Some players are just born in the wrong era.
If Rahul Dravid was born in another era, he may well have been the best batsman of that time. If Don Bradman was born the same time around Sachin Tendulkar, the latter wouldn't have been the only 'God' of cricket.
If Dhyanchand and Co were born today, the Indian team may not have been humiliated at London 2012.
And if Cristiano Ronaldo were born five years before he actually was, he would have surely won more than one Ballon d'Or award. But he's plain unlucky that he's playing at the same time as a phenomenon — Lionel Messi.
We've written about this time and again — how Ronaldo is raw power, pace, like a locked missile with just one target... the back of the net. His two-footedness, strength and excellent physical fitness make him perfect for the game. And then, just as add-ons to an already good deal, come his arrogance, confidence and the ability to say and do things which any other player wouldn't (he scores goals too, by the way).
And for all that, he has had to settle for second best more often than not. Ronaldo won the FIFA Ballon d'Or in 2008, but he came second in 2007 (to Kaka), 2009, 2011 and 2012. Messi beat him to 1st place in 2009, 2011 and 2012.
And there's very little to choose between both the players as far as numbers are concerned. But still, despite Ronaldo edging our Messi in a breakthrough season for Real Madrid, the latter won the most votes. As John Leicester writes, it's easy to vote for Messi.
If Ronaldo is Vincent van Gogh at his boldest, then Messi is Leonardo da Vinci — producing subtle beauty.
Messi's replays can have Beethoven tunes, while Ronaldo's look better with 'I'm sexy and I know it' playing in the background.
Ronaldo will come out and say,"Some fans keep booing and whistling at me because I'm handsome, rich and a great player."
Messi will, like a trained bird sometimes, always say something like: "I do not care whether I score or not, what matters is that the team win and continue to do so."
Ronaldo has his initials inscribed on the door-knobs and various surfaces at his Madrid mansion. He has a fashion line by the name CR7.
Messi has an old-style mansion back in Rosario, Argentina and will spend a lot of time with his UNICEF projects.
This comparison is not to belittle Ronaldo. Nor is it to elevate Messi. But this is where Ronaldo loses the plot, sometimes unfairly. FIFA insists the voters must consider overall behaviour — on and off the pitch, before they vote, and Messi will always win there.
Apart from the Argentine's rare dives and show of selfishness, his on-pitch behaviour is impeccable. Ronaldo meanwhile, is a kid with the annoying ability to throw a tantrum when you least expect it. He may be brilliant at what he does, maybe some of those things even better than Messi, but his histrionics backfire. Episodes like not celebrating because 'he was sad' don't help his cause.
There is another fundamental difference between the two. Both play for clubs with very different attacking mentalities. Ronaldo learnt his trade at Manchester United — the masters of counter-attacking football. Jose Mourinho's Real Madrid also aims at a solid defensive foundation with fast, pacey players to break up front.
With Barcelona, it's different. It's all teamwork. Messi is fed constantly. He is playing more passes, shooting more and making more runs. He has been with the Catalans for 12 years and hardly disillusioned.
Ronaldo's personality will not change. It's also safe to say his numbers may not get better than what he gets on an average. That means Messi, two years younger than Ronaldo, will always win the race against the Portuguese.
Messi is the leader of Barcelona — a team who hunt as a pack. Ronaldo is a lone wolf — an unbelievably good lone wolf.
But till a pack exists, lone wolves will never rule the wilderness.