpackage. We’re talking about six of the greatest players in the history of the game and that’s not just something you can laud about as if it means nothing. No. Barcelona and Real Madrid respectively have been through some of the greatest periods of success in the history of the game, and they’ve had this lot to thank for that on more than one occasion.
Now in terms of competition football has been deemed to of come a long way. The general quality throughout divisions like the Premier League and the Bundesliga has been improving as the years go on, however for La Liga that doesn’t appear to necessarily be the case.
The perceived dominance of Barcelona and Real Madrid has been challenged by the likes of Atletico Madrid and Sevilla in recent years, however in the grand scheme of the division as a whole – not a fat lot has changed. In fact, the money the El Clasico rivals have been able to spend has ensured that the gap between themselves and the sides below them has continually increased.
Still, you can only beat what’s put in front of you. With that in mind, it’s worth running down the absolutely stupendous stats that “MSN” associate themselves with.
In the two years between their debut together as a trio and the two year anniversary of it in October 2016, Barcelona scored 367 goals in all competitions. Within that, 264 of the strikes were netted by one of the three starlets. In that time period, they also won 81.3% of the games in which the three men featured.
Now whilst a number of issues have seen them hit more of a slump this season, you simply cannot detract from the numbers. In terms of the men themselves, the difference between themselves and the Madrid three in question is that they have a man who can win football games on his own – Lionel Messi.
That’s a trait you get once in a generation, and whilst Ronaldo, Zidane and Raul were splendid when working together they needed that teamwork in order to click. People like Zidane and Raul wanted to bring others into the game and stabilise the team meanwhile MSN have two objectives – score and win.
It sounds ruthless, but it’s effective. It’s not just the goals either, because in terms of speed and determination the Barca boys seem to have the edge. In terms of strength and class, however, you’d have to give the plaudits to Real. The three men possessed an unbelievable ability to make the opposition think there wasn’t even a hint of a dangerous attack on the cards before springing a surprise charge forward.
The link-up play between the Madrid trio was to be admired, however MSN just play on a completely different tempo to anyone else in history. Plus, when you consider their time at the top; Real’s peak didn’t last nearly as long as Messi, Suarez and Neymar’s dominance has. Even now they continue to wreak havoc despite Zidane, ironically, managing Madrid to great success.
The important thing to think about is that the names alone of Ronaldo, Raul and Zidane are what keep them high up in the conversation. But as we’ve alluded to, the pace and creativity in the game has come on leaps and bounds in the last few years and what it really comes down to is whether or not the individual players collaborate as a unit.
It doesn’t even need to be remotely close to perfection, either. If Messi and Suarez can connect or one or two good passes in a 90 minute game then the likelihood is that somehow it’ll find it’s way to Neymar and boom, there’s a goal. With Ronaldo, Raul and Zidane it was a process of breaking down the opposition bit by bit. Whether or not you think that is a more effective technique is entirely your opinion, but the stats and the records don’t lie.
If the Messi, Suarez and Neymar collective was in the history books already, this would be a slightly closer debate. However, considering that they’re still forging their legacy it appears obvious that they have surpassed these three greats of the beautiful game. That’s not something to be sad about, either. We should look upon these six fine examples for footballers and count ourselves lucky that we were able to bask in their greatness.
Combined XI of Real Madrid and Barcelona’s record-breaking sides