A definitive breakdown of Messi and Ronaldo’s comparative career stats

Composite image of Cristiano ronaldo playing for Manchester United and Lionel Messi playing for Paris Saint-Germain. December 2021. Credit: Alamy
Composite image of Cristiano ronaldo playing for Manchester United and Lionel Messi playing for Paris Saint-Germain. December 2021. Credit: Alamy

Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo. You have to choose, apparently. Much of modern football discourse has encouraged us to pick one of this generation’s defining talents over the other, rather than appreciate them both. 

However, they do represent contrasting ideologies. Messi is the born talent, capable of magical acts beyond the conceptions of the vast majority of human civilisation. Ronaldo, his body meticulously sculpted in the gym, represents a monument to hard work and dedication to his craft.

Which player you choose – if you even want to choose – is entirely a matter for you, of course. But a few big names in world football have previously made arguments for one over the other.

After Messi scored his 600th Barcelona goal, ex-Barcelona man Gary Lineker tweeted: If he were just a goalscorer it would be astonishing, but the fact he’s also the best dribbler I’ve ever seen and as good a passer as I’ve ever seen makes him the best I’ve ever seen.”

Perhaps less predictably, Ronaldo’s former Manchester United team-mate Wayne Rooney also picked out the diminutive Argentine when asked to select one of the two. “I’ve said this before, but they’re both probably the best two players ever to play the game and I just think Messi is in my eyes the greatest ever.”

Pele, David Beckham and Ronaldinho have also opted for Messi, but there are plenty who’ll take Ronaldo’s side in the debate, including Pele, who seems to change his mind on the matter as often as he changes his underpants.

Pele’s compatriot and legendary Real Madrid full-back Roberto Carlos once said: “I watch him [Cristiano] train every day and the way he works is exciting. He wants to improve every day. That’s the difference with Messi.

“Leo is a phenomenon, but that side of Cristiano, of training, professionalism, focus, motivation, success… Cristiano has an advantage over all the others.”

And it’s clear who Ronaldo’s former team-mate Rio Ferdinand prefers of the two.

“700 club goals, that is more than I have appearances probably almost as many as all of us in the studio [Joe Cole and Joleon Lescott] put together, almost. Phenomenal,” Ferdinand told BT Sport after Ronaldo scored his 700th club career goal in a 2-1 victory over Everton.

“He would have been hurting being on the bench before this game. He would have been sitting there thinking: ‘I should be playing’. That is the answer.

“Ever a pro, no matter what age you are, he is still going out there with something to prove and he is delivering.”

We’ve collated the career stats of both legends, courtesy of a website dedicated to the two players. You can make your own minds up, or perhaps just sit back and enjoy the fun they both provide.

Lionel Messi vs Cristiano Ronaldo

995 – Games – 1,140
81,545 – Career mins – 92,563

785 – Goals – 818
346 – Assists – 234
56 – Hat-tricks – 60

60 – Free-kicks – 58
659 – Left foot – 151
97 – Right foot – 524
26 – Headers – 141
104/134 (77.6%) – Penalties converted – 145/174 (83.3%)

7 – Ballon d’Or wins – 5
6 – European Golden Shoe wins – 4

0.79 – Goals per game – 0.72
103.9 – Minutes per goal – 113.2
72.7 – Minutes per goal or assist – 88.0

38 – Trophies – 34
11 – League titles – 7
4 – Champions League – 5
26.7 – Games per trophy – 33.5

164 – International caps – 191
90 – International goals – 117
1 – International trophies – 2

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