Cristiano Ronaldo v Lionel Messi – 7 Criteria to Judge Who Is The Greatest

By Ian John
June 24, 2024
Cristiano Ronaldo Lionel Messi

With the Copa America 2024 and European Championships 2024 key sporting events this summer, both Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi will be amongst the top stars at the tournaments.

Throughout their careers, they have been endlessly compared and contrasted. Cristiano Ronaldo plied his trade for many years at Real Madrid, Lionel Messi was at Barcelona. Both have scored ridiculous amounts of goals and won almost every award it is possible to win.

Yet, the question remains: Who truly reigns supreme? The debate over the greatest footballer of our time, Cristiano Ronaldo or Lionel Messi, continues to captivate and divide fans.

In this article, we intend to compare the two superstars across seven key criteria. With the aim of making a valued judgement on who is, definitively, the best.

Remember, bet365 Sport offers extensive betting on Argentina (Lionel Messi) and Portugal (Cristiano Ronaldo) for their respective tournaments this summer.

Let’s now see if we can settle the age-old debate of who is the greatest? Cristiano Ronaldo or Lionel Messi?

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Cristiano Ronaldo v Lionel Messi – Who Is The Greatest?

The debate will be judged on seven key criteria:

  1. Tale of the Tape
  2. Club Football Data
  3. Club Football Honours
  4. International Football Data
  5. International Football Honours
  6. Personal Honours
  7. Head-to-Head Performances

This post aims to look solely at the data, without opinion, initially. Then when we have digested the story of what the data tells us, we can offer a view on whether it is Cristiano Ronaldo or Lionel Messi that is really the best.

Cristiano Ronaldo v Lionel Messi – Tale of the Tape

Cristiano Ronaldo Lionel Messi
Cristiano RonaldoCategoryLionel Messi
39Age36
5th February 1985Date of Birth24th June 1987
Funchal, Madeira, PortugalPlace of BirthRosario, Argentina
1.87cm (6ft 2”)Height170cm (5ft 7”)
7Number (Preferred)10
RightPreferred FootLeft
Sporting Lisbon, Man Utd (x2), Real Madrid, Juventus, Al NassrClubs Played ForBarcelona, Paris St. Germain, Inter Miami
Portugal, England, Spain, Italy, Saudi ArabiaCountries Played InSpain, France, United States
Al NassrCurrent ClubInter Miami
£14.75m per month*Estimated* Salary£4m per month*

Cristiano Ronaldo v Lionel Messi – Club Data

Cristiano RonaldoClub DataLionel Messi
5Clubs Played For3
14th August 2002Pro Debut16th November 2003
17Age at Debut16
1021Club Appearances914
765Club Goals740
438La Liga Apps520
450La Liga Goals474
346Premier Lge Apps0
145Premier Lge Goals0
0Ligue 1 Apps58
0Ligue 1 Goals22
31Portuguese Lge Apps0
5Portuguese Lge Goals0
134Serie A Apps0
101Serie A Goals0
0MLS Apps18
0MLS Goals13
70Saudi Pro Lge Apps0
64Saudi Pro Lge Goals0
204Continental Cup Apps166
149Continental Goals131
88Domestic Cup Apps83
48Domestic Cup Goals56
29Other Club Apps37
21Other Club Goals33
£209,000,000Cumulative Transfer Fees£0

Cristiano Ronaldo v Lionel Messi – Club Honours

Cristiano RonaldoClub HonoursLionel Messi
4World Club Champs3
5Champions League4
2Other Continental Wins3
2La Liga Titles10
5Other League Titles2
9Domestic Cup Wins15
4Countries title won in2
3Countries Cup won in3

Cristiano Ronaldo v Lionel Messi – International Data

Cristiano RonaldoInternational DataLionel Messi
PortugalCountryArgentina
24U15 to U23 Apps23
14U15 to U23 Goals16
10U21 Apps0
3U21 Goals0
20th August 2003 (v Kazakhstan)Full Int Debut17th August 2005 (v Hungary)
18Age at Debut18
207Full Caps*182
130International Goals*108
47World Cup Qual App64
36World Cup Qual Gls31
22FIFA World Cup Apps26
8FIFA World Cup Goals13
44Eur/Cop Quals Apps0
41Eur/Cop Quals Gls0
25Euro/Copa Am Apps*34
14Euro/Copa Am Gls*13
1Other Int Tourn Apps15
0Other Int Tourn Goals9

*These numbers were correct ahead of the start of Euro 2024 and the Copa America 2024.

Cristiano Ronaldo v Lionel Messi – International Honours

Cristiano RonaldoInternational HonoursLionel Messi
0FIFA World Cup Wins1 (2022)
1 (2016)Euro/Copa Am Wins1 (2021)
0Confed. Cup Wins0
1 (2017)Nations League Wins0
0World Youth Champs1 (2005)
0Olympic Gold1 (2008)
0Conmebol/UEFA Cup1 (2022)

Cristiano Ronaldo v Lionel Messi – Personal Honours

Cristiano RonaldoPersonal HonoursLionel Messi
5Ballon d’Or8
3FIFA World Player of the Year8
4European Golden Shoe6
0FIFA World Cup Golden Ball2
0FIFA World Cup Silver Boot1
1FIFA Club World Cup Golden Ball2
0FIFA Club World Cup Golden Boot0
1FIFA Puskas Award0
7UEFA Champs Lge Top Scorer6
0Euro/Copa Am Best Player2
1Eur/Copa Am Top Goalscorer1
1La Liga Player of the Year9
3Pichichi Trophy (Top Goalscorer)8
4Other League Player of the Year0
3Other League Top Goalscorer0
0Laureus World Sportsman of Year2
15FIFA FIFPRO World 11 First XI17
8National Sportsperson of the Year4
5National Footballer of the Year16
1FIFA Award for Outstanding Career0
4Civilian Honours & Awards1

Cristiano Ronaldo v Lionel Messi – Head-to-Head Performances

Here’s how the two compare in head-to-head stats in games where they have played against each other.

StatisticCristiano RonaldoLionel Messi
Total Matches Played3636
Club Matches Played3434
Matches Won1117
Matches Drawn88
Matches Lost1711
International Matches Played22
Total Goals Scored2122
International Goals Scored11
Total Assists112
Goals Per Game Average0.580.61
Minutes Per Goal143142.7
Minutes Per Goal Contribution136.592.4
Number of Hat-tricks01
Free Kicks Scored02
Penalties Scored67
Headed Goals12

The Final Comparisons

Let’s now draw together all the key data into a final table to compare these two footballing legends.

StatisticCristiano RonaldoLionel Messi
Total Club Matches Played1021914
Total Club Goals765740
Club Goals Per Game0.750.81
Total Internationals Played207182
Total International Goals130108
Int Goals Per Game0.630.59
International Trophies Won24
League Titles Won712
Domestic Cups Won1317
Continental Cups Won1110
Leading Goalscorer Titles68
Player of the Year Titles59
Ballon d’Or Titles58
FIFA World Cup Golden Ball02
National Player of the Year516

What this data tells us is that both Ronaldo and Messi are far and away the best players of their generation.

In terms of pure appearance and goals data, Ronaldo has the edge, but he is also three years older than Messi.

However, in terms of trophies and personal awards, Messi has won far more in his career at club and international level.

Ronaldo is the embodiment of what hard work, dedication allied to supreme physical attributes and conditioning can achieve for a naturally gifted footballer.

But the difference between the two is so small and it boils down to one thing. Ronaldo is a supreme generational talent rarely seen in the history of football.

But Lionel Messi is a genius. That is the sole difference, and it is why Messi is the better of the two players.

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