Is Cristiano Ronaldo The Best Footballer in the World?

The debate surrounding the best footballer in the world is a relentless and ongoing one. Social media is awash with those who describe Ronaldo as the GOAT (Greatest of all time), but for every Ronaldo fan, there is an equally forthright voice proclaiming Messi as worthy of the title. 

Cristiano Ronaldo of Juventus
TURIN, ITALY – MAY 03: Cristiano Ronaldo of Juventus in action during the Serie A match between Juventus and Torino FC on May 03, 2019 in Turin, Italy. (Photo by Tullio M. Puglia/Getty Images)

Added to this are those who would say that Pele or Maradona were more talented and better footballers. Can we really include them in the debate when football in those days was a very different game? There is no question that the discussion becomes easier to breakdown if we look at the two current players, Ronaldo and Messi. Undoubtedly they are amongst the best ever and whether we will see a time in the future where two such talented players play at the same time, in the same league, is doubtful.

Ronaldo vs Messi when they played in LaLiga

The most obvious starting point is to compare the stats amassed by Ronaldo & Messi when they played in LaLiga. So for the period 2010 – 2018.

How many goals did Messi score in LaLiga compared with Ronaldo?

Messi scored more goals: 329 – 311.

How many assists does Messi have for Barcelona compared with Ronaldo?

Messi made more assists: 122 to 86.


In that time in the Champions League:

Ronaldo scored more goals: 105 – 83

Ronaldo made more assists: 28 – 20


In that time in other competitions:

Messi scored more goals: 60 – 34

Messi made more assists: 34 – 5

Messi vs Ronaldo
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Overall Messi vs Ronaldo goals and assists:

Messi scored more: 472 – 450

Messi made more assists: 176 – 119

Lionel Messi – Individual Awards:

  • Won the Ballon d’Or 5 times. 
  • Scored 8 Champions League hat-tricks
  • Scored 25+ goals in 11 consecutive seasons. 
  • Scored the most goals in El Clasico matches (26).
  • Has won 33 trophies in Spanish football.
  • Has scored the most goals in a LaLiga season (50 in 11/12)
  • Has scored 40+ goals in 2 consecutive LaLiga seasons.
  • Has scored the joint most hat-tricks in a LaLiga season (8)


Cristiano Ronaldo – Individual Awards:

  • Won the Ballon D’Or 5 times. 
  • Scored 8 Champions League hat-tricks.
  • Most penalties scored in the Champions League (16)
  • Most hat-tricks in a Champions League season (3 in 15/16)
  • First player to score at least 10 goals in 7 consecutive Champions League seasons.
  • First player to score against every team in LaLiga in a single season
  • Has scored 40+ goals in 2 consecutive LaLiga seasons.
  • Has scored the joint most hat-tricks in a LaLiga season (8)


Some say that the case for Ronaldo being the better player is won and lost with his international record. The European Cup in 2016, not to mention the Uefa Nations League in 2019 represent senior trophy hauls at the international level that Lionel Messi can’t compete with. Messi’s successes include the Fifa World Youth Cup in 2005 & an Olympic gold medal in 2008, however in terms of national team awards that is where it ends. Heartache has followed in World Cups and Copa Americas and in 2016 Messi announced his retirement from international football, only to reverse the decision soon after.

Ronaldo vs Messi – National Team Stats:

Ronaldo has 93 goals for Portugal against Messi’s 68 for Argentina.

Messi has registered 41 assists against Ronaldo’s 28.

Beyond the stats, we have to consider which player is the most pleasing on the eye. After all, football is entertainment and we have to take into account whether Ronaldo or Messi is the superior entertainer. From the point of view of this writer, Messi lights up the football pitch in a way that no other player on the planet can. He makes everything look easy from dribbling to shooting to assists and literally glides across the playing surface. He is the more skilful and without question is the less physical of the two players. Ronaldo is explosive but doesn’t possess the magic that Messi can conjure up in a given match. It has been suggested that he is more of a team player than the Portuguese who has at times been found guilty of trying to do too much on his own and allowing his ego to get in the way of the collective.

A final point to consider is each player’s brand. Looking at it from an impartial point of view brand Ronaldo seems to be more developed than Messi’s. With the CR7 brand, the haircuts, the sun tan & trademark goal celebrations, the Portuguese would seem to have the better oiled  marketing machine. It is even said that he wears make up during games at the say so of his sponsors. Now granted this shouldn’t enter into the “best footballer in the world” debate, but if you ask people the simple question, “Ronaldo or Messi?”, brand strength definitely has a bearing in terms of their answer.

So where does the above leave us? We have provided a few of the stats that should be taken into account in terms of this debate. There is no question that both players are extraordinary in their own right, but the answer to the best player in the world question may be more subjective and down to personal preference than anything else.


Written by Football Team News.

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