It’s all about to get Messi

Messi or Rooney, who is better, which would you have? Come on, chop chop. Both names sound like adjectives. A rooney room is one with lots of space and little inscriptions and messages hidden in corners. A messi place is untidy.

Messi's dad was a factory worker, his mum a cleaner, while Rooney's father was a labourer and his mum a dinner lady. So, even stevens there. Messi, as his name suggests, is originally Italian, the family emigrating from Italy to Argentina in the 1880s. Around the same time, the Rooneys were also on the move, from Ireland to Liverpool. Another draw. Both had growth problems. Messi didn't grow, poor lad, and had to have growth hormones. Rooney shot up early doors, too quick, in fact, and got a touch of Osgood-Schlatter disease - growing pains in his knees.

Today, Messi, aged 22, is 5' 7" and 10 stone 7lb while Rooney is 24 and 5' 10" and 12 stone 10lb. Messi is still a skinnymalink, and you feel a puff would blow him away. Rooney is as solid as a pitbull. Messi moves like the wind, quicksilver, weaving patterns. Rooney moves like, well, a pitbull, but he is equally quick. Both can shoot from anywhere and create.

Rooney is better at heading - and getting better. In fact he is still developing, whereas Messi might well have reached a peak, albeit a glorious peak.
Rooney can defend, go back, be the workhorse. Messi has not the physique to get stuck in - or the temperament. Rooney can see red, go mad,
give away silly fouls - though not as many as he did.

Messi, the football world agrees, is the more naturally talented, a genius even, but in certain games he can be peripheral, as in the two against Inter Milan. He inspires his fellow players by his amazing talent, by the hope that he will do something mesmerising. Rooney inspires by his skills but also by his work-rate and determination. Rooney wants to lead and will probably end up the Man United and England captain.

Messi is a wonderful adornment - and can win games on his own. Rooney can look ugly, play ugly. You can miss his artful control, delicacy of thought.

So far, Rooney has played better for his country than Messi has played for his - but the circumstances have been different. Rooney is settled into the England team, admired by Capello, loved by the lads. Maradona, the Argentinian manager, nearly blew it all, lucky to qualify, messed Messi around. Now, the team is more settled.

Both have had horrible injuries in their short careers - Rooney by throwing himself madly around, Messi by being kicked up in the air. Fingers crossed that each will be fit and well for South Africa. All true football fans, everwhere, will want to see them shine.

Right, you've had long enough. You can pick only one for South Africa. And don't ask who else is in the team. Sorry, that's the rules. Personally, I'd go for, oh God, no space . . .

Hunter Davies is a journalist, broadcaster and profilic author perhaps best known for writing about the Beatles. He is an ardent Tottenham fan and writes a regular column on football for the New Statesman.