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Comparison 6 – Wayne Rooney v Cristiano Ronaldo
Right now, with Rooney strolling around the Championship looking well past his best, while Ronaldo is still arguably the best in the world, comparing the two seems silly. However it is easy to forget that at one point Rooney was probably the better player, before the pair’s lifestyles affected things. While Rooney’s achievements can stand comparison to most, they pale into insignificance when compared to his former teammate.
Despite their similarities, extremely talented youngsters who signed for Manchester United as teenagers with a lot left to prove, this is a difficult comparison to do due to the way they have developed over their career. Taking them as they stand right now only tells a tiny part of the story.
First Touch – both had excellent first touches as youngsters, their technique and timing was first class when they emerged. As time has gone on, Ronaldo’s obsessive training has taken his first touch to world class levels. Rooney has lost his timing, and so his touch can be heavy, something he never struggled with in the early days. The extra weight and slowing reactions are costing him.
Tackling – there is no doubting the winner here, I am not sure I have even seen Ronaldo attempt a tackle over the last few years. Even when younger he was not really one for getting stuck in to a tackle. Rooney, on the other hand, is one of those players that wants to be involved in everything. In recent years his lack of fitness and extra pounds added to his age have meant he is not throwing himself in all over the pitch. However, he still likes a tackle, but does have a tendency to be reckless or allow himself to get dragged into areas he does not need to.
Dribbling – Rooney was a good dribbler when younger, but it was more about strength to hold off opponents and power to burst through at speed than it was about skill. As the acceleration has faded in recent years, he has lost the ability to burst through gaps. Ronaldo was all about the dribble when he first arrived in England but has since refined his game and uses it much less now, though he still has the ability to suddenly whip the ball past an opponent.
Passing – it is difficult to judge Ronaldo’s passing as he is focused so completely on creating a chance to shoot for himself that he does not look to pass out of choice. Rooney is more of a creator, he likes to play in others, he loves to ping a long pass 50 yards across the pitch. His passing is very good, the only issue is that Rooney will look for a long raking pass when a simple ball to a man 5-10 yards away is a better option.
Shooting – while Ronaldo is a clear winner here, there are very few players who can compare to the quality of his striking technique, particularly now as his work on the training pitch pays dividends, Rooney is also an outstanding striker of a ball. However he is more about brute force than anything else. He smashes the ball home, and when he hits it, it stays hit. You would certainly not complain about his technique, it is just that Ronaldo has raised his technique to a totally different realm.
Heading – another clear win for the Portugese star here. Ronaldo is exceptional in the air, his leap is incredible and his timing is excellent. Rooney, surprisingly for someone who has scored a significant number of headed goals, is not that strong in the air. It is part of his game that is not up to the level of the rest. Rooney’s headed goals are more about timing of runs than his skill in the air.
Set Pieces – this one is split. If you want someone to deliver a corner or deliver a free kick into a dangerous area for someone else to attack, then Rooney is the better option. When it comes to shooting, Ronaldo is better. It does demonstrate the high level of their technique in striking the ball that they are both adept deadball specialists.
Crossing – both players have shown an ability to deliver good quality crosses, it is just that their careers seem to have seen the pair move away from playing in areas where they are looking to deliver crosses on a regular basis.
Defensive Awareness – there is no doubting that Rooney is streets ahead of Ronaldo in this area. It was a weakness of his game when he played up front, strange as it may sound, as he would so often be chasing around trying to get the ball back and then be left behind when the attack was launched. Rooney would often be running round like a headless chicken and doing nothing to affect the play. You could never fault his effort though. Ronaldo is almost exactly the opposite, doing little to nothing to help out defensively and saving his efforts almost entirely for attacking moves.
Movement – Rooney’s movement was always a bit of a struggle early on in his career. The constant chasing after the ball left him too far back to be able to really use his movement to his best. His goal-scoring record, especially from headers, showed his movement was good when Rooney used it. Rooney is not great in the air, but he scored headers due to possessing the movement to get himself in front of defenders. If he could have just cured himself of his headless chicken tendency, Rooney could have scored even more goals. Ronaldo on the other hand is pure economy of movement. Everything is saved for when he gets the chance to make a move to create a chance. When he does get the chance to make a run, it is almost always the right one. His movement is exemplary.
Decision Making – if anything shows in stark contrast how the pair have developed as players over the course of their career, decision making is it. Early in their playing days, Rooney would have been clearly ahead, as Ronaldo earnt himself a reputation as a show pony. Rooney was direct and powerful, Ronaldo would be too busy doing tricks and flicks to make the most of opportunities. As they changed during their career, Rooney became the one who lost his focus on effect, looking for long, raking passes which did nothing for the team over a short, simple pass and move that could have created something dangerous. While Ronaldo went from being a show pony to being a direct attacking force of awesome, incredible talent.
Aggression – a clear win for Rooney, though Ronaldo can look after himself and has shown an aggressive edge to his game at times. Rooney on the other hand is a naturally aggressive player, very happy to throw himself into challenges and risk cards every time the opportunity presents. At times it can stray over the line into being a disadvantage, as the famous ‘wink’ incident between the pair showed, but mainly it is a plus for Rooney.
Composure – Ronaldo is a much more composed finisher than Rooney. There is a huge gap between the two, which is one of the main reasons Ronaldo has such incredibly numbers when it comes to goalscoring. Rooney has good composure and you would usually back him to score, but Ronaldo has ice in his veins and is almost machine-like.
Vision – comparison in this area is particularly difficult as their vision is focused on completely different things. Ronaldo’s vision is all about getting goals, while Rooney has become more focused on providing chances as his career has gone on. As we usually refer to vision in terms of players seeing what other players around them are doing, Rooney has to take the win here.
Work Rate – this is something that has to be judged in Rooney’s favour, as he puts in far more work on the pitch for the team defensively. While Ronaldo is just saving his effort for the right areas, it does mean that he is of little use when his team is defending. Rooney works hard to help out, though he does tend to end up running around like a headless chicken.
Professionalism – there is absolutely no contest in this, Ronaldo is so far ahead it is laughable. This is something that has almost certainly played the main part in how their careers have gone since their emergence as teenage talents. While Ronaldo is devoted to his craft, his training regime and lifestyle are dedicated to the point of obsession, Rooney smokes and drinks like an old school player who has no idea of modern day professionalism. Rooney struggles to keep his weight down due to his excesses, while Ronaldo looks like an idealised sculpture of an athlete. Though I probably should not mention sculpture in connection with Ronaldo!
Acceleration – early in their career this was probably slightly in Rooney’s favour, though it was close. Now there is no comparison, Rooney is sluggish compared to Ronaldo, who still has the ability to suddenly take off and leave players in his wake.
Pace – this has always been one of Ronaldo’s strengths as a player, though Rooney was always quick too, Ronaldo was one of the fastest players in the game. Age (and hard living) has started to sap Rooney’s pace. Ronaldo is also beginning to show signs of wear and tear taking its toll, but he is still quick.
Strength – Rooney emerged at 16 as a tank, already almost fully grown and possessing immense strength which enabled him to smash through defenders. He still has the bulk and strength that he appeared with which probably just edges the Ronaldo of now. As a teenager the difference was night and day, as Ronaldo was lightweight and was nowhere near the power of Rooney. Hundreds, thousands even, of hours in the gym have changed that and he is now very similar in strength to Rooney.
Leap – one of Rooney’s main weaknesses is his aerial ability, he really struggles to use his size to be an effective aerial presence. Maybe that is down to his bulk that he does not have the leap that you would expect from a player who had his explosive acceleration early on in his career. Ronaldo is one of the best headers of the ball in the game, in large part due to a prodigious leap, clearly honed in the gym.
Stamina – this is a difficult one to call, Ronaldo saves himself and never really puts in the hard yards tracking back to test his stamina. It allows him to always be fresh and full of running when his team is attacking, so his stamina is never really tested. However he is supremely fit and very rarely has time off injured, suggesting a high level of stamina to play game after game with very few rest periods. Rooney on the other hand has surprisingly good stamina for someone with such an unprofessional lifestyle and loose attitude to fitness work, which is needed for the amount of running around he does. There are clearly times you can see him struggle and there were times at Man Utd when you could see him blowing out of his backside after an hour. Something which has begun to get worse over the last few seasons, and he has begun to take a leaf out of Ronaldo’s book by doing less work to keep himself going for the full 90 minutes.
Suggested by Utd Road
Written by Tris Burke June 28 2020 07:57:51