Lionel Messi vs Cristiano Ronaldo: They are the two GOATs of world football, but ahead of their first head-to-head on the pitch since 2018, how do the Barcelona and Juventus stars’ numbers and records compare? And could it be their LAST meeting?
- Barcelona host Juventus in the Champions League on Tuesday night
- It will be the first meeting of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo since May 2018
- The pair have not met on the pitch since Ronaldo moved to Juventus
- Messi and Ronaldo go head-to-head for the 36th time – but could it be the last?
Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo will meet for the 36th time on a football pitch on Tuesday night as Barcelona face Juventus in the Champions League.
Ronaldo’s positive coronavirus test stopped the reunion of world football’s GOATs in October, but the Nou Camp will take centre stage for their first head-to-head in over two-and-a-half years.
The pair have not faced each other since Ronaldo left Real Madrid for Juventus in 2018, and with both players now well into their 30s there is the fear that this could be the last time they come up against each other.
Messi and Ronaldo have defined the sport over the past decade, and the debate over who is the greatest of all time will always rage on. But how do their individual and team feats compare? Sportsmail takes a look…
Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo will come up against each other for the 36th time this week
Football’s greatest rivals have not faced each other since Ronaldo joined Juventus in 2018
It will be their first meeting since an El Clasico meeting at the Nou Camp in May 2018
There are fears that this could be the last time football’s two great rivals go head-to-head
Ronaldo, two years Messi’s senior, had a headstart on his great rival. But it still took him a while to become the goalscoring machine that he went on to be.
It was not until his fourth season as a pro, and his third at Manchester United in 2005-06, that he entered double figures.
He has been a model of supreme consistency ever since, peaking at Real Madrid where for six consecutive seasons he hit 50-plus goals.
Ronaldo celebrates after scoring a last-minute winner against Juventus in 2018
Club goals: 648
Portugal goals: 102
Total goals: 750
Club goals: 641
Argentina goals: 71
Total goals: 712
In an incredible 2014-15 campaign he scored 61 times in just 54 games. In his club career, for Sporting Lisbon, United, Madrid and now Juventus, he has managed 648 goals in 858 appearances.
This year saw him score his 100th goal for Portugal, for whom he now has 102 from 170 caps. Messi, by contrast, is less prolific for Argentina at roughly one-in-two with 71 goals from 142 games.
But while Ronaldo took time to get going as a goalscorer supreme, Messi was into double figures in just the second season after his professional debut in 2005.
He has surpassed 30 in a season every year since 2009, and last season was the first since then that he failed to get past 40. His peak came in 2011-2012 when he scored a remarkable 73 times in 60 appearances for Barcelona, and an astonishing 91 goals in the calendar year 2012.
His consistency in front of goal since an early age now has him fast approaching Ronaldo’s haul. Messi has scored 641 times in 743 appearances for Barca, putting him just seven behind his old rival in 117 fewer games.
Messi celebrates scoring against Manchester United in the 2011 Champions League final
This is where Messi has the edge, with 34 major trophies compared to Ronaldo’s 29.
Messi’s longevity at Barcelona has seen him win 10 LaLiga titles, four Champions Leagues, six Copa del Rey titles, eight Spanish Super Cups, three European Super Cups and three Club World Cups.
But his only major honour at international level came when he claimed Olympic gold with Argentina in Beijing in 2008.
Ronaldo has won fewer league titles – seven – but in three different countries; England, Spain and Italy. He does, though, have one more Champions League title – five, which includes Real Madrid’s historic three-in-a-row between 2016 and 2018.
While Messi has only managed to lead his country to a runners-up finish at the 2014 World Cup, Ronaldo has twice achieved glory with Portugal, claiming Euro 2016 glory and the inaugural Nations League in 2019.
Messi has four Champions League trophies, while Ronaldo has won it five times now
League titles: 10
Champions League: 4
Copa del Rey: 6
Spanish Super Cup: 8
European Super Cup: 3
Club World Cup: 3
Total = 34
League titles: 7
Champions League: 5
FA Cup, Copa del Rey: 3
League Cup: 2
Community Shield, Spanish and Italian Super Cup: 4
European Super Cup: 2
Club World Cup: 4
European Championship: 1
Nations League: 1
Total = 29
Messi and Ronaldo’s dominance of football’s individual prizes has defined the rivalry as much as their thunderous El Clasico meetings over the years.
Their list of individual awards is many and varied, but here Sportsmail are only going to look at the major, most coveted prizes.
For 10 years they shared the Ballon d’Or between themselves before Luka Modric temporarily broke their stranglehold in 2018. Messi then went and won it for a sixth time last year, to take him past Ronaldo’s haul of five.
Messi pulled clear of perennial rival Ronaldo after winning his sixth Ballon d’Or prize in 2019
MESSI INDIVIDUAL AWARDS
Ballon d’Or: 6
FIFA The Best: 1
UEFA Player of the Year: 2
Player of the Season: 6
European Golden Shoe: 6
LaLiga Golden Boot: 7
Champions League Golden Boot: 6
Total = 34
RONALDO INDIVIDUAL AWARDS
Ballon d’Or: 5
FIFA The Best: 2
UEFA Player of the Year: 3
Player of the Season: 4
European Golden Shoe: 4
Golden Boot (England, Spain, Italy): 4
Champions League Golden Boot: 7
Total = 29
Since the inception of FIFA’s The Best award in 2016, Ronaldo has two and Messi one.
Ronaldo has three times been UEFA’s Player of the Year, with Messi winning it just twice.
Messi has six European Golden Shoes to Ronaldo’s four, and has claimed the LaLiga Golden Boot on seven occasions to his rival’s three. Ronaldo has only claimed one other country’s Golden Boot, finishing as Premier League top scorer in 2008.
Messi has six Player of the Season prizes, while Ronaldo has four – spread across three countries. In the Champions League, Ronaldo has claimed the Golden Boot seven times, ahead of Messi’s six.
In total Messi has 34 individual awards, five more than Ronaldo’s 29.
Messi and Ronaldo embrace during a clash between Argentina and Portugal in 2014
The congested and truncated 2020-21 season has been difficult for all footballers, and it has been no different for Messi and Ronaldo as they approach the twilight of their brilliant careers.
Messi has come in for criticism after coming so close to leaving Barcelona in the summer. He stayed put to fulfil the final year of his contract, but has been below his best for Ronald Koeman.
The Argentine has still bagged seven times in 13 appearances, but is scoring at a rate of less than one-in-two in LaLiga, where Barcelona are well off the pace.
Ronaldo has suffered a coronavirus lay-off, which forced him to miss games for both club and country in October. But he has been in lethal form for Juventus in front of goal, with 10 goals in nine games, despite being limited to just three appearances in the Champions League.
Is it the last time they’ll face each other?
This is the great fear ahead of the 36th head-to-head meeting of their great rivalry.
Ronaldo and Messi did not share a pitch together until 2008, when Manchester United faced Barcelona in the semi-finals of the Champions League.
They then faced each other again in the final a year later, where Messi’s header helped settle a 2-0 victory for Pep Guardiola’s men in Rome.
Messi and Ronaldo first went head-to-head in a Champions League semi-final in 2008
Games Played: 35
Messi W: 16
Ronaldo W: 10
Messi goals: 22
Ronaldo goals: 19
Since then the rivalry has exclusively been played out in El Clasico. Messi has had the edge, winning 16 of their meetings to Ronaldo’s 10.
But with both players into their mid-30s and in different leagues, the frequency of future meetings is in serious doubt. Ronaldo still has 18 months remaining on his contract in Turin, while Messi is in the final year of his deal at Barcelona and looks set to end his long-running association with the Nou Camp club.
Manchester City and PSG appear likely destinations, while Inter Milan are also interested. A move to Inter would reunite the pair in Serie A, but a move to the Premier League or Ligue 1 appears the likeliest scenario, if indeed he does leave Barcelona.
Whether it is the last or not, it is an occasion to be savoured, because it has now become a treat instead of something taken for granted.
Ronaldo’s nine-year stint at Real Madrid defined the rivalry between the pair and El Clasico
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