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Messi vs Ronaldo: Let’s Try To Settle The Debate

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We’ve run out of superlatives for these two. They are a class apart, but the question remains: Who’s better? Who’s possibly the best ever to grace a football pitch? Let’s give it a try.

Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi - Real Madrid v Barcelona - La Liga Photo by Angel Martinez/Real Madrid via Getty Images

The question of who’s better between Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo has been a topic of great interest for football fans around the world for as long as I can remember. And, I am pretty sure this discussion will go on for a long time after both decide to hang up their boots.

I will try my best to make a comprehensive case as to who’s better based on the statistics and the influence they’ve had on their respective teams, the game of football, and the fans so far.

We’ll be looking at their performances in each league they’ve played, how they compare to one another in the time they both played in La Liga and tournaments like the Champions League plus their impact on the international stage. We’ll take a closer look at different deciding parameters, and maybe we’ll be have an answer.

Let’s dig deep and try to reach to a conclusion of this unceasing debate!


Goals for clubs

Barcelona v Real Madrid - La Liga Photo by Urbanandsport/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Let’s start with what matters most in our beloved game: goals. So, to put the debate in perspective, Ronaldo has scored a whooping 638 goals for the clubs he’s played for, excluding the 2020-21 season. On the other hand, Lionel Messi sits at 634 goals scored for FC Barcelona throughout his career.

So it may seem that Ronaldo has an edge here, but the Portuguese talisman has played two seasons more than the Argentine magician. Thus Messi beats Ronaldo in terms of the season average, 40 to 35.

Messi’s highest goal tally for one season sits at 79 for Barca during 2011-12; Ronaldo’s is 61 goals for Real Madrid in 2014-15.

Contrary to the usual belief in Ronaldo being a better goal scorer, the stats suggest a different story. This category has to go into Messi’s column.


Assists for Clubs

Manchester United v Barcelona - UEFA Champions League Semi Final 2nd Leg Photo by Etsuo Hara/Getty Images

Next Messi beats Ronaldo in assists by a pretty hefty margin. Messi sits at 258 assists during his time at Barca, while Ronaldo has 190 in his stints at Sporting de Portugal, Manchester United, Real Madrid and Juventus.

Assists are an important factor to be considered along with goals when discussing who is the G.O.A.T. Football is a game influenced the most by the goals scored but is definitely a lot more than just that. With such a big gap between the two, the winner in this category is clear.


UEFA Champions League

Real Madrid’s Portuguese forward Cristia Photo credit should read SIU WU/AFP via Getty Images

This is Cristiano Ronaldo’s competition. He is an absolute beast when it comes to the coveted Champions League. He has scored an astonishing 130 goals in the competition as the tournament’s top goal scorer in 171 games. His counterpart has 118 goals in 146 games.

Now, it may seem Messi has a better record in the Champions League with an average of 0.8 goals per game to Ronaldo’s 0.76, but this is a tournament more about when these goals are scored and the difference they make rather than the sheer number of them.

As a Messi fan, I must admit Ronaldo deserves all the credit and admiration for his historic performances in this tournament; he surely has had more impact with Real Madrid than Messi with Barca in the biggest club competition in the world. Also, having won one UCL title more than Messi, Ronaldo takes this one.


Performances on the international stage

Argentina vs Portugal - International Friendly Photo by David Rawcliffe/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Here’s where it’s hard to call a winner. Messi has scored 71 goals and provided 42 assists in 141 games for Argentina, whereas Ronaldo has found the back of the net 102 times and assisted 31 goals in 168 games for Portugal.

Again, Ronaldo has played two seasons more compared to the Argentine so this can’t be called purely on the basis of the goal scoring statistics. We need to take into account the impact they’ve had with their respective teams.

In all honesty and not discrediting Ronaldo’s heroics with Portugal, Messi practically carried his national side to 4 finals, including the World Cup in Brazil. Although he hasn’t been able to carry them all the way in any of them, the sheer difference between an Argentina side without him and with him is huge and well known. Ronaldo’s best achievement with Portugal was winning the Euros in 2016.

In conclusion, winning an international competition is what Ronaldo has in his favor, but Mario Gotze not scoring on THAT night in Rio De Janeiro would have made this look a lot different. There is no doubt about Ronaldo’s record with Portugal, but it would be seriously unfair to not appreciate what Messi has been doing for an out-of-sorts Argentina side for more than a decade. Some would argue there is no debate about who the winner should be in this case but, in my opinion, it’s a tie.


When they played in La Liga together (2009-2018)

La Liga 2017-18 - Real Madrid vs FC Barcelona Photo by Power Sport Images/Getty Images

They played together in Spain for 9 seasons. Messi scored 329 goals to Ronaldo’s 311. In assists, he beat the Portuguese star by a bigger margin of 122 to 86.

Also, Messi won 6 La Liga titles in those 9 seasons while Ronaldo won 2. I don’t buy the argument from Ronaldo fans that Messi was surrounded by better players; Ronaldo’s teammates at Real Madrid weren’t mediocre by any stretch. We used the impact in the tournament and the number of trophies won to separate these two in UCL; same applies to La Liga with a different winner.


Silverware

Illustrations from Santiago Bernabeu Stadium Photo by Oscar J. Barroso / AFP7 / Europa Press Sports via Getty Images

At the club level, Messi outshines Ronaldo by lifting 34 trophies to 27 for the Portuguese talisman. On the international stage, Ronaldo has won 2 while Messi hasn’t won anything except an Olympic gold medal in 2008.

So, in terms of the numbers, Messi looks better, but Ronaldo has had international success as well as has won titles in three different leagues. It’s hard to call a winner here, but I think Ronaldo edges this one for me due to the fact that he has tasted success everywhere he has played. Nobody doubts Messi would be able to do the same, but for now, this is Ronaldo’s advantage.


Individual awards

FBL-FIFA-BALLONDOR-PRESSER Photo credit should read OLIVIER MORIN/AFP via Getty Images

Individual accolades is something both of them have absolutely dominated for more than a decade. The numbers are as tight as they can get when it comes to achievements in this category. Messi has won a total of 36 individual awards in his career while Ronaldo sits a bit behind at 32.

The thing to note here is that Messi has outscored Ronaldo 6 to 5 in terms of the Ballon d’Or which is considered as the biggest individual prize in the game. Also, he has won a World Cup golden ball and the European golden shoe on 6 occasions to Ronaldo’s 4. These factors certainly shift this category into Messi’s column, plus he has time on his side, having played two seasons fewer than Ronaldo.


Who’s more of a joy to watch?

Soccer - International Friendly - Argentina v Portugal - Old Trafford

Now, this is where I think a lot of people will agree with me. There is no question about how important goals, assists, trophies and awards are in the game of football, and they sure play a big role in shaping the legacy of a player, but something that is overlooked whenever we talk about these two is how they make the fans feel watching them.

I have been watching both of them for eight seasons, and yes, Ronaldo is a tremendous goal scorer and a talent we might never see again. However, even some Ronaldo fans will agree with me when I say that the joy Messi brings when he dribbles past players, makes those out-of-this-world diagonal passes, and creates goals out of nothing is unmatched and unprecedented. Goals and records will be a part of this discussion for eternity, but what will be equally important is those moments when you can’t help but get off your seat in appreciation and admiration.

I don’t mean to disrespect what Ronaldo does on the field; I absolutely love watching him. In fact, since he moved to Turin, I have been closely following Serie-A purely to witness him weave his magic on the pitch. But in my opinion, Messi is superior in this aspect, so as amazing as Ronaldo is, most neutrals would agree that Messi puts more beauty into the beautiful game more often.


Conclusion

So, I have presented eight compelling factors to try to sort these two stars, and I am sure there must be other ones as well, but I think these give us a pretty good idea who’s better purely on the basis of statistics and achievements.

According to me, Messi beats Ronaldo with a tie in the international stage category. But, what I would like to mention here is that the Argentine is not a runaway winner. It’s as close and tight as can be, and I am sure I’ll get some stick for my conclusion, but this is my thinking and my conclusion. You could have a different opinion, and that’s totally fine; our platform always welcomes healthy and constructive discussion in the comments section.

Lastly, we’ve been extremely fortunate to witness these two legends play the game of football, and it’s always fun to discuss who’s better, but I think we should just enjoy them fully until they retire. Everyone will have a different take on this, but please remain respectful towards one another in trying to prove your points. At the end of the day we’re all on the same team, the team of football.

Cheers,

Prakhar


Whom do you think better? Which other deciding factor do you think should be a part of the discussion above? What made you lean one way or the other? Please let us know in the comments below!

Poll

Whom do you think is the best active player in the World?

This poll is closed

  • 31%
    Messi
    (19 votes)
  • 65%
    Ronaldo
    (40 votes)
  • 3%
    Someone else entirely [and you better offer a most erudite explanation in the comments :) ]
    (2 votes)
61 votes total Vote Now

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