Editor's Note: This piece originally appeared on ESPN Deportes.
MEXICO CITY -- Cristiano Ronaldo is a "football god," and Neymar is full of magic, from head to toe. One of them proclaims himself "the best football player in history." The other one parted ways with Lionel Messi simply because he didn't want to keep living in his shadow.
It is no coincidence that these two titans have the same birthday, albeit with a seven-year gap between them. Ronaldo, the Portuguese phenom, turns 33 on Monday and is in impeccable physical shape and at the top of his game. Neymar, the pride of Brazil, will have 26 candles on his cake tonight, perhaps dreaming that the best is yet to come for him on the pitch.
Real Madrid's owner of the No. 7 kit lives in a world surrounded by perfection while knowing the world watches every move he makes. Even the most regular pass he makes carries a flair that puts him apart from mere normalcy. He has as many critics as fans, and at a prudent distance, he seems to enjoy it quite a bit. He shouts to the world that a powerful athlete should not behave modestly. That's simply not his thing.
After turning 30 years old, Ronaldo is no longer a "beast," though he usually still crushes his rivals and leaves them behind as if they were cones on a highway. However, any perceived slip in his physical powers is no obstacle for him, as he tries to be the player whose performance seals the fate of the matches in which he plays.
Cristiano Ronaldo plays to be a "football god," and his performances are so otherworldly and so often that choosing between loving him and hating him is quite a tough choice.
"Cristiano is the mirror I look at myself in," Neymar said a few days ago. "He has 10 years at the highest level, just like Messi does, and we all want to be like both of them."
You can say many things about the wonder from Brazil, too, but it's better to enjoy seeing him with the ball under his spell. Neymar is a full-time magician on the pitch. It is impossible for him to hide his background. His play is "made in Brazil" and has been ever since his days in the cradle.
Neymar is a totally different brand of player: courageous, daring, defying and an absolute joy to watch. He plays with an outstanding amount of depth, and whenever he has the ball, he represents danger for opponents. Seeing Neymar on the pitch is seeing the essence of football in full display.
Cristiano and "Ney" are the dusk and dawn of football personified. Cheers to both on their day!