The Ronaldo vs Messi Debate
It is a question that has dominated the 21st century, divided sports fans online and is arguably the greatest footballing debate of all time. Who is the better player, Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo?
No other footballer in the history of the game comes close to these two. In terms of goal-scoring records and pieces of silverware, Messi and Ronaldo’s success on the footballing field is simply unprecedented. One day, when the two icons hang up their boots, normality will resume. Records will stand for years, instead of being broken every single year and 50 + goal-scoring seasons won’t be a frequent occurrence.
As football fans, we should consider ourselves lucky to have been blessed with the two unique talents in our lifetime. However, this doesn’t stop the debate being asked. Some like to sit back and appreciate both players (probably the wise option), whilst others like to fight the corner of their preferred individual to the death.
So, what cases are made for each player? We’ve taken a little look.
Ronaldo Looking To Conquer A Third Nation
After three Premier League and two La Liga titles, it is fair to say that Cristiano Ronaldo has left his mark in both England and Spain. He arrived at Manchester United as a raw, athletic and bright talent, before developing into one of the greatest players to ever pull on the famous red shirt. His 07/08 season with the club, where he scored 31 league goals, is arguably the greatest season for an individual in Premier League history.
Despite being a fan favourite, with the red side of Manchester still singing the Portuguese’s name to this day, it was of no secret to anybody that he one day wished to join Real Madrid. In a world-record transfer deal; he joined the Spanish giants for £80m in 2009, where he would go onto win two league titles in nine seasons. Admittedly, the number is a little underwhelming, but the forward could not have done much more to help this cause on the pitch.
The statistics of Ronaldo’s goal to game ratio is simply mind-boggling. In 292 La Liga appearances, the attacker registered 311 goals. You would only expect to see those sorts of numbers on a games console. The Portuguese man sensationally smashed records and became the club’s record goalscorer by quite some distance. Topping the notorious names of Raul and Alfredo Di Stefano, Ronaldo’s name will be cemented in Madrid’s history books for generations to come.
To the surprise of many though, he would depart from the Spanish capital and arrive in Turin, joining Juventus in a £100m deal. This is where the case for Ronaldo’s greatest of all time status hots up, as not many players can boast domination in three of Europe’s top divisions. As an inside forward, he is given a license to roam and act as a poacher when necessary, a role that he simply flourishes in. By December, Ronaldo already boasts double digits in black and white stripes, with his club sitting comfortably on top of the table.
Winning major honours with three top clubs would be a fact that nobody could dispute. It would highlight the attacker’s individual brilliance and his capability to adapt to any team, anywhere in the world. Time will tell as to what success Ronaldo tastes in Turin, but it would take a brave man to bet against him not adding another piece of silverware to that cabinet of his.
One Country and Only One Ruler For Messi
In contrast to Ronaldo, Messi’s career has solely revolved one club – his beloved Barcelona. Having come through the ranks of La Masia, he made his professional debut in 2006, becoming the club’s youngest ever player at just 17-years-of-age. Those fans who witnessed Messi grace the turf of the Nou Camp for the very first time are a special bunch, as it was the dawn of an iconic era.
Since his debut, the Argentinian has gone onto score over 390 goals in the division, picking up nine titles along the way. The statistics speaks for themselves, as Messi and his Barcelona side have been a dominating force in Spain for over a decade.
First featuring under Frank Rijkaard, the youngster was utilised on the right-hand side of the field, supporting Ronaldinho and Samuel Eto’o in attack. He was certainly a tenacious talent who was never afraid of taking his man on, terrorising opponents with his quick, agile dribbling, as the ball simply stuck to the wizard’s left foot. Fans will be all too familiar with his incredible solo goal against Getafe, where he glided past five players before putting the ball in the back of the net.
Messi’s game, though, was taken to a new level under the leadership of Pep Guardiola. After implanting his ‘tika-taka’ style of play at the club, the Spanish manager would create one of the greatest footballing sides the world had ever seen and at the forefront of their success, was Lionel Messi. During the ‘Pep era’, the Argentinian would score 138 goals in La Liga, scooping three titles in the process.
In the current day, the forward has adapted his style of play, where he now operates with a license to roam across the park, dropping deeper when needed and dictating his team’s system. The goals have continued though, as Messi remains as clinical as ever in the final third. As long as he is on the field, Barcelona will continue to be the team to beat in La Liga.
European Dominance By Both
Alongside their domestic honours, both Ronaldo and Messi have had their fair share of European success. The Champions League is the grandest stage of all and it is a platform that has often been used by fans in determining just how ‘elite’ a player is. Unsurprisingly, both these players don’t shy away from the big occasion.
Under Guardiola, Messi won two CL medals, both coming at the expense of Manchester United. In Rome (2009) and London (2011), the Argentinian found his name on the scoresheet in both finals. His performances were simply mesmerising, and the Red Devils could not keep track of the man in the middle. Messi didn’t score in the 2015 final, but he remained an influential figure behind guiding Barca to their fifth Champions League trophy. As one of the famous ‘MSN’, he, Neymar and Luis Suarez were simply an unstoppable force that year.
Ronaldo’s first Champions League trophy came back in 2014, when United defeated Chelsea in Moscow. The Portuguese international gave his side the lead with an emphatic header in the first half, before the game was eventually decided on penalties. It was an emotional night for Ronaldo, who simply fell to the floor with joy when Edwin Van Der Sar parried Nicolas Anelka’s deciding penalty wide. Despite missing his own in the shoot-out, the fixture solidified Ronaldo’s greatest ever individual season during his time in red.
Upon arriving in the Spanish Capital, Los Blancos were hoping that the Portuguese’s presence would help guide the club to their first European honour since 2002. He would have to wait four years to do so, but it was certainly worth the wait. At his hometown in Lisbon, Ronaldo scored the third goal in the final against arch-rivals Atletico Madrid. It wasn’t such a long wait for his next one though, or next three for that matter.
From 2015 – 2018, the Vikings embarked upon a fairy-tale esque journey, winning three consecutive CL trophies in a row. Under Zinedine Zidane, the Portuguese acted as a poacher and always provided the goods when it mattered for his team. Described by some as simply a ‘freak of nature’, Ronaldo was the tournament’s top scorer every season from 2012 – 2018. It’s become an expectation for the forward to score every single game. If he doesn’t, it makes headlines across the world.
How Do We Determine a Winner?
With equal amounts of honours and titles, some may look to the Ballon d’Or to determine which player is regarded as the greatest ever. And yet, both players currently stand with five apiece. The two have dominated the prize over the last ten years and there is no separating the two. Even if we dig deeper into their own individual records, the similarities in numbers and awards grow even closer.
Some argue that Messi has only proved himself in one country and famously raise the question of, ‘but can he do it on a cold winter night at Stoke?’ Well, longevity is an impressive accolade to boast in sport and to continuously perform in the same league is simply a testament to Messi’s ability. Opponents cannot figure out how to stop the little magician after ten years of trying. These performances have not only occurred against Spanish opposition, he has also put plenty of English sides to the sword in his time. In terms of technical ability and mesmerising moments, he is the greatest of all time on this front.
Ronaldo, in terms of goal scoring, is the greatest attacking threat to grace the game. If you couldn’t watch the man live week in, week out, you would question his goal statistics. They are simply unbelievable. His ability to adapt to certain situations in games and establish himself in areas where he is offensively dangerous is a reason behind why he has succeeded in England, Spain and now Italy. Some questioned Ronaldo’s move to Turin, but being the determined figure that he is, we all know that he wants to prove himself on another stage.
Picking a winner is an impossible task. In terms of ability, Messi is the greatest. But, if you offered me one player for just one game at any given point, I’d make Ronaldo my man. A little cop out I know, but picking between these two is the hardest decision in football.