Ronaldo or Messi? Having played one and watched the other, Baro has no doubts

Ronaldo or Messi? Having played one and watched the other, Baro has no doubts
  1. Ronaldo or Messi? Having played one and watched the other, Baro has no doubts
    Victory centre back Alan Baro says competing against the world's best is both exhilarating and…

Strikers may well be the most talented individuals on a A-League team, which is why Melbourne Victory's Spanish centre back Alan Baro is diplomatic when asked who is the toughest opponent he has faced in his first season in Australia.

"The strikers are always the best players in the team, and in the A-League all the strikers are good players," he says with a smile. " I always have to concentrate fully."

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Victorys Alan Baro trains at Goschs Paddock earlier this month. Victory's Alan Baro trains at Gosch's Paddock earlier this month.  Photo: Getty Images

But Baro is far too polite to say that any challenge he might meet in Australia pales into insignificance compared to the biggest test he has faced in a career which started 12 years ago with a small team, Peralada, when he was a teenager in his native Catalonia.

Baro eventually worked his way though the grades in Spain, playing in the Spanish second and third division – and that's where he came up against opponents who would give any defender nightmares, the mighty  Real Madrid.

Baro faced the European champions – complete with Cristiano Ronaldo spearheading its galaxy of stars – four times in the Copa Del Rey, the Spanish knockout Cup competition where the ties are played over two legs.

It was both exhilarating and frightening at the same time, says Victory's Iberian import.


"I played twice against Real Madrid, when I was in the third division in the Copa Del Ray [with Alicante], and the second time was against Ronaldo, and Gonzalo Higuain [the Argentinian and currently Juventus striker] with Ponferradina."

So what must it be like stepping out on to the pitch at the Bernabeu knowing you are facing Ronaldo and his mates.

"At first you are thinking a lot about them. You know you are playing against maybe the biggest player in the world. But when you are on the pitch you try to do things well, and you see them like another player.

"We drew the first one at home [1-1] and then lost 2-1 in the Bernabeu [when he played for Alicante] the second time we lost home and away, 2-0 at home and in Madrid 4-1."

So given that Baro is a proud Catalonian and lifelong Barca fan but has also faced Ronaldo on the field, which would he pick first –_ Ronaldo or Lionel Messi – if he was given the choice.

"Messi," he says without hesitation. "The main reason is I am a Barcelona supporter but I think Messi has something special, he is different in respect of other players. For me it's beautiful to see him play."

Baro's has been the story of the journeyman who has battled his way up the grades and made the most of his talent with hard work and application.

He wasn't plucked from obscurity to train at Barca's famous La Masia academy, from which so many talents have emerged. His progress has come in roundabout fashion.

"I started in small teams, and step by step I went to the higher levels, then I have the chance to play in the third division like a professional, then I went to the second division.

"I played one game in the …

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