Cristiano Ronaldo’s decision to sign for Saudi Arabian club Al Nassr has given Lionel Messi a big chance to surpass some of his old rival’s proudest records in European football.
Across his stints with Manchester United, Real Madrid and Juventus, Ronaldo established himself as one of the most prolific goalscorers of all time. But some of his records might not stand much longer, now he’s seemingly bowed out of the top level of the European game and is set to spend his final years in the Saudi Pro League.
Lionel Messi, 35, showed he’s still got plenty to offer after his show-stealing performances at Qatar 2022. If he stays put in Europe for a few more years, he can topple Ronaldo and claim some of the most impressive records in football.
Messi has already equalled one of Ronaldo’s records after scoring his 696th goal for a side in Europe’s Top Five leagues during PSG’s 2-0 win over Angers in January.
And here are five more of Ronaldo’s best records that Messi can now break.
– Goals In Europe’s Top Five Leagues: Cristiano Ronaldo currently holds this record, having reclaimed it from Messi. But Ronaldo has been denied the chance to reach the 500 mark in Europe’s top five leagues after leaving Manchester United prematurely. The Portuguese icon is currently on 495 (311 in La Liga, 103 in Premier League, 81 in Serie A) – just seven ahead of Messi (474 in La Liga, 13 in Ligue 1 – 487).
It’s not at all difficult to imagine Messi scoring seven goals in PSG’s remaining 20 games of the Ligue 1 campaign. He scored seven in 13 before the World Cup break. But there’s a small possibility he doesn’t this season and then leaves Europe to sign for Inter Miami this summer.
Likelihood: Very High
– Goals in European Club Football: Including all competitions, Ronaldo has scored a total of 701 club goals – 450 for Real Madrid, 145 for Manchester United, 101 for Juventus and five for Sporting. Messi is just six behind (695 – 673 for Barcelona, 23 for PSG) and will surely, surely, surpass that tally. Don’t be surprised if he does it by the end of January.
Likelihood: Almost certain
– Champions League Goals: It looks as though Manchester United’s limp last 16 elimination to Atletico Madrid last season were Ronaldo’s last appearances in the competition in which he’s shone so brightly. The 37-year-old is the top goalscorer in the history of the European Cup with 140 goals.
Messi was once ahead of him, but now finds himself 11 goals behind (129). The Argentinian is closing the gap, but you’d imagine he’d need another season or two beyond the 2022-23 knockouts to reach that number. PSG are reportedly confident he’ll renew at the Parc des Princes, however, so it may well happen.
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– Champions League Assists: Somewhat surprisingly, given that Messi has notched over 100 career assists more than Ronaldo, it’s his rival that holds the record for the most assists in Champions League history.
Ronaldo has 41 Champions League assists. Messi is just one behind. With Mbappe and Neymar to supply, expect this record to change very soon.
Likelihood: Put the mortgage on it.
– International Goals: Ronaldo is the all-time top goalscorer in the history of football, with 118 goals for Portugal. It remains to be seen whether he’ll add to that number, with Fernando Santos’ replacement yet to be announced. You imagine the next boss will want to look to the future, rather than Ronaldo, playing in the Saudi Pro League, who will be 38 by the time the next international break rolls around.
Messi, meanwhile, stated “I want to continue playing as a World Cup champion” after winning the most prestigious trophy of them all with Argentina. He’s on 98 goals for Argentina, 20 behind Ronaldo. That’s a fair number to make up, but when you consider Messi scored 18 goals in 14 appearances for the Albiceleste in 2022, you never know.
Likelihood: Improbable, but stranger things have happened.
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