There is certainly no doubt that Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo are the two greatest footballers of the first quarter of the 21st century. But who is better when pitted against each other and how do their stats compare? When it comes to Messi vs Ronaldo, the debate over who’s better has been going on for two decades and may have just come to a close at the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar.
Before we dive into the statistics to try to find an answer, it is important to note that even FIFA now apparently considers the debate to be over with Messi leading Argentina to its third World Cup championship.
“The GOAT debate is settled. The ultimate prize is now part of the collection. The legacy is complete,” read a tweet posted by FIFA, with a picture of Messi holding the World Cup in one hand and his fifth Player of the Match award in the tournament after the final against France.
The tweet later appeared to have been deleted, but a version of it was also shared by Budweiser, the official sponsor of the Player of the Match award.
🐐 The GOAT debate is settled. The ultimate prize is now part of the collection. The legacy is complete.
— Budweiser UK (@BudweiserUK) December 18, 2022
Messi has done what Ronaldo couldn’t. While both players have won every major trophy for club and country, the only prize missing from their cabinet was the FIFA World Cup. Messi now has that while Ronaldo’s dreams came crashing down as Portugal was knocked out by a spirited Morocco in the quarter-finals of the tournament in Qatar.
Indeed, the FIFA World Cup is what appears to have made the difference between the respective greatness of Messi and Ronaldo. However, statistics do help get a much clearer picture, and this is where the Messi vs Ronaldo debate gets intense.
— 1хBet (@1xBet_Eng) December 19, 2022
As far as wealth is concerned, Messi is ahead of Ronaldo.
The Argentine was named the richest athlete in the world in 2022, as per Forbes. According to the publication, Lionel Messi’s net worth includes an estimated USD 130 million in pre-tax earnings in 2022.
On the other hand, the Portuguese legend is the third-richest athlete in the world on Forbes’ 2022 list. Cristiano Ronaldo’s net worth includes earnings of USD 115 million.
Both Messi and Ronaldo are billionaire athletes by net worth, but the latter reached the mark first when he became the first sportsperson from a team sport to go past the USD 1 billion mark in 2020.
Cristiano Ronaldo vs Lionel Messi stats and rankings
The championships at club level
Messi and Ronaldo have both won multiple championships with their respective clubs.
Messi won 10 La Liga titles, seven Copa del Rey titles, three UEFA Super Cup titles, three FIFA Club World Cup trophies and four UEFA Champions League titles for La Liga team FC Barcelona.
It was during his almost 18-year-long career with the Catalan side that Messi also won a record six European Golden Shoe awards.
The Argentine has been playing for French Ligue 1 club Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) since mid-2021. He won the French league in the 2021-22 season and added the Trophée des Champions, also known as French Super Cup, to his cabinet in 2022.
On the other hand, Ronaldo has won seven league cups in three different leagues. He is the first footballer in history to win league cups in the Premier League, the La Liga league and Serie A.
He has also won five UEFA Champions League titles, three UEFA Super Cup championships, four FIFA Club World Cup trophies, one English FA Cup, and one Italian Cup.
He also has two trophies for each of the Spanish Cup, English League Cup, Spanish Super Cup, Italian Super Cup and English Super Cup.
Ronaldo has won the European Golden Shoe award four times — once while he was with Manchester United and three times while at Real Madrid.
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The victories at national level
Ronaldo took an early advantage in the GOAT debate between him and Messi when he captained Portugal to victory in the 2016 Euro Cup. At the time, Messi had not won any major tournament in Argentine colours.
The Portuguese striker backed up the contention of his fans that he is truly the GOAT when he helped the country win the 2019 UEFA Nations League. During this period, Messi was without a major tournament win for Argentina.
Messi tasted his first big success for Argentina when he led the team to the 2021 Copa América title. It was the first major title won by Argentina in 28 years. While Messi, obviously, got all the accolades, the win also helped silence critics of Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni.
Messi then quickly backed up his Copa América success by lifting the Finalissima 2022 trophy for Argentina after defeating Italy 3-0 at England’s Wembley Stadium.
And then came the FIFA World Cup – a tournament in which Messi created several records. He became the first player to win five Player of the Match awards at a single men’s World Cup and the first with more than 10 across editions.
He also won the Golden Ball at the 2022 showpiece, thus becoming the first to win it more than once after being honoured with the award in 2014 when Argentina lost to Germany in the final.
Ronaldo, who was in all likelihood playing his last World Cup, has never won any top prize at the quadrennial showpiece.
Besides the FIFA World Cup, Messi triumphs over Ronaldo with another national achievement — an Olympic gold medal he won for Argentina at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing.
The major individual awards
Other than club trophies and national championships, Messi and Ronaldo share a record 12 Ballon d’Or — football’s biggest individual honour. But Messi has seven of them, while Ronaldo has five.
Yet, Ronaldo has won the Puskas award for best goal in a calendar year out of just two nominations. Messi has not won it despite seven nods.
Messi vs Ronaldo stats: Goals scored
Goals are perhaps the best determiner of the effectiveness of any footballer who plays as a forward or an attacking midfielder. The Messi vs Ronaldo stats show that they have over 1,500 goals between them, which is a phenomenal number in the history of the beautiful game.
Messi is Argentina’s all-time highest goalscorer in World Cups with 13 goals, including the seven he scored at Qatar. He is also the world record holder of most appearances in men’s World Cup history with 26 caps.
Overall, Messi has scored 98 goals for Argentina in 172 games and is the record holder for most international goals by a South American male footballer.
At the club level, Messi holds the record for most goals in La Liga with 474. In total, including clubs and country, Messi has scored 793 goals in 1,003 appearances. He also has 350 assists to his name.
On the other hand, Ronaldo has scored 819 goals in 1,145 appearances for both club and country. The footballer has 234 assists to his name.
Ronaldo is the top goalscorer in men’s international football with 118 goals for Portugal in 196 appearances. At the club level, he is also the all-time top goalscorer for La Liga team Real Madrid with 450 goals. He holds the record for most goals in the UEFA Champions League with 140.
However, Messi holds the Guinness World Record for most goals in a calendar year with 91 in 2012. Ronaldo’s highest in a calendar year is 69 goals.
Messi vs Ronaldo stats: Finer details from goal-scoring data
When the goal-scoring data is broken down into finer points, such as per-minute scoring, Messi apparently takes the lead.
According to messivsronaldo.app, a site dedicated to the statistics of the two giants of world football, Messi has scored a goal every 104 minutes, while Ronaldo has scored every 113 minutes across competitions for club and country in their respective careers.
Messi is very slightly ahead of Ronaldo when it comes to goals per game; the former has recorded 0.79 goals per game, while the latter has 0.72 goals per game.
Messi is ahead of Ronaldo in terms of assists, which means that he has been directly involved in the goals scored by his teammates in clubs and Argentina’s national team than Ronaldo.
He is also way better than Ronaldo when it comes to dribbling and passing. This is not a surprise, since Messi has always been hailed as one of the greatest dribblers of all time since his academy days.
Ronaldo, on the other hand, has produced more goal-scoring opportunities for himself than Messi. While the former has produced a total of 3,447 shots on goal in the leagues and Champions League since the 2009-10 season, Messi has 2,843 shots only. But Messi has better accuracy with 47.63 percent of his shots on target compared to Ronaldo’s 41.14 percent.
When it comes to taking penalties and scoring from headers, Ronaldo has better figures.
Ronaldo has a penalty conversion rate of 83 percent, compared to 78 percent. The former has scored 146 penalties and missed only 29 times whereas the latter has scored 108 penalties and missed 31 times.
It is also known that Ronaldo has a completely different playing style than that of Messi. This style is most evident in the aerial duels, of which Ronaldo has won 737 in the league and Champions League since the 2009-10 season. Messi has won just 114. Similarly, Ronaldo has scored 141 goals from headers in his career, while Messi has found the back of the net with his head on only 26 times.
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So, who is the greatest of the two?
Several football pundits, current and former players have now said that the debate is over with Messi winning the FIFA World Cup in his last appearance in the most important tournament of the beautiful game.
Lionel Messi. The Best Ever. 🐐
— Declan Rice (@_DeclanRice) December 18, 2022
— Jamie Carragher (@Carra23) December 18, 2022
For those who know football know that tonights result didn’t determine whether Messi was the best player ever or not. But yet I’m so happy he did for the people who thought he needed it so now there’s no debate. 🐐 #Messi𓃵
— James Maddison (@Madders10) December 18, 2022
Messi certainly has now won everything that football can offer. However, it is also clear that Ronaldo is a gift to the game like no other. The Portugal great’s goals outshine everyone past or present. That’s in itself a statistic that Messi might never be able to match, given that Ronaldo is still playing even though he is 37 years old.
(Main and Featured images: Cristiano Ronaldo/@cristiano/Instagram)
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Answer: Messi can be called "better" than Ronaldo only because the former has added the FIFA World Cup to his collection. In terms of goals scored, Ronaldo is the clear leader.
Answer: Ronaldo has scored only three goals out of 16 matches he has played at the club level in 2022-23 season.
Answer: Yes, at least in the eyes of several pundits as well as past and present footballers. But fans of Ronaldo might think otherwise.
Answer: Neither Messi nor Ronaldo is counted as the best footballer player as of now by FIFA. Robert Lewandowski of Poland national team and Barcelona was named The Best FIFA Men's Player of 2022.