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Who is better Messi or Ronaldo? Stats compared as greats endure PSG and Man Utd difficulties

Which of the all-time football greats is better?

Football consists of two things - watching the sport you love, then debating with other fans about your controversial opinions.

One debate that has been on every supporter’s lips for years and will never be agreed on is the ‘Who is better?’ argument between Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi.

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The duo became the two best footballers in the world as they shone in La Liga for Real Madrid and Barcelona.

Kids grew up dreaming of being like their heroes - some sporting the iconic colours of Barca, while others still clung onto their old Manchester United shirts from when Ronaldo kicked off his career in the Premier League.

The Red Devils made headlines around the world last summer, when the Portugal international returned to Old Trafford after 12 years.

In fact, it almost looked like we could see the Messi v Ronaldo rivalry move to England, with the former linked to Man City, however he went on to join Neymar and Kylian Mbappe at Paris Saint-Germain - what appeared to be a less risky move for Messi.

After spending years and years as the world’s best, both Ronaldo and Messi have struggled for form this year - a feeling they certainly aren’t used to.

For once there has been other names in contention for the ‘best player in the world’ title, with the likes of Mohamed Salah and Robert Lewandowski shifting them out of the limelight.

So what has happened to the pair and which star is better?

The statistics

All time goals

With two years on Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo has made more appearances in his career and has scored more goals.

The Portuguese superstar has bagged a staggering 804 goals since making his professional debut for Sporting Lisbon, while Messi has 759 - 672 of which came for Barcelona.

The duo’s goal-scoring record during their careers have been a level above the rest, and both have looked unstoppable at times.

During Ronaldo’s time in Spain, both scored a goal every 85 minutes on average in all competitions.

In terms of goals they matched each other blow to blow and had their own two-man competition for years.

However, over their entire career Messi edges it, with 0.79 goals per game, whereas Ronaldo record is 0.72.

Despite this, it is hard to take anything away from Ronaldo, with the 37-year-old spending most of his early years as a ‘traditional’ right winger.

Winner: TIE

All time assists

Despite playing almost 150 appearances less than Ronaldo, Messi has claimed significantly more assists.

The Argentine has provided 325 assists during his career, while Ronaldo has 229.

Messi’s play-making abilities have been unbeatable for years and his stats prove he is better than Ronaldo in this area.

Saying that, Ronaldo’s statistics certainly aren’t anything short of unbelievable either.

Winner: MESSI

Shooting

With over 1500 goals between them, Messi and Ronaldo are undoubtedly two of the best finishers the footballing world has ever seen.

However, while Ronaldo has scored more, statistics suggest Messi is better at shooting.

The Man United forward consistently has had more shots on goal than Messi over the years, totalling 3391 shots in the league and Champions League since 2009/10, compared to Messi’s 2735.

However, Messi scores a goal with every 5.16 shots, whereas Ronaldo scores a goal every 6.45 shots.

The Argentina attacker also gets more of his shots on target, with 47.6% of his efforts hitting the target compared to Ronaldo’s 41.2%.

Despite the stats, Ronaldo’s ability to create chances from pretty much any area - as well as possessing a lethal long shot ability - makes this debate a lot tighter.

Winner: TIE

Free kicks

Cristiano Ronaldo’s ability to score a free kick has become somewhat of a myth in recent years.

Ronaldo was certainly a brilliant set piece specialist early on his career - scoring 21 direct free kicks to Messi’s three between 2009-11.

However, between 2017-19 Ronaldo only scored five - 18 less than his rival.

His last free kick goal came way back in July 2020 which turned out to be his only free kick goal for Juventus.

Messi has become the ultimate free kick specialist later on in his career, while Ronaldo appears to have declined in this area.

Winner: MESSI

Man Utd v PSG

It was Cristiano Ronaldo that eventually chose to leave Spain first out of the two, however last summer saw Messi finally say an emotional goodbye to Barcelona 21 years after joining their academy.

While the clubs that could afford Messi’s salary were limited, the Argentinian had options from some of the biggest clubs in the world before eventually choosing PSG.

Meanwhile, Ronaldo took on the challenge of returning to Manchester United - a huge risk given their decline since Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement.

Both players have since struggled with their new teams, with Messi’s switch proving to be particularly underwhelming.

It was expected that a move to PSG would be pretty straight-forward for the 34-year-old given the stars he would be surrounded by.

He was arriving in a team that already had Mbappe, Neymar, Marco Verratti etc and playing in one of the least competitive leagues in Europe.

However, as well as suffering from injury and Covid-19, Messi has managed only seven goals in 24 appearances for the Ligue 1 club - with only two coming in the league.

A little more impressive is his 10 assists, which stands tall above Ronaldo’s three.

The former Juventus man has scored 15 goals for the Red Devils but has failed to lift the team during yet another tough season.

It was expected that Ronaldo himself could take United back to winning ways as they searched for some silverware, however there is an argument that, if anything, he is halting their progress.

While neither player have been at their best for their new sides, Ronaldo’s form for United is a bit more understandable given the quality of players that surround him and the current state of the club itself.

Messi opted for a ‘safe’ option in France and his struggles in Paris - despite PSG being comfortably top of the league - are a little more disappointing.

End of an era

It has been over ten years since Messi and Ronaldo began to fight for the ‘world’s best’ crown, with the pair facing off in Spain following Ronaldo’s move to Real Madrid in 2009.

However, the ex-Los Blancos star turned 37 last month, while Messi turns 35 in June and it is already clear both players are on the decline.

From competing for the Ballon d’Or every year to barely being mentioned for this year’s award, the two legends are having to accept that it is now time to pave the way for the world’s new stars.