Ronaldo or Messi? Who is the greatest?


It is the defining question of this generation of world soccer. In fact, there is an argument to be made that Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo are in fact the greatest footballers ever. The skill and athleticism of both men is certainly in a class of its own, and statistically they are near perfect footballers, goals and assists seemingly coming easy to their play. Where it matters most, in wins, they have achieved highly as well, both men having won multiple leagues, cups and the prestigious champions league.


So who is the greatest? The 26 year old Messi or slightly senior 28 year old Ronaldo? It is a cruel twist that both men should come along at the same time… because more often than not footballing geniuses have stood out as individuals of a generation; think of Pele, Best, Maradona.


But for the last Five years and ongoing, we have had Messi and Ronaldo dominating this generation of footballers. No one gets close to their talent and statistical achievements. If it wasn’t for the other man the chances are that either Messi or Ronaldo would be heralded as the greatest footballer of all time, but the two are so close in talent that the debate is mostly centred on who would you rather have: Messi or Ronaldo?


The heated arguments are given even more of an edge considering they play for huge Spanish rivals in Barcelona and Real Madrid. In terms of competitive play, there is no doubt that Messi is the greatest achiever. He has won 6 league titles, wheras Ronaldo has only won 4 (3 with Manchester United, 1 with Madrid). Messi has won more champions league medals too, 3 compared to Ronaldo’s 1. And one of those champions league winner medals was won by Messi against Ronaldo’s United which saw Ronaldo depart with only a runner up medal.

In fairness to this comparison, Messi has a wonderful team behind him. The FC Barcelona side of the last few years is arguably the best club side in world football history. Playmakers like Xavi and Iniesta almost made it easy for Messi at times. But then again, the United side that Ronaldo played for was rock solid in its prime, and his Madrid side has some of the most expensive talent ever assembled.


As individuals it is also Messi who weighs up as the better player. Having been at Barcelona his whole career, Messi has hit 324 goals in only 388 games. Ronaldo has played in that time for Sporting Clube de Portugal, Manchester United and Real Madrid, scoring 336 goals in 523 games. It has to be said though that since moving to Madrid, Ronaldo has hit 213 goals in 209 games. The last few years hardly anything separates the talented pair.


As players you could argue that Ronaldo is more exciting to watch, step overs, tricks, bursts of pace and stunningly executed goals are trademarks of the Portugal star. Messi plays more with technique, balance and passing movements, with a certain ability to keep the ball almost glued to his foot. Physically Ronaldo is without doubt the more superior man, 6 foot 2 and a very muscular frame, he is a pure athlete. Messi at 5 foot 7 and a more stocky body type somehow seems to be able to do everything Ronaldo can do; but there is no doubt that Ronaldo handles physicality better, Messi being suspect to injury whereas Ronaldo is seemingly invincible considering all the knocks he takes in a game.


At international level both men have disappointed, despite playing 106 games for Portugal Ronaldo has only hit 43 goals, and the national team has won no trophy. Messi has played 83 times for Argentina and scored 37 times, again the national team has won nothing despite a talented roster which has often been favourites in recent world cups. It should be noted that Messi did win an Olympic Gold medal with Argentina in 2008; but this is vaguely viewed as competitive international football.


Commercially Ronaldo is the man. He was the worlds most expensive footballer at £80million when he first moved to Madrid, and he recently became the worlds highest paid footballer in a new contract extension. He has appeared in The Simpsons and represented many huge brands. Messi fronts many big brands too, but Ronaldo is without doubt the star. It has been noted that while Ronaldo likes to wear fancy clothes and drive fast cars, Messi prefers a pair of shorts and a family car. They are very different guys in the personal sense.


On reflection, it is hard to argue anything other than Messi is the greatest by the edge. His winner medals and goal scoring record beat Cristiano’s. This despite recent years when the medals and goals have been like for like and Cristiano has proved the far more exciting player to watch. For a player of Ronaldo’s talent it must be frustrating that Messi came around at the same time, because Messi does seem to edge Ronaldo into the shadow that little bit. They are arguably the number 1 and number 2 footballer of all time… but they will tell you differently who is 1 and 2, and with at least Five to Eight years at the top left it might be too early to draw any definitive conclusion on who is the greatest, Messi or Ronaldo.


G.J Herbert is a British features writer who has worked in content writing for business and been published in regional titles and nationally in The Sun newspaper. For his sports coverage follow him at