Lionel Messi vs Cristiano Ronaldo is without doubt one of the greatest football rivalries of all time.
Although both players may now be approaching the end of their playing careers, the pair have raised the bar with their numbers in front of goal.
But who is better, Messi or Ronaldo? Although there will never be a definitive answer to that question, in this article, we’re going to take a detailed look at how both players have performed during their careers and assess what the numbers say.
Both players enjoyed the most successful spells of their career playing in Spain, so we’re going to be paying particularly close attention to those years, when Messi was lining up for FC Barcelona and Ronaldo was at Real Madrid.
So, with the introductions out of the way, let’s begin taking a look at Messi vs Ronaldo.
Introduction And Background
Born in Rosario, Argentina in June 1987, Lionel Messi is widely regarded as one of the greatest footballers of all time.
As well as being FC Barcelona’s all-time top goal-scorer, Messi has scored more than 750 goals in all competitions for club and country. The Argentine had spent his entire senior career at FC Barcelona before leaving the Spanish club to join Paris Saint-Germain in 2021.
His successes at club level have also brought him plenty of individual accolades. Messi has won a record seven Ballon d’Or awards and lifted 35 trophies during his time with FC Barcelona.
On the international stage, Messi is seen as one of Argentina’s best ever players and he helped them to win the Copa America in 2021.
Lionel Messi (Photo: Adidas / Handout)
A rival of Messi’s for most of his career, Cristiano Ronaldo was born in Madeira in February 1995. He began his senior career at Sporting Lisbon before moving to Manchester United in 2003. He spent six years at Old Trafford, before joining Real Madrid in the summer of 2009, where he would enjoy the most fruitful seasons of his career.
Along with Messi, Ronaldo is widely considered to be one of world football’s greatest ever players. He is Real Madrid’s all-time top goal-scorer, having netted 450 goals for the Spanish club, and he has won five Ballon d’Ors.
As well as his triumphs with Real Madrid and Manchester United, Ronaldo also tasted success on the international stage with Portugal, when he helped them to win Euro 2016 and then the Uefa Nations League in 2018-19.
So, quite clearly both Messi and Ronaldo are two of football’s greatest ever players. They’ve both enjoyed incredible success with their clubs over the years, with Messi having spent most of his career at FC Barcelona and Ronaldo having blossomed during his time at Real Madrid.
Cristiano Ronaldo (Photo: Vasilis Ververidis / depositphotos.com)
Messi vs Ronaldo – League Form
It’s now time to take a look at how both Messi and Ronaldo have performed in the league for their clubs in recent seasons. In this section, we’re going to look at the pair’s numbers during their headline years in La Liga with FC Barcelona and Real Madrid.
During his spell at FC Barcelona, Messi’s most fruitful season in front of goal in La Liga came in the 2011-12 campaign, when he scored a remarkable 50 goals in the Spanish top flight, while also making 16 assists for his team-mates. That season, he started 36 of Barca’s 38 La Liga games, making one further appearance from the bench.
In terms of goals, Ronaldo’s most successful season in La Liga with Real Madrid came in 2014-15 campaign, when he netted 48 goals and made 16 assists in a total of 35 games in the Spanish top flight.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Messi scored more goals (474) than Ronaldo (311) in La Liga, but this is mainly due to the fact that the Argentine played in the division for eight seasons more than his Portuguese counterpart.
Cristiano Ronaldo (Photo: MUTV)
Although it won’t ever be possible to make a direct comparison, we can take a look at how the pair’s figures stack up during the seasons they were both playing in La Liga, from 2009-10 to 2017-18 inclusive.
Between 2009-10 and 2017-18 Ronaldo scored a total of 311 goals in 292 games for Real Madrid in La Liga. In the same period, Messi netted 329 goals in 309 games for FC Barcelona in the Spanish top flight.
So, although Messi scored more goals than Ronaldo during this period, the Portuguese superstar played fewer games than his Argentine counterpart.
Remarkably, the two players share an incredibly similar goals-per-game ratio in La Liga between 2009-10 and 2017-18. Messi scored 1.06472 goals per game during that time, while Ronaldo just comes out on top with a ratio of 1.06506 goals per game.
So, what about league titles won during that time? Messi comfortably wins that duel. The Argentine won six La Liga titles between 2009-10 and 2017-18 with FC Barcelona. In the same period, Ronaldo only claimed two Spanish top flight crowns. In total, Messi won 10 La Liga titles with FC Barcelona, with Ronaldo winning the trophy twice with Real Madrid.
In summary, although there are many variables that make it difficult to precisely compare their league form for their clubs, both Ronaldo and Messi scored very similar numbers of league goals during the time they were both playing in Spain. Ronaldo just shades the goals-per-game ratio in La Liga during his time in Spain, but Messi scored more goals overall and has won more league titles.
Lionel Messi (Photo: Adidas / Handout)
What About In Europe?
Let’s now take a look at Messi and Ronaldo’s form in the Champions League.
Before looking at their form in front of goal in Europe, let’s take a look at how many titles they’ve won. Correct as at the time of writing, Ronaldo has won five Champions League titles (one with Manchester United and four with Real Madrid). In comparison, Messi has won four Champions League titles, all with FC Barcelona.
Lionel Messi’s most fruitful season in front of goal in the Champions League with FC Barcelona came in 2011-12 campaign, when he scored 14 goals and made five assists in 11 games for his club.
Cristiano Ronaldo’s most successful season in front of goal in the Champions League with Real Madrid came in the 2013-14 season, when he scored an astonishing 17 goals and made four assists in 11 Champions League games, helping them to win the trophy that term.
In total, Messi scored a remarkable 120 goals in 149 games for FC Barcelona in Europe. Meanwhile, Ronaldo netted 105 goals in 101 games for Real Madrid during his time in Spain.
Ronaldo’s goals-per-game ratio in Europe for Real Madrid is better than Messi’s, with the Portugal star netting 1.039 goals per game in the Champions League, compared to the Argentine’s 0.805.
Cristiano Ronaldo (Photo: Maciej Rogowski / depositphotos.com)
Messi was the second player in history to reach 100 Champions League goals, with Ronaldo being the first. Correct as of the time of writing, Messi has been the top-scorer, or joint top-scorer, in the Champions League in six seasons – one fewer than Ronaldo has managed.
During their entire careers with all clubs, and correct as of the time of writing, Messi has scored 125 goals from 157 games in the Champions League, behind Ronaldo, who has netted 141 goals in 189 games.
So, it’s fair to say that both players have pretty incredible records in the Champions League. Overall, Ronaldo has scored more goals in the competition and has won one more title than Messi.
FC Barcelona star Lionel Messi (Photo: Lionel Messi / Instagram)
Messi vs Ronaldo – Head To Head In Front Of Goal
Let’s now take a look at how Messi and Ronaldo have performed in front of goal in recent seasons. Because both players enjoyed the best years of their careers in Spain, we’re only going to be looking at the period they were both playing for either FC Barcelona or Real Madrid, between 2009-10 and 2017-18.
The numbers below show total club goals scored and assists made during those campaigns. Note that assist numbers only include league and European games.
Messi – 47 goals and 10 assists
Ronaldo – 33 goals and 7 assists
Messi – 53 goals and 21 assists
Ronaldo – 53 goals and 15 assists
Messi – 73 goals and 21 assists
Ronaldo – 60 goals and 15 assists
Messi – 60 goals and 14 assists
Ronaldo – 55 goals and 11 assists
Messi – 41 goals and 11 assists
Ronaldo – 51 goals and 13 assists
Messi – 58 goals and 23 assists
Ronaldo – 61 goals and 19 assists
Messi – 41 goals and 17 assists
Ronaldo – 51 goals and 15 assists
Messi – 54 goals and 11 assists
Ronaldo – 42 goals and 11 assists
Messi – 45 goals and 14 assists
Ronaldo – 44 goals and 8 assists
Messi – 472 goals and 142 assists
Ronaldo – 450 goals and 114 assists
So, during the period that both players were active in Spain, Messi both scored more goals and made more assists than Ronaldo. Of course, the numbers vary when taking the other years of their careers into account, so it’s best not to draw too many conclusions from the total figure shown above.
(Photo: @cristiano / Instagram)
How Many Trophies Have Messi And Ronaldo Won?
Let’s now take a look at the number of major trophies both players have won during their careers with all of the clubs they have played for. The numbers below were correct as of the time of writing and do not include domestic or European super cups or club world cups.
Lionel Messi career club trophies:
10 La Liga titles
7 Copa Del Rey titles
4 Champions League titles
1 Ligue 1 title
Total career league titles: 11
Cristiano Ronaldo career club trophies:
2 La Liga titles
2 Copa Del Rey titles
5 Champions League titles
3 Premier League titles
2 Serie A titles
2 English League Cup titles
1 FA Cup title
1 Coppa Italia title
Total career league titles: 7
So, at the time of writing, Messi is just ahead of Ronaldo in terms of total league title won with all clubs during his career. That being said, Ronaldo has enjoyed more success in more leagues than his counterpart, having claimed league titles in three different countries at the time of writing.
Cristiano Ronaldo (Photo: Oleksandr Prykhodko / depositphotos.com)
How Many Ballon d’Ors Have Messi And Ronaldo Won?
Both players have been regular finalists in the running for the prestigious Ballon d’Or award during their careers.
However, it’s Lionel Messi who leads the way here. Messi has won a record seven Ballon d’Ors (in 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2015, 2019 and 2021), compared to Cristiano Ronaldo’s five (in 2008, 2013, 2014, 2016 and 2017).
What About Their International Careers?
Both Messi and Ronaldo captain their countries and have enjoyed impressive international careers.
Messi made his senior international debut for Argentina back in 2005 and had scored 86 goals in 162 games (0.53 goals per game) for his country at the time of writing.
Ronaldo made his senior international debut for Portugal in 2003 and had scored 117 goals in 189 games (0.62 goals per game) for his country at the time of writing.
As of the time of writing, Ronaldo has won the Uefa Nations League with Portugal in 2018-19, as well as winning Euro 2016 with his country. Messi won the Copa America with Argentina in 2021.
Lionel Messi (Photo: Vasilis Ververidis / depositphotos.com)
How Old Are Messi and Ronaldo?
Ronaldo is the older of the two players, with Messi being just over two years younger than his rival.
Cristiano Ronaldo was born on 5 February 1985 in Madeira, Portugal, and is currently 37 years old.
Lionel Messi was born on 24 June 1987 in Rosario, Argentina, and is currently 35 years old.
How Tall Are Messi and Ronaldo?
Ronaldo is the taller of the pair by quite a distance. The Portugal international is 187cm or 6ft 2ins tall, while Messi is 170cm or 5ft 7ins tall.
Lionel Messi vs Cristiano Ronaldo – In Conclusion
So, that brings us to the end of our look at Messi vs Ronaldo. We’ve walked you through some of the key numbers to know about both players, paying particularly close attention to their spells in Spain together.
With football being a team game, it’s impossible to accurately compare how two players have performed, but there can be no arguing that Messi and Ronaldo are two of the most talented and successful footballers the world has ever seen.
Source: Sport Review