Recently, after Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were crowned champions of Super Bowl LV, Brady’s claim of being the single Greatest of All Time (GOAT) of the National Football League (NFL) has significantly strengthened. Additionally, ever since the popularization of The Last Dance, a docu-series featuring Michael Jordan’s prolific basketball career, Jordan has been frequently considered to be the true GOAT of the National Basketball Association (NBA) over LeBron James. Arguably two of the greatest athletes in history, Brady and Jordan are sports icons. However, there are two more names and one more question that must be investigated. Is Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo the GOAT of soccer?
While both Messi and Ronaldo each have hundreds of records to their names and have transcended the world of soccer, there can only be one GOAT. Ronaldo is a Portuguese winger and forwards that has played for Sporting CP, Manchester United, Real Madrid, and now Juventus. He is a 6’2” aerial threat famous for scoring header goals, is one of the fastest sprinters in global soccer, boasts quick feet and technical skills in one on one situations, and is famous for his powerful shot, also known as a “Ronaldo Rocket.” Since his professional debut, Ronaldo has accumulated mass fame and has filled his trophy cabinet to the brim.
Ronaldo has won 5 Champions League titles, 3 UEFA Super Cups, 3 Club World Cups, 2 La Liga titles, 3 Premier League titles, 2 Serie A titles, 1 FA Cup, and one European Championship. Ronaldo is one of the most decorated soccer players of all time at the club level but is also ripe with recognition on the individual level. He is a 5 time Ballon D’Or winner, 1 time FIFA World Player of the Year, 7-time Champions League Top Scorer, and 3 time La Liga Top Scorer. Additionally, Ronaldo has maintained quite the impressive goal to game ratio throughout his career, measuring in at a staggering 0.73.
Ronaldo is clearly a physical specimen with elite dribbling and shooting skills. He is a proven winner as he has helped every team he has played win a title. And his name will forever be seen and remembered throughout the record books amongst soccer legends: Pele, Diego Maradona, Zinedine Zidane, and Johan Cruyff. But the question remains. Is he better than Lionel Messi, the mini magician?
Messi is an Argentinian winger and center forward that has played for FC Barcelona his entire career. He is a 5’7” defenders’ nightmare, famous for his composed shooting placement in front of goal, unrivaled technique and control of the ball, keen vision, and passing, as well as arguably the quickest feet and best dribbling the soccer world has ever seen. In his lasting tenure with FC Barcelona, Messi has filled the record books and effectively made quite the claim for the coveted throne as the GOAT of soccer.
“[Messi] is a 5’7” defenders’ nightmare, famous for his composed shooting placement in front of goal, unrivaled technique and control of the ball, keen vision, and passing, as well as arguably the quickest feet and best dribbling the soccer world has ever seen. “
Messi has won 4 Champions League titles, 3 UEFA World Cups, 3 Club World Cups, 8 Spanish Super Cups, 1 Olympic Games, and, arguably most impressively, 10 La Liga titles. Additionally, Messi has won 6 Ballon d’Or, the most of all time, 6 European Golden Shoes, 1 FIFA World Player of the Year, 6 Champions League Top Scorers, and 7 La Liga Top Scorers along with a myriad of other accolades. Throughout this span, Messi has also boasted a 0.81 goal to game ratio and could go assist or goalless in his next 166 matches and still have a higher goal/assist average than Ronaldo.
Both players are undeniably accomplished and legends to this game. While fans are always pitting these two against each other, it is also important to recognize and appreciate how special these two stars really are. That being said, there is one true GOAT and his name is Lionel Messi. The main argument for Ronaldo being the GOAT is his international success in comparison to Messi’s. However, what separates Messi apart from Ronaldo is his mentality and leadership abilities. Ronaldo tends to be known as a more selfish player, the star of the team, and the man that demands the ball. On the other hand, Messi makes his whole team better. He certainly demands his fair share of the ball, but his willingness and skill to pass and assist the ball to elevate his game above Ronaldo’s. Additionally, Messi’s historic loyalty to Barcelona and incredible sportsmanship and teamwork help solidify him as the all-around GOAT of soccer. Both men have unbelievable technical skills and shine in different ways, but Messi is the all-around better scorer, assister, dribbler, and defender, thus cementing his position as the GOAT.
If the stats aren’t enough to prove this, take it from some of the top-level soccer players that competed against the two of them throughout their careers. Famous FC Barcelona defender Carles Puyol once said, “He’s well above anything else I’ve ever seen. He’s an alien.” Another soccer legend, Pele, once said, “I like both Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo but I don’t think there is a fair comparison here. Messi has been the best player around for the last 10 years and he is a guy who is much more present in the game overall.” And countless other big names in the soccer world have described him as the Mozart of soccer, a divine spirit, and even that he is not from this Earth. All of these greats recognize how special Ronaldo is, but also understand how Messi is the greatest soccer player of all time, as nobody has done what Messi has done to the sport.
“Both have changed soccer forever and cemented their names in the record books as the top two players of all time. With hundreds of accolades between the two of them, their names will truly never be forgotten.“
These two men have reigned over global and European soccer for the majority of the past two decades. Both have changed soccer forever and cemented their names in the record books as the top two players of all time. With hundreds of accolades between the two of them, their names will truly never be forgotten. As their careers slowly start to wind down, the soccer community must appreciate every moment these athletes have given us and each one they have left to give. Because when Messi and Ronaldo retire, it will truly be the end of an era and the future soccer stars will have to live in the GOAT’s shadows for years to come.