Who is the GOAT in Football

A serious discussion point on five-a-side pitches and barstools across the world, the issue of which player is the greatest of all time persists

The question of who is better between the Portuguese phenomenon and the empyrean Argentine has dominated the minds of football fans everywhere for the past decade and will persist into the future.

Club and national loyalties can cloud judgement on the matter, while personalities also play a part 

Ronaldo has scored more club goals than Messi, but only just and it should be noted that the Juventus star benefits from having played two more seasons than his Argentine nemesis thus far.

Each of them has remarkably netted over 630 club goals in their career so far, with the five seasons between 2009-10 and 2014-15 proving particularly golden as they pushed each other to greater heights.

While Ronaldo currently has more goals overall, Messi has the edge in the scoring department, with a higher season average (40 to 35), having hit a high of 73 goals in 2011-12.

Ronaldo’s highest season return was 61, which he achieved in 2014-15 and he surpassed the 50-goal mark every season for six years between 2010-11 and 2015-16.

Interestingly, while Ronaldo’s seasonal totals have declined somewhat in recent years – he failed to break the 30-goal mark in 2018-19 during his first season at Juventus – Messi’s have remained consistent.

Cristiano Ronaldo vs Lionel Messi: Club assists

Cristiano RonaldoSeasonLionel Messi
72009-1011
162010-1121
152011-1229
122012-1314
142013-1411
212014-1527
152015-1623
112016-1716
82017-1818
102018-1919
52019-20*25

*2019-20 season in progress

When it comes to assists, Messi is much superior to Ronaldo and that contrast has become increasingly stark as their respective roles evolve.

The fact that Messi creates so many goals as well as scoring them is a major consideration when deciding which player is the GOAT and, while Ronaldo chips in with his fair share, the difference in this particular realm is clear.

Cristiano Ronaldo vs Lionel Messi: Champions League stats

Cristiano RonaldoChampions League statLionel Messi
169Appearances141
128Goals114
0.76Goals per game0.81

Ronaldo is the all-time leading goalscorer in the Champions League, having shone in the competition with Manchester United and Real Madrid in particular.

However, Messi isn’t far behind and actually has a fractionally better goal-per-game ratio, so there is a good chance that he could overtake the Juventus man if he continues to sparkle for Barca in the competition .

Cristiano Ronaldo vs Lionel Messi: World Cup stats

Cristiano RonaldoWorld Cup statLionel Messi
17Appearances19
7Goals6
0.4Goals per game0.3

When it comes to World Cups, Ronaldo and Messi are considered underperformers and probably with good reason.

Portugal star Ronaldo has scored more goals at the tournament and in fewer appearances, but Messi can claim to have gone furthest, having reached the final with Argentina in 2014. The Barca attacker won the Golden Ball during that tournament, despite missing out on the ultimate glory at the hands of Germany.

The furthest Ronaldo reached with Portugal was the Selecao’s run to the semi-final in 2006, when they were beaten by France before losing the third-place play-off against Germany.

Cristiano Ronaldo vs Lionel Messi: International stats

Cristiano RonaldoStatLionel Messi
164International caps138
99International goals70
0.6Goals per game0.5

Ronaldo and Messi have similar records at international level, though Ronaldo boasts greater numbers, partly because his senior Portugal career kicked off two years before Messi’s with Argentina.

Ronaldo is closing in on Ali Daei’s record of 109 international goals and could conceivably become the top international goalscorer of all time before he hangs up his boots.

Messi is a long way behind Ronaldo in that respect, though he is by some distance Argentina’s top goalscorer of all time, surpassing Gabriel Batistuta.

Cristiano Ronaldo vs Lionel Messi: Titles

Cristiano RonaldoCompetitionLionel Messi
0World Cup0
1European Championship / Copa America0
0Olympics1
6League titles10
5Champions League4
4Club World Cup3
3National Cups*6

*National Cups refers to the main national cup competition in a country only, e.g. the FA CupCopa del Rey etc.

Messi and Ronaldo have very similar trophy hauls, but Messi edges things when it comes to league titles, having won La Liga 10 times with Barcelona. Ronaldo has six league titles, but unlike Messi, he can claim to have won the league in three different countries (EnglandSpain and Italy) – something that increases his claim to the GOAT crown in the eyes of some.

Ronaldo has an edge over Messi in the Champions League, his love affair with the competition earning him the moniker ‘Mr Champions League’. The former Manchester United star has also enjoyed notable success on the international stage, winning the European Championship and the UEFA Nations League.

Messi, on the other hand, has endured considerable heartache with Argentina, with four unsuccessful Copa America campaigns, three of which saw them lose in the final. While neither has won the World Cup, Messi has an Olympic gold medal.

Cristiano Ronaldo vs Lionel Messi: Individual awards

Cristiano RonaldoAwardLionel Messi
5Ballon d’Or6
2The Best FIFA Men’s Player1
4European Golden Shoe6
0World Cup Golden Ball1
4UEFA Player of the Year3
13FIFPro World XI13
4Player of the Year (league)6

The individual battle between Ronaldo and Messi has been the defining feature of modern football for the past decade and more.

Messi went ahead of Ronaldo in the Ballon d’Or stakes when he won his sixth in 2019 and it looks likely that he will stay ahead, with the 2020 award cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic, meaning the next chance Ronaldo has of winning is 2021, by which point he will be nearly 37.

Ronaldo does boast more of FIFA’s new ‘The Best’ awards and has been crowned UEFA Player of the Year on more occasions, but Messi has won more league Player of the Year accolades. Of course, it must be said that Ronaldo has won the Player of the Year award in England, Spain and Italy.

Messi has got his hands on the European Golden Shoe a record six times, which is two more than Ronaldo, and is marginally ahead of his rival overall, but the fact that both have been on the FIFPro World XI 13 times is an illustration of how closely fought the battle has been.You May Like

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