Wednesday 28 December 2016, 08:40

Chicharito runs the rule over towering trio

There are just a few days left before the world discovers who has been chosen as the finest men's player on Planet Football for 2016, with the chosen one lifting The Best FIFA Men's Player award on 9 January 2017. The shortlisted trio are three attacking luminaries - Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Antoine Griezmann - all of whom have strong cases for claiming the prize at the ceremony in Zurich.

What are their main strengths? Does one have a particular quality that sets him apart from the others? In order to dig deeper, called upon a man with an inside track, himself a master of the striker's arts and who is more than familiar with the three nominees: Javier Hernandez. In typically open and intelligent fashion, Chicharito gave his verdict on the men of the moment.

"Going on what they've achieved this year, the three of them have been correctly nominated," said the Bayer Leverkusen forward, someone who enjoys following the beautiful game almost as much as playing it.

"Messi is an phenomenon and so is Cristiano. We all know that they're several notches above the rest of us footballers. As far as Griezmann is concerned, I think he deserves a great deal of credit for the very fact that he's getting so close to those two giants ."

After summing the trio up in very general terms, then came the moment to go into more specific details. First up for analysis is Griezmann, who appeared for Atletico de Madrid in an epic UEFA Champions League quarter-final clash in 2014/15 against Chicharito's then-club Real Madrid, a tie eventually settled by a poacher's goal from the Mexico star.

"It's not easy to make your mark the way he has at a club like Atletico, where an emphasis on discipline has priority over attacking," Chicharito continued. "Not only has he achieved that (making his mark), but he's also taken on a very important role in the team. And for France he shouldered the responsibility after Benzema was ruled out, which was by no means easy either."

Different but equally great  Ronaldo and Messi, Messi and Ronaldo... Even a fellow pro like Hernandez cannot fail to admire the inspirational qualities of a pair of footballers who have dominated the world football scene. "They're both geniuses," he enthused. "That said, they have different qualities and play in different positions.

"Cristiano is a player who can finish with both feet and with his head, using his great leap and making the most of his physique. Not that Messi can't do that (finish) too, but we know that he tends to play much deeper and get on the ball more during the transition from defence to attack, which he does better than anybody else. Cristiano is more attacking, more of a striker."

Chicharito's view on Ronaldo comes from a season playing together up front for Madrid, so the Mexico striker is well-placed to describe the Portuguese superstar and, above all, help pinpoint what most impressed him during their shared spell with Los Blancos.

"That would be his hunger, his determination," said Hernandez. "A lot of people say that Messi is all talent and Cristiano is all hard work, but the hunger Cristiano has should also be considered as talent.

" he has is almost unmatched. He knows exactly what he wants to achieve, his perseverance is huge and his level of ambition too. I think that he looks in the mirror and says to himself that 'today I want to be better than you'," continued the ex-Manchester United front-man. "That, in my view, is a talent. It's a gift that isn't to do with ball skills but is in the mind, which is equally important."

In which case, who will win the coveted award? We will not know until 9 January, but Chicharito did not wish to sign off without giving a mention to another player he felt deserves a place amongst the world's very best. "Gareth Bale, who's a great player and had a spectacular year with Wales and Real Madrid. That said, I think he's still behind Messi and Cristiano, who are out of this world!"