If you think the constant comparisons between Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi are as tedious as they are tiresome, imagine how Ronaldo feels. On Wednesday night, the Portugal forward made it clear: "At this point last year, Messi was getting knocked out of the Copa América. I think that's worse, don't you?" Which, by the way, he wasn't, Argentina were knocked out by Uruguay on 16 July, at the quarter-final stage.
Ronaldo had missed two great chances against Denmark, prompting the Danish fans to use the chant a number of sets of fans have used against him, the one they assume annoys him most. "Messi!" went the chant. "Messi! Messi! Messi!" Afterwards, Ronaldo was asked what he made of it. He had already insisted what mattered was not whether or not he scored but that his team progressed - "if you're offering me the chance to win the Euros and not score, I'd sign up right now", he said, and claimed the chants didn't bother him.
But there was the question again, that man again: Messi. Ronaldo's team had transformed their chances of progressing to the quarter-final of a competition in which Messi is not even playing. Not only that, but he comes off the back of a season in which a case can be made for saying he performed better than Messi, leading Real Madrid to their first league title in four years. He would think they might be happier, rather more inclined to ignore the Messi question. Instead, he was confronted with it. His reaction was bitter too, angry, petulant. It was also silly in so much as it does little to persuade people that he does not care about Messi; in fact it will probably encourage other fans to use the same tactic again.
For a man so driven and so focused on being the best, that must be hard to take. Ronaldo certainly exteriorises that sensation. It is not just that Messi is better than Ronaldo, it is that Ronaldo is constantly reminded of the 'fact'.
It is that every brilliant moment seems to come with a caveat. It is that the debate is utterly inescapable and enormously tiresome, exacerbated by the often pathetic and angry arguments that surround the two players' clubs and by a media, both traditional and social, that magnifies everything and fires its shots from trenches that have long since been occupied and remain immovable. Ronaldo may not hate Messi but it would be understandable if he hated what Messi represents: the player who prevents him getting the recognition he feels he deserves, the "yeah, but" in his life.
Messi has become the stick with which to beat Ronaldo. And the problem is that when he answers back, he achieves just one thing: they hit him harder.
C-Ron vs Messi