Key Players

Manchester United footballer Cristiano Ronaldo attends a team training session at the Carrington training ground in Manchester, north-west England, 06 November 2007, ahead of their UEFA Champions League football match against Dynamo Kiev in Manchester, 07 November. AFP PHOTO/PAUL ELLIS
In both competitive matches and international football friendlies, the shape of the game can be changed in an instant by the contribution of a key player. They could be the catalyst for a nation’s triumph in the Football World Cup or other zonal competitions. We have a look at three key players on the international stage.

Cristiano Ronaldo

The Portuguese flyer is currently one of the most talked-about players in the world. Having won the 2006/2007 English Premiership title with Manchester United, he then went on to scoop almost every personal honour available, including the PFA Players’ Player of the Year, the PFA Young Player of the Year, the Portuguese Footballer of the Year and the Football Writers’ Association Award.

Having burst on the scene after his £12.24 million transfer from Sporting Lisbon to Manchester United, his dazzling footwork, combined with a deceptively good ability in the air, has seen him emerge as one of the hottest talents on the world football stage. Having learnt to limit the amount of tricks and focus more on the end product, Cristiano Ronaldo has become an invaluable player for both club and country.

Lionel Messi

Argentina international Messi plays his club football for FC Barcelona. His incredible talent has seen him christened the ‘New Maradona’ by fans. After moving from Newell’s Old Boys in his native Argentina to Barcelona in 2000, Messi quickly progressed through the ranks and became the third youngest player in history to play for Barca.

His international debut came in 2005 when he was called up to play against Hungary. Unfortunately it ended in tears after 40 seconds when he was sent off after being adjudged to have elbowed an opponent. This setback hasn’t stopped him from becoming an integral part of the Argentina set up, scoring six goals in his first 22 appearances for his national team.

Lionel Messi’s silky skills and eye for goal have made him a firm favourite with the fans and have earned him grudging respect from his competitors. Expect to see a lot more of him in the future.

Kaka

Brazilian-born AC Milan midfielder Kaka is probably the most valuable key player in the world at the moment. After almost single handedly guiding Milan to the 2006/2007 UEFA Champions League trophy, the supremely talented player looks set to rule the world stage for the foreseeable future.

After the departure of Andrei Shevchenko’s to Chelsea Kaka became the focal point of Milan’s offense as he alternated between the midfield and striker positions, finishing as the top scorer in the Champions League with ten goals.

He made his debut for the Brazil national football team in 2002 and was part of the FIFA World Cup winning squad of that same year.