It’s hard to find topics, debates or arguments that enrage fans like that of Ronaldo vs Messi. The two icons have played at a level above their peers for over ten years.
They have set themselves apart from the rest with the ridiculous numbers they produce year after year. They have also won the biggest individual titles with both winning five Ballon d’Or’s each in the last 11 years.
Modric’s win in 2018 was the first time since 2007 that neither Ronaldo nor Messi won the individual award. However, the two football gods are back in reckoning this year and are expected to be in the top three when the winners are announced later this year.
Despite their advanced years, the two are not slowing down and they showed that for their national teams during the recent international break.
Cristiano Ronaldo is just a goal away from scoring a century of goals for Portugal after scoring a hattrick against Lithuania and one against Luxembourg in the Euro 2020 qualifiers.
Not to be outshined by his rival, Messi scored his 69th and 70th goal in Argentina’s games against Brazil and Uruguay respectively.
The Barcelona captain missed Albiceleste’s September and October international friendlies after he was banned by CONMEBOL for three months. But on his return, he looked like he has never been away.
His first came in the win over Brazil, finishing from a rebound after his initial spot-kick had been saved by Alisson Becker. His second also came from the spot, but this time he was successful at the first attempt.
While both Messi and Ronaldo reached impressive landmarks for their countries, there have been debates on which is more impressive, so we take a look.
Although neither player does not select teams they play against, stats show that 26.09% of Messi’s international goals have come against teams in the top ten of FIFA rankings.
🇵🇹 Cristiano Ronaldo – 99
🇦🇷 Lionel Messi – 69
% of goals scored against nations currently inside the top 10 FIFA's World rankings
🇵🇹 Cristiano Ronaldo – 8.08%
🇦🇷 Lionel Messi – 26.09% pic.twitter.com/Zora4KpTPB
— Coral (@Coral) November 18, 2019
Meanwhile, just 8.08% of Ronaldo’s goals have come against the top ten teams in the world. Breaking it further down, 56 of Messi’s international’s goals have been against teams in the top 50, while just 28 of Ronaldo’s 99 goals have come against teams in the top 50.
Lithuania is the country Ronaldo has scored the most goals against (7), while Messi has scored more (5) against Brazil, Uruguay and Paraguay than any other team.
The highest-ranked team Ronaldo has goals against is Sweden (5) followed by Netherlands (4). Brazil are the highest-ranked team Messi has scored against most (5), followed by Uruguay and Paraguay (5).
It should be noted that Ronaldo has scored at least two or more times against these teams, Spain, Belgium, Denmark, Russia and Switzerland.
Messi meanwhile, has found the back of the net at least two or more times against Spain, Switzerland, Nigeria and Mexico.
Cameroon are the highest-ranked African team Ronaldo has scored against most (2), followed by Ghana (1). Nigeria are the highest-ranked African team Messi has found success against most (3), and all the three goals came at the World Cup.
Ronaldo's international goals 🆚 Messi's international goals
— GOAL (@goal) November 19, 2019
Having taken a look at the statistics, it will be fair to say Messi’s numbers are better with the majority of the Argentine’s goals coming against top football nations compared to Ronaldo who has scored a chunk of his goals against teams outside the top 50.
However, it is important to put things into perspective. The format UEFA applies in their qualifying competitions means Ronaldo goals are more likely to come against low-level oppositions.
South America is made up of just ten countries where football is like a religion. These ten countries are better than a quarter of teams in Europe, so it is normal for Messi’s goals to come against high-quality teams.
Nevertheless, it is time fans of these two greats stop with the comparison, and accept they are fortunate to witness two of the sporting greats in this century.