In the world of sports, nothing is bigger than soccer, otherwise known as football. The game is played internationally with over 250 million players in over 200 countries. It is loved by fans around the globe, many who cheer for specific football clubs or countries. In recent years, two superstars have emerged. Lionel Messi, an Argentinian forward who plays for Barcelona FC, and Cristiano Ronaldo, a Portuguese forward who plays for Real Madrid. They are both recipients of the highest soccer honours and have won numerous championships with their teams. Although they are both known as the best football players in the world, by comparing Cristiano Ronaldo to Lionel Messi it becomes clear that Cristiano Ronaldo is a better football player.
The most important thing in soccer is scoring goals. A team can have the best defense in the world but without great strikers playing up front, it is useless. Both Ronaldo and Messi are known for their impressive goal scoring abilities. Ronaldo has 463 club goals and 55 international goals, totaling 518 career goals. Messi has 432 club goals and 49 international goals, totaling 481 career goals. Although Messi has played fewer games, and his goals per game average is higher than Ronaldo’s, he still has a lower total. It is unknown if he will catch up to Ronaldo, as they both continue to play and increase their totals. Ronaldo has not played in Spain’s soccer league La Liga his entire career. He played in England’s Premier League, which is known to be a league where scoring can be more difficult due to an increased physical play in the game. Messi has only played in La Liga for his professional career.
As popular as club football is, nothing tops the FIFA World Cup and the EUFA European Cup when it comes to soccer tournaments and international sporting events. Ronaldo has been a vital part of Portugal’s success in its two most successful international appearances in recent years; the 2004 Euro Cup final, and the 2006 World Cup semi-final. He averaged 0.42 goals per game in 2006, while Messi averaged 0.28 goals per game. The same cannot be said about Messi who is often criticized for not bringing the same level of game play he presents with Barcelona FC to the Argentinian international team. Although Messi was a part of the 2014 Argentinian team that made it to the World Cup finals, he was a part of a much stronger team than Portugal was during the tournament. The Argentinian team was made up of superstars such as Angel Di Maria, Gonzalo Higuain, Javier Mascherano, and Sergio Aguero, all of whom play for very successful European clubs. Ronaldo was the sole superstar for Portugal alongside a small number of top level players, such as Pepe and Fabio Coentrao, but still managed a 0.55 goals per game average in nine appearances during the 2014 World Cup. Messi averaged 0.57 goals per game in 14 appearances.
Soccer has grown to be much more than a game involving a ball played on a grassy field. Players are featured in video games, product endorsements, have their own award ceremonies, and of course, there is the fame of it all. Although Messi has won five Ballon d’Or awards, the most prestigious award in soccer, and Ronaldo has only won three, Ronaldo is still a more recognizable superstar. He has won awards in multiple countries and his high profile relationships have been the center of tabloids for years. Ronaldo is the only player to ever win the European Golden Shoe award with two different clubs and is the only player to win it four times. Ronaldo is also fluent in English and often does interviews with English speaking media outlets. Messi is only fluent in his native language which decreases the market he can appeal to. Although they both have huge social media followings, Ronaldo recently reached 109 million followers on Facebook while Messi trails with 82.6 million.
It is no doubt that both Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi are incredibly gifted soccer players who bring something unique to the sport. Their rivalry is one fans have died over. Both have impressive track records and excel in areas where the other sometimes does not. Even with Messi’s impressive goals per game average, success internationally, and coveted awards, he does not have the amount of goals Ronaldo does, the same consistency during international play, and overall stardom that Ronaldo has. When comparing the two players it is clear to see that Cristiano Ronaldo is a better football player than Lionel Messi.