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Ahead of our annual National Project Management Conference in the Aviva Stadium on 26 April, with the theme, The Change Makers, President of the Ireland Chapter of PMI, Pat Lucey looks at two individuals in the world of football who are directing ‘change’ in their own professions. Analysing Ronaldo and Messi, he investigates who scores highest in the key elements of project management.


As a Man United fan, I have a soft spot in my heart for Cristiano Ronaldo.  I remember him coming to United as a gangly teenager, with great ball skills but unable to get the final cross in when needed. Fast forward to the present, and he is the most decorated player active in the game. However, ask any group of people who is their preferred player – Ronaldo or Messi, and chances are, they will choose Messi. And that’s because Messi is a better project manager than Ronaldo. Don’t believe me? Let’s see how they both score on five key elements of project management.


COMPOSURE UNDER PRESSURE: Every project will come under pressure, and it’s important that the project manager stays calm, collected and makes the right decisions. Look at their career stats and you’ll see that Ronaldo has twice as many yellow cards than Messi and 10 times more red cards. Not a sign of someone who keeps their head under pressure. Score 1-0 to Messi.


PROJECT INTEGRATION: In the project management world, integration means pulling everything together, from start to finish and dealing with all aspects of the project. A good project manager doesn’t only deal with the parts of the project that are fun and exciting, he/she also gets involved with the more mundane aspects. The football equivalent is how the two players go about their less-glamorous defensive duties. Statistics tell us that in the Spanish football league, Messi makes three times more tackles than Ronaldo. And when Ronaldo does tackle, he is more likely to give away a free kick than to successfully come away with the ball.  Score: 2-0 to Messi.


CREATIVITY: Good project managers need to be creative problem solvers, able to think outside the box and come up with an unpredicted move. Messi is revered for his imaginative and creative play. However, having watched Ronaldo’s overhead bicycle kick in the Champions League this year, it’s hard to see Ronaldo lose out on this element. A score draw here 3-1 to Messi.


STAKEHOLDER MANAGEMENT: The key to delivering a project successfully is keeping your stakeholders engaged and happy.  The most important stakeholders are your project team – and this is where the concept of ‘one for all and all for one’ comes from – it’s all about the collective. While both players are the stars of their team, Messi still maintains the role of being a team player, while Ronaldo’s behaviour suggests that while there is no “i” in team, there are 5 “i”s in ‘individual brilliance’. Score 4-1 to Messi.


COMMUNICATION: It’s the project manager’s job to maintain accurate and open communication channels so that everyone knows what’s going on, and people are comfortable raising sometimes thorny issues. Consider how Messi dealt with the controversy around his conviction for tax fraud – he managed to come through the whole episode with the equivalent to a yellow card, but with no serious impact to his public image. Then consider how Ronaldo communicates: ‘I'm the best player in history… I've never seen anyone better than me… No footballer can do the things I can’. When it comes to winning over the public, those comments represent a massive own goal.  Score 5-1 to Messi (Ronaldo own goal)


The reason Messi is the favoured footballer is actually nothing to do with the number of goals scored (Ronaldo has a higher goals per game ratio) or athletic ability (Ronaldo is a supreme athlete) or international success (Ronaldo has proven himself in England and Spain and has led his country to tournament victory). The reason he is hailed is because he has mastered the project management aspects of the game.


Perhaps we should invite Ronaldo to the home of Irish soccer – the Aviva Stadium – on 26 April to attend the Project Management National Conference, where he will learn some of the tips and tricks of delivering projects successfully from award winning project managers. He will learn about communication from Anton Savage and Dr Laoise O’Murchú, how to avoid red cards from Gerald Fleming, and will learn how to achieve stellar acclaim from Norah Patten, who is on track to become Ireland’s first ever astronaut.


Tickets are selling out fast, book now at Score!

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Sponsorship opportunities

The Ireland Chapter of PMI has attractive sponsorship opportunities for organisations interested in reaching out to business leaders and project managers across ireland. There are sponsorship packages associated with the high profile National Projects Awards on November 29th 2018 and the National Conference in Spring of 2019

To find out more about opportunities and learn how you can benefit from sponsorship, please contact the Conor at