(Guest Writer Dennis Odera, @m_oyo  to those of you who live on twitter, compares the two best players of their generation in the two differing sports of football and rugby)

Genius at work. Lionel Messi (right) and Dan Carter (left) ***images courtesy of zimbio ***

In 1863, the rules of the game we now know as Football (or Soccer, depending on which side of the Atlantic you lie), were codified as the Football Association was formed. This had been arrived at through a lot of compromise.  But not all were happy and felt the compromise had not been enough. So, just as William Webb Ellis had done 40 years earlier when he unthinkably held a football with his hands and ran with it towards the goals, some clubs broke away and formed Rugby Union.

So much like Isaac and Ishmael, who shared the same father in Abraham, but whose descendants became fiercest of rivals, rugby and football share an ancestry but loathe each other. That however has not meant that comparisons can’t be drawn. For where football has Lionel Messi, rugby has Dan Carter.

La Camisa Dez

The whole world considers the number 10 jersey a prestigious one. It is the number every kid who plays sport dreams of wearing. In Brazil, the jersey has taken such significance that they have a name for it, ‘camisa dez’.  This means that the holder of the ‘10’ jersey is the de facto best player of the team. He carries the team on his shoulders, is the poster boy, and invokes confidence in his teammates. His mere presence instills fear in the opponents, and it is around him that the team is built.

It is a jersey number associated with flamboyance, skill and genius. As such, it is set aside for la migliore – only the very best.

And true to its tradition, the very best in rugby and football are currently donning it.

“There are 3 or 4 important things in life: Books, Friends, Women….and Messi.”

Antonio Lobo Antunes


Lionel Andres Messi was born on June 24, 1987 in the city of Rosario, Argentina, the birth city of another famous Argentine, Che Guevara.

He joined his first club when he was five. At the age of eight, he signed up for Newell’s Old Boys’s  youth team. In 2005, Lionel Messi was in the team that guided Argentina to the Under 20 World Cup.

Messi is 5ft 7in. He has astonishing balance and lower body strength that allows him to move laterally at incredible speed, which is why whenever he darts inside he leaves flat-footed left backs with such ease.

As for his exploits at Barcelona, at just 24,  Messi is making records fall like ninepins.

After this season’s thrilling installment of El Clasico, his club manager Tito Vilanova claimed, “He is the best in the world by a big margin”.

And what of Arsene Wenger, so called professor of purist football?

“Messi is like a Play station, he takes advantage of every mistake teams make”

Daniel William Carter was born on March 5, 1982 in Canterbury, New Zealand. He made his first class debut for Canterbury in 2002, at 20 years old, and was drafted into the Crusaders side for the Super Rugby Season a year later. Carter has had a successful career with New Zealand, winning 90 percent of the Test Matches he has played for the All Blacks.

At 5ft 10in, Daniel Carter is rightfully considered by many to be the best fly half in the world and also makes a strong case for consideration as the best player in any position. Carter is a complete fly half, applying his amazing array of skills as the situation requires, and performs well, whether the game calls for running or kicking rugby.



“The best? Messi.”

These were words of 2006 World Cup winning manager, Marcelo Lippi.

Arda Turan on the other hand was of the view,

“Messi or Ronaldo best player in the world? In the world I would say Ronaldo. Messi is from another planet.”

One of the attributes of a truly great player is that he makes the difficult, the almost impossible seem ordinary and simple.

Think of how Ronaldinho would perform the very complex elastico move with consummate ease, making you want to go out and try it for yourself. Think of Jonah Lomu’s virtuoso performance against England in the 1995 World Cup semi final. He seemed unstoppable, breaking tackles, swatting off opposition players (and by that I mean completely running over and through Mike Catt en route to a try) and having the commentator go “Aaah! Aaaah!”

According to Sir Graham Henry, former head coach of the All Blacks, Rugby Union is a simple game made to look complicated by most who play it. But then there is Dan Carter, a man with that rare ability to make the complicated look simple.  After his performance for the All Blacks in Game Two of  Three against the visiting British Lions in 2005  the reporter on the day was of the view,

“Dan Carter strips all the emotion out of the debate over who is the best rugby player in the world. You can shout for your warriors, beat the drum for your inspirational soldiers and scavengers supreme but ultimately, the quiet, consistent excellence of the game’s most commanding field marshall speaks eloquently for itself.”

Even when compared to other greats in their sports, Carter and Messi still carry the day.

A reporter, in comparing Carter to the mercurial Johnny Wilkinson was of the view

“If Jonny Wilkinson was the modern master, then Carter has been Wilko-plus, a points machine, deceptively strong and secure only blessed with an extra attacking, creative dimension to his armoury.”

And Xavi Hernandez, Messi’s teammate at Barcelona once said that to compare anyone with Messi is unfair on them.


What would one normally expect from a player at the top of his game? A bit of complacency. Take Cristiano Ronaldo for example and attempt to make him defend. Or better still, tell the individually talented Dutch National team that they have to function as a unit. Every player at the top of his game has a chink in their armor or as the Italians would put it, fessura della corazza.

Former President of Brazil, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva describes Messi as having none of that in his game.

“When I see Messi, who is the best player in the world in my opinion, lose the ball, he runs off until he gets it back or commits a foul. Our guys lose the ball and fold their arms.”

Carter as well has had to show his grit and determination. A reporter viewed Carter as the New Zealand David Beckham and stated categorically in reference to Carter that, “As New Zealand’s Beckham, no player has faced more expectation, nor satisfied it more regularly.”  It is the final part of that statement that sums up Carter well – regularly satisfying the great expectations placed on him. That takes determination to constantly seek to succeed.

Carter himself once offered advice to a bunch of upcoming youngsters he met on a tour. He said,

“Something deep in my character allows me to take the hits and get on with trying to win.”

Complacency never creeps in. Determination keeps them going.


The Holy Bible, talks of humility and how great and sought after this trait should be.  In one of Jesus’s paradoxes, He talks of how humility exalts, while self glorification leads one to eat humble pie.

Messi in an interview once said,

“I prefer to win titles with the team ahead of individual awards or scoring more goals than anyone else. I am more worried about being a good person than being the best football player in the world.”


Daniel Carter, when asked whether he thought his game was perfect did not pull off a Zlatan Ibrahimovic and claim that of course he was. He philosophically stated

“We are forever picking up little rocks but there always seem to be more.”

This is testament to the work ethic, determination and most importantly humility to try and keep trying to become the best at what he does.


When Manuel Pellegrini, Malaga manager and former Real Madrid boss says,

“I don’t know the parameters for the Ballon d’Or. I only know that Messi deserves to win every trophy.”

Add onto that the words of the LA Lakers and two time Olympics Basketball Gold Medallist,  Kobe Bryant,

“I wear number 10 jersey for the US National Team in honor of the greatest athlete I have ever seen, Messi.”


Then backed up by current Welsh Rugby National  Team coach, Warren Gatland,

“Dan Carter has the mind of the perfect ‘10’ the ball carrying ability of a boisterous ‘12’ the dexterity of skillful ‘13’ the speed of a decent ‘14’ and the peace of mind of a world class ‘15’…did I mention he has a near perfect boot? Dan Carter could easily get into ANY back position in ANY international team.”

Then it is simply a case of Giocatore diverso, Differenti del gioco, Stesso atteggiamento –  Different Player, Different Game, Same Attitude. Need anyone else say more ???

[ If you liked the article, or even if you didn’t, but out of sheer feline killing curiosity you want to hear more from this writer, follow him on twitter on @m_oyo for anything ranging from football, rugby, hip hop, reggae/dancehall and the occasional philosophical rambling]


  1. spot on…. in real life sporting, athletes can draw a great deal of inspiration from the two best good performing athletes mentioned in this article. Talk of humility, right attitude for what they do, work ethic – hard work, team work and the list goes on…. xxvii @t_salano



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