Lionel Messi versus Cristiano Ronaldo Who in football is the GOAT and the better player?

Cristiano Ronaldo versus Lionel Messi – who is the GOAT? It is the biggest conundrum in football since the ‘Diego Maradona or Pele?’ debate.

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 in how good a player is perceived to be, and most people know who they’d pick.

So who really is the greatest of all time? Never mind who you prefer, GOAL has taken a look at how the pair actually shape up head-to-head so you can be fully armed with facts in the eternal argument.

Cristiano Ronaldo vs Lionel Messi: Club goals

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

Siêu kinh điển, Barca vs Real Madrid: Ronaldo bị Messi ám ảnh

Each of them has remarkably netted over 690 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 (37.9 to 35), having hit a high of 73 goals in 2011-12, though his average dropped after a disappointing maiden campaign at PSG in 2021-22.

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, though the Argentine’s rate slowed after joining PSG.

Cristiano Ronaldo vs Lionel Messi: Club assists (Opta)

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 stark.

Cristiano Ronaldo vs Lionel Messi: Champions League stats

*As of Champions League games played in 2022-23.

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 Man United man if he continues to sparkle in the competition .

Ronaldo also holds the record for most overall Champions League appearances, having overtaken Iker Casillas.

Cristiano Ronaldo vs Lionel Messi: World Cup stats

When it comes to World Cups, neither had won the competition until Argentina emerged victorious in 2022 following a string of sublime displays from Messi.

Portugal star Ronaldo had scored more goals and in fewer appearances heading into the 2022 World Cup, but Messi turned things around in Qatar as he led his country the way to the coveted trophy with an impressive seven goals and three assists.

The PSG ace scored at every stage of the competition and capped his fine performances with a brace in the final against France, before netting once more from 12 yards as Argentina proved to be the best after spot kicks (3-3 AET).

The furthest Ronaldo has 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.

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