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Can the debate over who's better between Messi and Ronaldo ACTUALLY be settled?

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Roar Rookie
23rd February, 2024

Now that the two greatest football players in history (yes, I said it) are in the zombie stages of their careers, we can begin to make the final assessments.

Yes, neither Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo have retired yet, but anything either player achieves in the MLS or Saudi Pro League will be the sprinkles on top of the icing on the most glorious cakes ever baked.

There are a few ways that I want to compare the two and break it down below to see if one was better than the other.

The personality factor

This is an important disclaimer of sorts. Too often in this debate, personality is used as a factor.

The generic argument the Messi crowd will make is that he is humble, while Ronaldo is arrogant, making the Argentinian a better role model.

On the other hand, the Ronaldo people point to his confidence and self-belief; the determination he has to prove everyone wrong, which he has done over and over again throughout his career.


Messi is the player a dad teaches his son to be, Ronaldo is the masculine force every dad secretly wishes he was.

I want to make this abundantly clear: none of this is relevant at all. These factors determine who you like more, not who is actually better.

It echoes the endless, and now pointless, debate around the Big three in tennis: “But Federer and Nadal are classier” than Djokovic, they say.

Funnily enough, the Grand Slam count used to be relevant to such people, but not so much now that Djokovic is in front.

So, I don’t care who you like more, I care who is actually better.

CHISINAU, MOLDOVA - SEPTEMBER 15: Cristiano Ronaldo of Manchester United celebrates after scoring their team's second goal from the penalty spot during the UEFA Europa League group E match between Sheriff Tiraspol and Manchester United at Stadionul Sheriff on September 15, 2022 in Tiraspol, Moldova. (Photo by Oleg Bilsagaev/Getty Images)

(Photo by Oleg Bilsagaev/Getty Images)

Let’s look at the facts


At the time of publishing, Ronaldo has scored 875 goals in 1206 appearances, while Messi has scored 821 goals in 1047.

It’s taken an average of 112 minutes per goal for Ronaldo, and 105 for Messi. But here’s the kicker: Messi has 361 assists to Ronaldo’s 249.

“SUCCESS!” I hear all the Messi fans say. Well, not so fast…

Ronaldo played at the highest level until he was slightly older than Messi was when he left Europe. So it makes sense that Ronaldo’s averages would be slightly down.

Yes, Ronaldo has perhaps padded his stats slightly in Saudi Arabia, but he also never had the benefit of playing for a team so absurdly dominant as PSG are in France. “But Messi didn’t even score that many goals for PSG!”

Yes, but whose fault is that?



Things get even more complicated on this front. Messi is comfortably ahead on the league front, with 12 to Ronaldo’s seven.

But Ronaldo has won all of the EPL, La Liga and Serie A – probably the three best leagues in the world – on multiple occasions. Messi’s pile of La Liga crowns are subsidised by two Ligue 1 titles for PSG – so, Messi’s way, but only slightly.

In the Champions League, Ronaldo has five, one ahead of Messi on four. Ronaldo has done it in two countries, and was crucial to all five crowns.

Messi was very young in 2005/06 for the first of his titles, and was good, but not incredible. Ronaldo’s way, slightly.

The World Cup trophy was a definitive point for many Messi fans. The final proof. Yes, Messi was magnificent, but was he as good in Qatar as Ronaldo at the 2016 Euros, when he basically took Portugal to the final by himself?

I don’t think so. It’s also worth noting Argentina are inherently more likely to win a World Cup than Portugal at any given time in history.

Ronaldo also has 128 international goals to his name, to Messi’s 106; not bad for two guys who have often been criticised for their international performances.


Advantage Messi for the trophy, advantage Ronaldo for the performance. A pattern is emerging here.

(Photo by Visionhaus/Getty Images)

Style and quality

We’re getting closer to the personal preferences here, but it is still important.

Messi is without doubt, the superior dribbler and passer. Messi is probably the greatest player in history with the ball at his feet. Ronaldo, on the other hand, is the most freakish.

We’ll never see another player who can score that overhead goal against Juventus without it being a surprise. No player can contribute little and then rip a game away from an opponent quite like Ronaldo.

If Messi is the conductor of the orchestra, Ronaldo is a trumpet player whose vibrant solo you can’t get out of your head.


Messi’s Barcelona career is better than any individual career at a single club ever. Ronaldo is a legend at three massive clubs: Manchester United, Real Madrid and Juventus.

Messi has the ball glued to his foot. Ronaldo can score a header 2.93 metres above the ground.

Messi is kind. Ronaldo is confident.

For every compelling stat that favours one, there is an equally compelling stat that favours the other. Their styles are different, but the impact is inseparable.

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This isn’t sitting on the fence. Both are equally good.


The only way to separate them is preference for personality or style. Neither of those things indicate how good they are, simply who you like more.

Debate settled. Now we can all move on.