Messi vs. Ronaldo: Comparing the World’s Best Two Footballers
Ronaldo and Messi have dominated the headlines in the last 3-4 years of European football. As such, it’s a titanic task to separate and analyse the achievements of these two great footballers in the last 4 years.
Ronaldo and Messi have both been voted World Player and European Player of the Years, both of them have won Champions League trophies for their football clubs and both of them have earned a string of domestic league titles. So how do we decide who’s better?
On the one hand, we have Ronaldo. Powerful, strong and proven in two different domestic leagues. Ronaldo’s unprecedented 42 goals in all competition for Man Utd in the 2007-8 season ended with a Champions League trophy and being voted the World/European Player of the Year. During his time at Man Utd, he’s also led his team to 3 consecutive Premier League trophies, 1 FA Cup, 2 League Cups and a Fifa Club World Cup.
Since his record-breaking £80 million transfer to the Bernabeu, Ronaldo has maintained his astonishing form and gone on to score 86 goals in just 79 games – a ratio of 1.08 goals per game.
Then plods along Messi. Starting way back at the World Cup in 2006 (when he became the youngest player to score for Argentina aged 16 in the competition), Messi has since become Barcelona’s most important, highest paid and influential player. Since his breakthrough season into Barcelona’s first team in 2004-5, Messi has won a total of 5 league titles (including a stretch of 3 in a row which could increase to 4), 3 Champions Leagues, 5 Supercopas, 1 Cop Del Rey and 2 Fifa Club World Cups (in addition to 2 more UEFA Super Cups).
When you look at what both sets of players have accomplished, it’s easy to see that both had had huge impacts on their clubs, and have each won enough to go down in football history.
The problem with comparing both sets of footballers at the moment is that while Messi, aged 2 years younger, has already won far more trophies then Ronaldo, he’s also been part of an historic team filled with a shortlist of nominees for World Player of the Year. Xavi and Iniesta have both proved their legendary status in the last decade of Catalan football, so exactly how far can we credit Messi for his achievements at club level?
Ronaldo, on the other hand, successfully guided Man Utd to 3 successive league titles, in arguably the most competitive league at the time (all 3 Premier League teams made it to the Champions League Semi-Final in 2008), which included two years of domination by Chelsea.
Ronaldo scored an unprecedented 42 goals as a winger, including 3 in the Champions League Semi-Final against Arsenal, and one in the Champions League Final 2008. His goals came from everywhere, including penalties, free kicks, counter-attacks, headers, 40 yards wonders and plenty of other team goals.
The majority of Messi’s 136 goals (in 193 games) for Barcelona, however, have come from outfield play, with numerous assists accredited to the likes of Xavi, Iniesta, Alves and Pedro.
While Messi is proven to be a better player on the ball, Ronaldo has proved to be the ultimate all round player. Although even that isn’t very fair, considering Messi is effectively playing a host of positions (CF, SS, WF, CMF and SMF) in every game for Barca.
The only thing that we can say for sure is that Ronaldo has proven himself in two very different leagues, whilst we’ve only see Messi in La Liga. One can only guess how well he’d cope against physical teams such as Stoke, Blackburn and Bolton in the Premier League when his team doesn’t have 70% possession, with Xavi and Iniesta feeding him balls into the box every 30 seconds.
But then we can just compare Champions League stats if we really want to compare the two in neutral territory against the best teams in Europe. Messi has scored 44 goals in the UEFA Champions League in the last 4 seasons, while Ronaldo has scored 41. Not much between them there then.
So what else can we look at? The only thing that springs to mind (asides from International performances, where both have looked a shadow of themselves) is “big game” records. Messi has scored countless goals against Madrid in their last 8 games against each other across all competitions, while Ronaldo has just his single headed-goal in the 108th minute of the 2010/11 Copa Del Rey.
While Ronaldo has consistently underperformed in big games (his penalty misses in the Champions League Semi-Final against Barcelona and Final against Chelsea in Moscow), he has still done his fair share of work in winning trophies, at least at Man Utd.
I guess the only thing we can say for sure is that while Ronaldo possesses immense qualities that tick boxes across the board (strength, power, agility, right and left footed), Messi just has something “special” about his game that’s hard to put your finger on. He scores more “big” goals, he stands out more on the pitch, and his ability to weed through defenders like a lawnmower cutting grass has never graced our TV screens before. While we could criticise him for being too left-footed and selfish in his play, that’s also how Pep Guardiola would probably prefer it.
Personally, the main thing that stands out in my mind (and probably the reason why everyone else rates Messi above Ronaldo) is that while Ronaldo’s performances drip in the big games, Messi’s seem to get better. His hat-trick against Madrid earlier in the season andhis brace against Man Utd in the 2009 Champions League are just pure illustrations of this.
Overall, while both are equally great players, Messi’s age, big game performances and accolades will always put him on top, at least until either player starts putting in team winning performances on the International Stage.