Over the past 10 years two football players have lit up the world stage like no others. Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi. The Portuguese and the Argentinian. The handsome one and the other one. Up until 2017 the debate over their greatness had been close, with both sides waging war to a stalemate.
The debate is over. Messi vs. Ronaldo is no longer fit for your next pub slanging match. Unquestionably Cristiano Ronaldo is now officially the greatest football player of all time and here’s why:
- Statistics. Cristiano Ronaldo now holds the record for most goals in the Champions League and the top 5 leagues in Europe. Unbelievable! Such goal scoring feats are unprecedented and will never be matched. For all of Lionel Messi’s flair, Ronaldo has 10 goals to match. Goals win games, not intricate runs or short, cute passes. If you want your team to win trophies, you buy Ronaldo. You don’t buy Messi.
- International Success. Lionel Messi is undoubtedly a great player. What he is not, however, is a great international player. The diminutive Argentine has only been successful with F.C. Barcelona, one of the greatest and biggest clubs in the history of football. Why hasn’t Messi won the Copa America or World Cup? No Xavi, Iniesta or other Barcelona superstars. Ronaldo won the European Championships in 2016 with a team of journeymen. Talisman.
- Longevity. There was a time, in his twenties, when Lionel Messi could not stop winning Ballon d’Ors. It looked like he could win 10 of them. Those days are over. The Ballon d’Or now belongs to Cristiano Ronaldo at the grand old age of 32. Lionel Messi, at the time of writing, has 5. Next year Ronaldo will also have 5. Don’t be surprised if Ronaldo finishes with 6 or 7 and Messi stays on 5.
- Image. The greatest football player of all time must transcend sport. Think Michael Jordan. Even if you didn’t follow basketball you knew his name, you could draw his face and you could certainly buy his Nike shoes. Cristiano Ronaldo is the Michael Jordan of football. In 2016 and 2017 he was ranked the world’s highest-paid athlete by Forbes and the world’s most famous by ESPN. Icon.
- More than one club. Lionel Messi plays for a club with the motto, ‘more than a club’. What he should really be thinking about is, ‘more than one club’. Messi cannot be the greatest player of all time when he has only proven himself at one club. We don’t know how he’d have done with a lesser team, like Manchester United, for example. Ronaldo was the ultimate player in England and Spain, breaking records left, right and centre.
As of 2017, the debate is over. Shut and sealed. Cristiano Ronaldo has overtaken Lionel Messi by such a margin that you wonder if Messi can ever catch up. The good news for Messi fans is that their man is 30 years old. The bad news is that Ronaldo looks like being the best player in the world well into his thirties.