Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo

This is the one football question on everyone’s lips throughout the world – who is better, Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo? Now, before I look over these two massively talented footballers careers, you should note that personally I think its very hard to compare Lionel Messi vs Cristiano Ronaldo. This is because they do not play in the same position. Okay, they may be defined as forwards, and on the teamsheet they may both appear to play in the same position, but they are completely different players so its impossible to compare them fairly – its like comparing chalk and cheese. Now, if Messi and Ronaldo both played as a goalkeeper then okay it would be possible to compare them both, but alas, and thankfully, they don’t play in goal.


Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo

Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo

So, how do you know if Lionel Messi is better than Cristiano Ronaldo? Or vice versa? Unfortunately there isn’t really a method to use to define which player is the best. Perhaps you can look at the goals per game ratio? But then surely you’re missing out on the assists that the player might make as well? Anyway, lets look at both.

Lionel Messi
Age: 24
Height: 1.69metres (5ft 7in)
Position: Forward

Cristiano Ronaldo
Age: 27
Height: 1.86metres (6ft 1in)
Position: Forward


Lionel Messi Goals Per Game Ratio

According to Wikipedia, Lionel Messi has made 321 appearances in his career so far, which includes appearances for Barcelona C, B, and of course Barcelona, as well as Argentina U20, U23 and Argentina. From these appearances Messi has scored 203 goals. This works out as a goal every 1.5 games – so a goal every 135 minutes, or 2 hours and 15 minutes.

Messi’s goals per game ratio (all clubs)
Appearances: 321
Goals: 203
Goals per game ratio: 1.5

Now if we look at the goals per game ratio for his time playing at Barcelona only, where he has undoubtedly been playing his greatest football, it consists of 211 appearances and 162 goals. This gives a goals per game ratio of 1.3, so roughly 20 minutes or so greater than the previous ratio.

Messi’s goals per game ratio (Barcelona)
Appearances: 211
Goals: 162
Goals per game ratio: 1.3

These goals per game ratio’s and figures, and of course this whole article, is only true of the date the article is written, which is May 1st 2012.


Cristiano Ronaldo Goals Per Game Ratio

So now we will move onto Cristiano Ronaldo’s goals per game ratio. Again, according to Wikipedia, Cristiano Ronaldo has made 430 appearances in his career so far at clubs Sporting Lison, Manchester United, Real Madrid and also internationally with Portugal U17, U20, U21, U23 and of course Portugal. From these appearances Ronaldo has scored 239 goals. This works out as a goal every 1.8 games – so a goal every 165 minutes roughly, or 2 hours and 45 minutes.

Ronaldo’s goals per game ratio (all clubs)
Appearances: 430
Goals: 239
Goals per game ratio: 1.8

Now if we look at his goals per game ratio for his time at Manchester United and Real Madrid combined, where arguably he was at his best, it consists of 294 appearances and 193 goals. This gives a goal per game ratio of 1.5, so roughly 30 minutes greater than the previous ratio.

Ronaldo’s goals per game ratio (Real Madrid and Man United)
Appearances: 294
Goals: 193
Goals per game ratio: 1.5

Lionel Messi vs Cristiano Ronaldo – Best Goal Ratio

So, to compare Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo based on their goal ratio, Messi wins. Messi has an overall goals per game ratio of 1.5 whilst Ronaldo has an overall goals per game ratio of 1.8. By this ratio Lionel Messi scores more goals in the time he is on the football pitch compared to Cristiano Ronaldo. But then, does this proove who is a better player? Lets continue and look at the assists of the 2 players.


Cristiano Ronaldo or Lionel Messi

Lionel Messi vs Cristiano Ronaldo – Assists

Unfortunately there isn’t a great deal of data available on the assists of both the player, so I will look back at just this one season of La Liga, the 2011/2012 season which we are currently in.
Messi has played 34 games, scored 43 goals and made 15 assists (according to ESPN).
Ronaldo has played 35 games, scored 43 goals and made 11 assists (according to ESPN).
So, by this logic, Messi has more assists as well as a better goals per game ratio, when analysing just this season.


Lionel Messi vs Cristiano Ronaldo – Left or Right Foot

Lionel Messi is extremely left footed, predominantly scoring using his left side and rarely playing with his right foot although very capable of using it – which really unsettles defenders as Messi is able to turn at any moment with no warning, and with his low centre of gravity as well as ability to use both feet he really is a nightmare to defend against. His left foot however is obviously sublime, he has an amazing touch and loves to “scoop” the ball over advancing goalkeepers when one-on-one, a very delicate and impressive ability.

Meanwhile Cristiano Ronaldo is very right footed but he is very able with his left foot also, and it has to be said that he is more adept at using both feet than Lionel Messi is – Ronaldo seems to be able to strike the bal, pass and dribble using either feet without it being noticable. Ronaldo has scored many many goals using his right foot, from distance, and is a very talented free kick taker as well. Ronaldo would be described as being both-footed although favouring his right, whereas I’d say Messi is more comfortable on his left side.


Lionel Messi vs Cristiano Ronaldo – Free Kicks

Messi has a very different free-kick style to that of Ronaldo’s, again going along with the theme that both players are completely different to each other and really hard to compare fairly. Messi has a more delicate, precise finish, curling the ball with the inside of his left boot into the side-netting of the goal, with sublime technique. Although he probably doesn’t score as many as Ronaldo does from free-kicks, he is still very capable when a free-kick is awarded within 30 yards, preferably just outside the box to the right-hand side of the goal (so he can curl it in to the nearpost).

Ronaldo has a much different technique for his free-kicks, one which many players have tried to imitate, occasionally with devastating effects. Ronaldo loves to blast the ball, striking it in the dead centre at the position of the valve, causing the ball to swerve violently and dip and rise before finding the top corner of the net. Where Messi is delicate and precise, gently stroking the ball into the goal, Ronaldo is pure strength, smashing the ball with the hope of it finding its own way into the goal. For this reason Ronaldo has scored some breath-taking free-kicks in his career, from 40 yards on some occasions. For Ronaldo to take a free-kick in ideal circumstances he would want the foul to be central, or as near as possible, and at least 5-10 yards from the edge of the penalty box. This is to allow the ball to rise above the wall and dip in time, as if the free-kick is too close to the box he will just hit the wall or will blast it high and wide into the crowd.


Lionel Messi vs Cristiano Ronaldo – The Trophy Cabinet

Many people believe that the best way to judge a player is by the trophies that they’ve won in their career. Again, I don’t think its as clearcut as this. What if you were the most loyal man ever, and wanted to stay with one team, through thick and thin? Or what if you were born in a country like Uzbekistan (no offence to anyone from Uzbekistan) – are they ever likely to win the World Cup, no matter how good your ability is? There is more than 1 player in a team after all. Pele once stated that Messi should be compared to him after he’s won the world cup and scored over 1000 goals, but I don’t agree – its easier to win the world cup when you’re brazlian after all.
Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo are both playing at arguably the best teams in the world, and are both playing internationally for nations that are more than capable of doing well, with Argentina and Portugal not miles apart in terms of their ability. Lets look at what each player has won in their careers so far, bearing in mind the 3 year age gap between the two.

Lionel Messi’s Trophy Cabinet
La Liga – 5 times.
Copa del Rey – 1 time.
Spanish supercup – 5 times.
UEFA Champions League – 3 times.
UEFA Super cup – 2 times.
FIFA World Club Cup – 2 times.
FIFA Baloon d’Or – 2 times.
Baloon d’Or – 1 time.
FIFA World Player of the Year – 1 time.
World Soccer Player of the Year – 2 times.

Cristiano Ronaldo’s Trophy Cabinet
Premier League – 3 times.
Fa cup – 1 time.
League cup – 2 times.
FA Community shield – 1 time.
UEFA Champions League – 1 time.
FIFA Club World Cup – 1 time.
Copa del Rey – 1 time.
FIFA Baloon d’Or – 1 time.
FIFA World Player of the Year – 1 time.
World Soccer Player of the Year – 1 time.

So based on these statistics you have to say that Lionel Messi beats Cristiano Ronaldo in terms of the number and quality of trophies won. Of course these players have won many other awards, but I’ve just listed the most important and most recognised ones. Most notably, Messi has won La Liga 5 times and Ronaldo hasn’t yet – but he probably will have by the end of the reason, however he has won the Premier League 3 times with Manchester United. Probably most superior of all trophies is the UEFA Champions League winners medal, which Messi has won 3 times with Barcelona, an amazing feat for such a young player. Ronaldo has only won this trophy once so far in his career, with Manchester United, and there was still a bit of luck involved as it was won on penalties against Chelsea. Plus it is worth remembering that Ronaldo is 3 years older than Messi, so based on age Messi has accomplished a lot more than Ronaldo when he was the same age.

Again, I feel its hard to judge a player based on the trophies and awards that they have won when they are won collectively as a team, as Messi has been playing in probably one of the best football teams ever, so obviously he will win more trophies. Maybe the best trophies used to judge who is a better footballer are the personal awards, such as the FIFA World Player of the Year accolade, or the Baloon d’Or which are voted on by professional footballers.
Ronaldo or Messi

Lionel Messi vs Cristiano Ronaldo – Personal Qualities

Definitely one of the most notable features of both players are there personal qualities. On one hand Lionel Messi seems to be the quiet, unassuming, and perhaps fairer person. On the other hand Cristiano Ronaldo gives off an air of arrogance, with quite a playboy image, good looks and tendancy to dive to win free-kicks and suchlike. For this reason Messi has many fans – one would assume that if you were the best footballer in the world you would have quite an ego, but with Messi he seems very down-to-earth and quiet. Ronaldo definitely acts as if he is the best player in the world, much to the annoyance of many football fans and players.
Barcelona players have admitted that when Messi first arrived at the club he was silent – he wouldn’t say a word to anyone, and it is apparently true that he did take a long time to adjust to life in Spain having moved from Barcelona as a young boy. Life was probably the same for Ronaldo when he first arrived in Manchester after moving from Portugal, but I’m certain he was not as quiet as Messi was.

In terms of which player you’d rather have in your team based on their personal attributes, I think most people would pick Messi over Ronaldo but at the same time it is true that Ronaldo has won many important free-kicks and penalties by his dramatic falls when he is tackled, tricking the referee into giving the foul. This has often led to goals being scored, in very important games, so it could be said that this is a good quality in a strictly professional sense (not that any manager would publicly praise a player for diving, but if it gets them 3 important points or wins a cup final then I’m sure they wouldn’t care), sad but true.

Its been evident as well that Cristiano Ronaldo can often get quite frustrated during matches if things aren’t going his way, a bit like Rooney does, but thankfully he doesn’t react quite like Rooney did in his early days. Cristiano is likely to behave like this if he is fouled, or feels unfairly treated, and when you’ve got his dribbling skills and trickery then you’re going to be on the receiving end of many fouls – much like Messi is, but whereas Ronaldo is likely to moan Messi always seems to pick himself up and get on with things and is rarely shown to display aggression towards others. In my eyes, another positive in the eyes of Messi.


Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo – What the Professional’s say

I have a general feeling that if you asked everyone in world football who they thought the best player in the world was, the majority of them would say Lionel Messi. I think Messi is the most popular choice, and I genuinely believe that he is the best player in the world right now. However, I can understand where people come from when they say that Ronaldo is a more complete player. This is because Ronaldo is stronger than Messi, is taller and has a greater leap and better abilty to head the ball. This isn’t to say that Messi isn’t good at heading – I saw his goal against Man United in the Champions League Final a few years ago, in which Messi’s boot came off due to the force in which he jumped from the ground, planting a beautiful header past a helpless Van Der Sar. Ronaldo scores more goals because this is the way he’s played at Man United and Real Madrid – he’s knocked the ball wide at times, got in the box and scored from the resulting cross using his head. Barcelona rarely play this type of football, they don’t tend to score from many set plays and don’t score many headed goals, so again its hard to fault Messi when he doesn’t exactly get many chances to score using his head. Interestingly, Pele believes that Messi isn’t a complete player because he doesn’t score many with his head.

Anyway here are a few quotes regarding Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi made by ex-professionals or well respected managers in the game:

“I think he’s the best player in the world. He can play with both feet, he has fantastic skill, strength and bravery” – Sir Alex Ferguson on Cristiano Ronaldo.

“For me, Messi is an incomplete player because he can’t use his head” – Pele on Lionel Messi.

“…he lacks the variety of Messi” – Johan Cruyff on Cristiano Ronaldo.

“He’s the best, there is no other like him. We’ll never see a player like him again. The throne belongs to him and only he will decide when he wants to relinquish it” – Pep Guardiola on Lionel Messi.

“Ronaldo has given us lots of fantastic moments. For me, he is the best player in the world” – Aitor Karanka.

“When Messi has scored 1,283 goals like me, when he’s won three World Cups, we’ll talk about it” – Pele.

“He’s the best in the world. At his best, not many people can stop him” – John Terry.

“I have seen the player who will inherit my place in Argentinian football and his name is Messi” – Diego Maradona.


Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo – Vote
So after all of that, who do you think is the better player – Messi or Ronaldo? Personally I think Messi is the best player in the world, and Ronaldo is a close second best. But after all of that, who’s to say that they couldn’t both play together in the same team? – Now that I would pay to see!
Check out the Youtube video below and make your vote, or just leave a comment below!

By Matt

Matt is the owner and chief-editor of the Footy Blog, one of the UK's leading football news blogs.