A never-ending debate among soccer fans worldwide is that of who's the greatest: Cristiano Ronaldo or Lionel Messi? The two forward-playing phenomenons are by far the best players of their generation, each posting otherworldly statistics and routinely winning games single-handedly in dramatic fashion. What makes this debate so difficult to decide is that Ronaldo and Messi have very different styles, they've played in teams of varying degrees of ability, and of course, club and national loyalties often cloud objective judgment. So who really is the greatest of all time, Cristiano Ronaldo or Lionel Messi? Let's take a look at the measurables: stats and success.
The Portuguese powerhouse and the Argentinian wizard both boast incredible goalscoring statistics. In their careers so far, Ronaldo and Messi have each netted over 630 times. It's worth mentioning that Ronaldo, the slightly older of the two, has been playing for a couple of seasons longer than his counterpart, although Messi's consistency at club level - he has been a Barcelona player his entire career - should also be taken into consideration. Ronaldo currently leads the race in goals scored overall, but Messi has a higher season average, with a staggering 40 (compared to CR7's 35). The Argentinian's most prolific season (2011-12) saw him net 73 times, while Ronaldo's season-best is 61 which he achieved in 2014-15 whilst playing for Barcelona's nemesis, Real Madrid.
Scoring goals is undoubtedly important, but another crucial metric for top players - especially attacking midfielders and those on the sides - is their ability to help make a goal, to provide an assist. This is where Messi really seems to dominate the argument. Every season since 2009-10, bar one, has seen the little maestro record more than Ronaldo, notching up an invaluable 298 assists. Again, there are nuances to this statistic. Messi's Barcelona teams have been iconic for their intricate passing play, a style they perfected and pioneered. This type of 'tika-taka' soccer focuses on short passing and movement, of which Messi would have been a cog in the wheel of. Ronaldo, on the other hand, has tended to play more as a forward, looking to shoot and score from range rather than provide for his teammates. Nonetheless, when it comes to assists, Messi is the GOAT.
When it comes to silverware, Ronaldo and Messi have very similar hauls. The Argentinian has the edge in league titles - he's won the Spanish league an astonishing 10 times with his beloved Barcelona, whereas Ronaldo has 7. However, these league titles have come in 3 different countries, England, Spain, and Italy. CR7's proven track record in different leagues across Europe is often cited as a determining factor in his claim for GOAT status. Ronaldo also has a dominant record in Europe's premier tournament, the Champions League. 'Mr. Champions League' has lifted the coveted trophy on five occasions (with both Manchester United and Real Madrid), compared to Messi's four. While the World Cup continues to elude both Ronaldo and Messi, Madeira's favorite son tasted European Championship success in the red and green of his beloved Portugal. Lionel Messi's fortunes in the blue and white of Argentina continue to be a source of heartache for the number 10, who has failed to win a World Cup or Copa America to date.