Thursday, 13 December 2012 14:36 | By Tan Thiam Peng, xinmsn Sports editor

Ronaldo better than Messi, says Sporting manager

In town for the NexLions Cup, U19s manager of Cristiano Ronaldo's boyhood club believes his compatriot had a tougher route to success than Lionel Messi

Football Association of Singapore (© Football Association of Singapore)

When Manchester United and Sporting Lisbon face off in the opening match of the NexLions Cup tomorrow, the one name that will bind them eternally is instead 11,000 kilometres away, tearing through the grass at the Bernabeu.

2008 World Player of the Year Cristiano Ronaldo was schooled at Sporting before Sir Alex Ferguson signed him at 18 for £12 million. The two European giants will surely be watching as the Portugal captain attempts to wrest this year’s prize from Lionel Messi next month.

“Tough for me,” ex United star Brian McClair chuckled at the pre-tournament press conference, when asked if he thought Ronaldo could win it again, after his Real Madrid finally edged Barcelona to the league title in May.

“Of course he can. He’s got an opportunity.

“[But] I’m not a massive fan of ‘individuals’. I’ve always believed it’s a team game.”

The United academy manager’s opposite number, Pedro Luz, was more upfront.

“I’m biased because I’m Portuguese!

“But I think when you compare both of them, you need to compare the structure [around them]. It’s easier for Messi to be successful because he’s in a team with the same model for many years.

“Ronaldo doesn’t have that. Individually, I think Ronaldo is better than Messi because he’s had to work much harder in order to get the same success. If you rank all their individual qualities, I believe Ronaldo is the best player in the world. He’s stronger, faster, scores with his head and both feet, and he can defend, because Real Madrid need him to; Messi doesn’t have to.”

The inaugural NexLions Cup is a four-team youth football competition modelled after its junior version, the successful Canon Lion City Cup. Featuring Sporting, United, Liverpool and a Singapore selection, the semi-finals are tomorrow, before the 3rd-place playoff and final happening Sunday. Tickets starting at $12 are available at Ticketbooth outlets and online, while concessions are available for students and senior citizens.

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