Debates about who is world’s best player will rage when Lionel Messi faces Cristiano Ronaldo as Argentina play Portugal at Old Trafford on Tuesday, but for Argentina coach Gerardo Martino there is only ever one choice.
Barcelona’s Messi and Real Madrid’s Ronaldo continually go head-to-head to top the scoring charts in La Liga and the Champions League, and FIFA’s Player of the Year award has become a two-horse race between the pair in recent years.
Martino said Messi would get his vote every year for the award, officially known as the Ballon d’Or, over current holder Ronaldo. He did admit, though, he was more than a little biased.
“You can’t take out of the deciding process I am Argentinian, my heart lies with Messi,” Martino, who previously managed Barcelona, told a news conference on Monday.
“I am not the best person to judge, I cannot separate sentiment from my objective decision. Whatever season Messi has had on footballing grounds, I would still vote for him.
“I would vote for him on footballing terms. You can’t separate what he is like as a human from what he is as a player.”
Messi and Ronaldo top the billing for the game but the performance of Manchester United and Argentina winger Angel Di Maria will provide an interesting subtext.
The 26-year-old, a British transfer record signing of 59.7 million pounds ($93.41 million)from Real Madrid in the close season, will play at Old Trafford hoping for an upturn in the fortunes he has enjoyed there in a club shirt.
Martino believes that the winger will overcome a dip in his recent form once he gets used to the Premier League.
“Angel is one of the top, top players in world football,” Martino said.
“His start (at United) was exceptional. But generally when players go to a new club and have to get used to a new league, a new team, a different style of football and different team-mates, I think the form that he is showing now is possibly more typical of that player.”