Two of the greatest players to grace a football pitch go head to head once again this weekend as Real Madrid face Barcelona. It's my job to decide who is the better player: Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo
What a privilege it is working in an era where we have Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo to watch week in week out, enticing us with exciting soccer picks. It’s my job in this article to try to gauge who is the best: an impossible task surely? I've studied their goals per game, the number of trophies, the injury records, soccer odds and with the help of the website MessivsRonaldo.net their skills and attributes.
Goals per Game
Goals are what these two players will be judged on ultimately, unless Messi can lift the greatest trophy of all - the World Cup as the captain of Argentina.
Just looking at the all-time goals record is proof if needed, that we are dealing with legends of the game. Messi has 407 goals in 531 appearances, Ronaldo has got more goals in his career with 445, but they have come in 697 appearances. Getting into the nitty gritty, that is one goal every 1.2 games for Messi and one in every 1.5 for Ronaldo.
We can go deeper still into goals. In the league it’s 215 in 285 appearances for Messi and 279 in 393 for Ronaldo.
In Europe Lionel is just one behind, with 69 in 89, while Ronaldo has bagged 70 in 111. Cups? It’s another one for Messi: 44 in 62 compared to 45 in 77 for Ronaldo. Argentina and Portugal benefit from these two superstars and once again it is Messi who just edges it on a percentage basis. CR7 has 51 goals compared to Messi’s 44, but he has 21 more caps for the European nation.
In summary Messi has a better ratio of goals per game in every department!
This season Ronaldo is leading the race with 19 goals and two assists in 12 appearances, Messi has nine goals in 11 games with nine assists. Ronaldo has been sensational over the last five games in La Liga scoring 12 times in five successive victories accounting for almost half of Real Madrid’s 25 goals in those games.
Looking back at the all-time stats, you have to build in the fact that Ronaldo played in the English Premier League. I think it is widely regarded that it is harder to score goals in England than it would be in La Liga. It's a much more physically demanding division and perhaps the defending during that period was better. Barcelona have been one of the best two teams by a long way until Atletico’s recent rise. The Premier League was simply more competitive.
Looking at the honours is unbelievable, there are so many personal and team trophies. The FA Cup was Cristiano Ronaldo's first, while Messi scooped La Liga in the following season (2004/05). Messi has won multiple Champions Leagues, La Liga titles, the UEFA Super Cup, Spanish Super Cups, the Club World Cup and Copa Del Ray. On a personal level he has also won the European Golden Shoe award on three occasions and won the ballon d'or (FIFA’s World Player of the Year accolade) on four separate occasions in successive years from 2009 to 2013.
Ronaldo's time in England saw him win the Premier League on three separate occasions with Manchester United, they also won the League Cup twice and the FA Cup and the Community Shield plus of course he helped them to win their second Champions League trophy. In 2008 he won the Golden Shoe award and in his final season with Manchester United he was also crowned the Ballon D’Or winner.
Since his move to Real Madrid he's won a total of five club trophies and three personal accolades. The La Liga title came in his second season, the Spanish Super Cup in his third and last season of course the Copa Del Ray and La Decima – Madrid’s 10th European Cup triumph. With that he bagged the Golden Show and finally recaptured the Ballon d'Or from his Barca rival.
Messi wins the trophy haul hands down with 28 to 20 but he has played in arguably the best football team the world has ever seen. The Barcelona side spanning 2008 to 2012 was simply sensational
Six trophies in 2011/12 and six in 09/10, including those personal awards: this one goes to Messi.
If you're in the market to buy a player of this caliber and you had to choose which one would you take in terms of their fitness and general injury record, looking back to 2006/07 Messi has missed a total of 60 games.
The Portuguese superstar has missed far fewer games than Messi (42) and the rumours about his debilitating knee problem which were abound in Brazil, seem to be unfounded for now at least. Ronaldo wins this one.
So far we've dealt in facts and figures now we deal in something that's a lot more subjective, the attributes of both players. Given the figures that we looked at in terms of goal scoring I have to say that Messi edges Ronaldo on the goal scoring side of things. Heading the ball would be Ronaldo - he has tremendous aerial ability.
Free-kicks next! Again I’d go with Cristiano. His trademark free kick has been a thing of beauty and has transformed the way free kicks have been taken.
Penalties also go to the Portuguese player. His record of 23 from 24 for Real Madrid and 11 from 14 in his days in the England is sensational and this is perhaps the one area where Messi isn't quite a superstar.
The next area is skill and technique. This is very difficult to judge and it's really a personal taste but I prefer Messi, because his balance and ability to turn and go past players in close proximity together with his quick feet is better than the speed, skill and power of Ronaldo for me.
Physicality is an easy one for me. That would have to go to CR7. Messi is five foot seven and although he can look after himself, you have to say that physical attributes are with the taller man.
Who is the best team player? Ronaldo has often been criticised for being too much of an individual and when you study their assist records, although the Madrid man has an excellent record of setting up goals for others, it's way off that of the Argentinian.
Finally we have discipline. You have to say that Messi gets this one as well. Three yellow cards in the whole of last season in La Liga whereas Cristiano Ronaldo got seven yellows and one red. Plus we know there can be a touch of petulance in him.
Who is best?
I'm going to come out and say it straight away for me Messi is the better player. However, I wouldn't argue very strongly with anyone who wanted to say that Cristiano Ronaldo was the best player in the world. I just prefer the way Messi plays, his goal to game ratio at the moment is better, he’s the better team player and has better discipline.
I think as an all-rounder he offers a team more than Cristiano Ronaldo does, but I wouldn’t turn either down in my team.