Lionel Messi vs. Christiano Ronaldo

Lionel or Cristiano? Ronaldo or Messi?

The eternal question remains: who’s better? This article will try to approach this question by analysing 10  technical and physical categories and deciding a winner in each one.

By tackling this topic, I expect both Messi and Ronaldo fans to disagree with me.

But I will try my best to remain objective and to declare a winner for the attributes I have decided to compare them on—both physical and technical attributes (shooting, acceleration, strength…) and “intangible” ones (mentality, marketability, ego…). 

The winner will be determined by points on each category they win.

Want to know who’ll win in speed?

Or in free-kick ability?

What about sportsmanship?

Will it be Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo?

Start the slideshow and find out!


1. Strength

Cristiano Ronaldo:

Cristiano’s 1.85 meters tall and weighs 85 Kg so you would expect him to be a bull physically.

But he’s not.

It might be more mental than anything, but he shies away from contact and prefers to go down rather than physically outshine the opposing defenders.

When he wants to though, he can be physical and hold the ball with his back towards goal.

He certainly doesn’t like it and prefers not to do it, though.

Lionel Messi:

Messi has very good strength for someone that barely crosses 1.70 meters as their height. The Argentinian can shield defenders off the ball and can hold it with his back towards goal.

Anyone that has seen him can also notices he can resist opponents lunges and tackles towards his legs, and he can resist the hardest slides while remaining on his feet.

Who’s stronger? Tie 

When all those things are taken into account, they’re more or less the same physically for their rival’s defenses. 

Messi overperfoms for his short build, and Ronaldo underperforms for his huge one. 

It all starts out with a tie, then


2. Top Speed / Acceleration

Lionel Messi:

Messi’s not as fast as you might think top speed wise, but his agility and acceleration in short spaces are the best in the world. Period.

He’s definitely more quick than fast and can blow opponents away on pure burst.

Cristiano Ronaldo:

Cristiano is a sprinter. When in full speed, he’s one of the fastest players in the world.

His acceleration’s not that bad either, but he’s more fast than quick.

If he’s in fourth gear sprinting, you just won’t catch him.

But if he’s standing still, there’s a better chance of stopping him.

Who’s Faster? Tie

Both Lio and CR7 exploit defender speed wise. While the Argentinian abuses them on short speed, Ronaldo wins on top speed.

Another tie and it’s still 0-0.


3. Technique

Cristiano Ronaldo:

Cristiano has magnificent tecnhique for a player over 1.85 meters.

He loves flicks and tricks and can do basically anything on the book when the ball is on his feet.

Lionel Messi:

Messi just might be the top technician in the world…with everything except his right foot.

Other than that, he can control the ball in every situation with every single part of his body.

Who’s more technical? Messi

Even with his “one-footedness,” Lionel wins this battle because his tecnhique is a little better than Cristiano’s. Still very close to a tie though.

Messi scores the first one, and he’s up 1-0.


4. Passing

Lionel Messi:

Messi is definitely not at Xavi’s level when passing the ball, but he has established himself as a consistent passer and assister this past two seasons.

He also actively participates in Barcelona’s play creation.

…At least when he actually wants to pass the ball.

Sometimes he gets greedy and just doesn’t pass when his teammates are open to make a play.

Cristiano Ronaldo:

Cristiano likes the ball to be in one man’s feet: Cristiano’s.

He does have good skills and vision when passing the ball, but he just doesn’t like to share it at all and wants to finish plays himself most of the time.

Who’s the better passer? Messi

As a passer, I’d take Messi, even if it’s just because he’s the least selfish of the two.

Messi increases his lead to 2-nil.


5. Crossing

Cristiano Ronaldo:

Cristiano Ronaldo benefited from his time in England to perfect his crossing technique.

Even though he’s not a corner kick taker because of his heading skills (more on that later), he’s a very good crosser and long passer.

It’s a shame he sometimes prefers to take a shot at an odd angle on goal rather than crossing the ball.

Lionel Messi:

The farther away the play is from Messi, the worse he becomes. When he was a winger, he never excelled at crossing the ball. And even if he likes to take the corner kicks at Barcelona, he’s not proficient at long balls at all.

That’s probably why Barcelona take all those short corners.

Who’s a better crosser? Ronaldo

I’d take Ronaldo any day if my game was depending on a cross into the box. 

Ronaldo takes one back, and it’s now 2-1.


6. Aerial Football / Heading

Lionel Messi:

Messi is fantastic in the air for his short height and has scored lots of goals heading it in.

But he is no way a dangerous force in that area even if he’s not as bad as his height would initally suggest.

Cristiano Ronaldo:

Cristiano is very dangerous as a header and is also proficient at defending with his head. His 1.85 meter height helps him out, but he also has amazing positioning and very good jumping skills.

When you face CR7, one of the main dangers he poses is his aerial game.

Who’s the better header? CR7

It should be a very wide margin win for Ronaldo, but even though Messi is good for his height, the Portuguese star still takes this category by a lot.

CR7 ties it, and we’re 2-2.


7. Shooting

Cristiano Ronaldo:

Ronaldo certainly enjoys launching “Ronaldo Rockets” on goal as much as he can every game. And that’s partly because he has one of the world’s most powerful and deadliest shots. With both legs, too. At least when he’s on target.

But truth is, even though he has a fantastic hard shot, most of them end up way off target. 

If he could improve his accuracy…imagine the possibilities.

Lionel Messi:

Messi prefers placing over power when he shoots. And even though he normally doesn’t take hard long shots on goal, he can do it as well, even if it’s not his strong suit.

His strength is accuracy, and at that, he’s one of the world’s best. It’s rare to see Lio’s shots end up way off target.

Who’s a better shooter? Ronaldo

If I were an opposing goalkeeper, I’d be more afraid of a “Ronaldo Rocket” than anything Messi can provide, even if he has deadly accuracy.

If Cristiano’s on goal, his shots are simply unstoppable.

That gives CR7 the edge on this one, and he goes on to lead 3-2.


8. Free-Kick Taking / Set Pieces

Lionel Messi:

This one baffles me. Messi certainly has the touch to take the short free kicks. But the fact he takes the long ones is just not cool. He doesn’t have the strength to take them and they either 1) end up on the keepers hands or 2) go 50 feet above goal.

Free kick taking’s just not Lio’s thing, as much as he might want it to be.

Cristiano Ronaldo:

Cristiano’s one of the best free-kick takers today. His “folha seca rocket” and the show he performs before every shot are both widely feared.

It’s true that it’s either off target or a goal.

But when it’s on target…

Yeah…goal. 

Who’s the better free-kick taker? Ronaldo

Cristiano wins it by a large margin again, even though for a short central free kick, I’d actually prefer Messi.

Ronaldo scores a free kick and edges Messi 4-2?


9. Finishing

Cristiano Ronaldo:

Ronaldo has very good positioning and creates a lot of scoring opportunities, but his “all-power” approach doesn’t serve him well when he’s close to a goal.

When he’s one-on-one against the keeper or with a clear-scoring chance, Cristiano’s not as lethal as he should be.

He’s actually deadlier when his chances aren’t that easy.

Lionel Messi:

Messi has become a lethal poacher in the area in Barcelona’s drawn out No. 9 role. If I’ve seen him push in 40 goals with one-touch strikes inside the area the past two years, I wouldn’t be exaggerating.

He has lots of thank you’s to give to Villa, Pedro, Iniesta and Xavi.

But when the play needs clinical finishing, Lio is right there to punch it home every time.

Who’s a better goal-scorer? Messi

When they’re inside tha area and all the ball needs is some gentle, well-placed pushing, Messi is your man, and Cristiano is a long way behind him.

10. Dribbling

Lionel Messi:

No one is better at short, spaced one-on-one dribbling than Lionel Messi.

His acceleration, technique and agility all come into play here, and it’s really the central characteristic that makes Messi who he is.

Cristiano Ronaldo:

Cristiano’s a very good dribbler that relies more on making his man miss trough tricks, and he’s definitely one of the best in the world in that regard.

But he struggles when he’s standing still and shies away from tackles.

Who’s the better dribbler? Messi

Cristiano’s a good dribbler in his own right, but Lio goes past him on this one.

Lionel ties it 4-4.


Verdict 1: Technical and Physical Attributes

Category and Winner:

Strength: Tie

Top Speed / Acceleration: Tie

Technique: Messi

Passing: Messi

Crossing: Ronaldo

Aerial Football / Heading: Ronaldo

Shooting: Ronaldo

Free Kick Taking / Set Pieces: Ronaldo

Goal-Scoring: Messi

Dribbling: Messi

Technical and Physical attributes score: Messi 4-4 Ronaldo

11. Passion for the Game

Cristiano Ronaldo:

Ronaldo is one of the most passionate players in the game today.

You can just see he wants to score and win every single play he has.

He’s just as passionate off-the-field, and he works his face off to be the physical marvel he is today.

Lionel Messi:

Messi is passionate about football. Quietly passionate, at least.

Inside his withdrawn self, it seems he enjoys the game very much, even if he’s not outspoken about it.

Who’s more passionate? Ronaldo

Cristiano takes this one, by the mere fact that he makes it more evident for the common fan.

Messi doesn’t have the outbursts Cristiano has, and that makes him lose this one.

Cristiano scores first in the intangibles and it’s 1-0.

12. Mentality

Lionel Messi:

Messi’s mentality isn’t the best around. His incapacity to win when under pressure with Argentina and Barcelona shines through.

The fact you sometimes ask—¿Where’s Messi?—is proof enough.

Cristiano Ronaldo:

Cristiano wants to win. Badly. And that plays against him when he’s under pressure.

Ironically, he tries to do too much and ends up doing nothing.

Who’s the better dribbler? Tie

Neither is particularly good under pressure, to be honest.

CR7 still leads 1-nil.


13. Sportsmanship

Cristiano Ronaldo:

Ronaldo is not a good sport. He dives, he argues, he screams, he kicks.

It might be because he wants to win, but that’s not good enough.

Lionel Messi

Messi does dive, and he does argue with refs.

But most of the time, he tries to play fair, and sometimes resists strong tackles most players would dive for.

Who has better sportsmanship? Messi

Lio Messi sets a very good example of how to be a good sport, even though he sometimes might not be. Ronaldo is not.

Messi ties it 1-1.

14. Teamwork

Lionel Messi:

Messi thrives in Barcelona mostly because they’re all very much team-oriented.

And like all of Pep’s boys, Messi takes that in and is as good a teammate as they come when we’re talking about teamworking stars.

Cristiano Ronaldo:

Ronaldo loves Ronaldo. Then everyone else.

Who’s the better team player? Messi

Cristiano’s way more of a ball-hugger than Messi, so the Argentinian takes this one mainly for playing in a ball passing environment called Barcelona.

Messi takes the lead 2-1.

15. Loyalty

Cristiano Ronaldo:

Ronaldo has jumped ship for better opportunities. Twice.

The only person he’s loyal to is named Cristiano Ronaldo. 

Lionel Messi:

Messi has had only one club.

Who’s more loyal? Messi

Easiest one so far.

Messi makes it 3-1.

16. Defensive Contribution / Work Ethic

Lionel Messi:

Messi is the Barcelona forward that runs the least.

He still presses the opposing defenses more than any star I’ve ever seen (sometimes).

Cristiano Ronaldo:

Ronaldo doesn’t defend. Period.

Who contributes more defensively? Messi

Messi runs a little bit. Ronaldo runs zero. So Messi takes it.

Messi takes a very large lead making the score 4-1.

17. Tactical / Positional Flexibility

Cristiano Ronaldo:

Ronaldo can play as a winger in either side, as a centre forward and even as an offensive midfielder in the middle

Lionel Messi:

Messi can play as a drawn out No. 9… and he played as a right winger…and that’s it.

And the Barcelona variations of those positions, at that.

Who’s more flexible positionally? Ronaldo

Cristiano takes it 4 to 2.

And that makes it 4-2.

18. Game-Winning/Lone-Ranger Ability

Lionel Messi:

Messi can win it by himself, but he’s more accustomed to winning games as a team.

Also, look at him with Argentina. He’s that good, in part, thanks to the great team Barça is and how he complements it. 

Cristiano Ronaldo:

Ronaldo plays so Ronaldo wins. And he’s an expert when he’s told he needs to win it himself.

And also when he’s not told he has to win it by himself.

Who’s a better game-winner? Ronaldo

I’d take Ronaldo every single day if I had a poor team and needed to win. Just ask Mourinho, Ferguson and Pellegrini if you don’t believe me.

Cristiano gets even closer and makes it 4-3.

19. Ego

Cristiano Ronaldo:

Ego is a three-letter word that Cristiano definitely knows (or at least owns).

He’s declared he’s the first, second and third-best players in the world, for Christ’s sake.

Lionel Messi:

He might not seem so, but little Lio definitely has an ego. It’s speculated that he had an ego fight with Zlatan. It’s speculated he had one with Tévez in Argentina. He’s told people he doesn’t like to be criticized.

So, news flash, Messi has an ego.

Who’s ego is smaller/not as big? Tie

Both their egos get in the way. And I’ll get flamed for it, but they tie here.

That leaves the score 4-3.

20. Marketability

Lionel Messi:

Messi is one of the world’s stars and is marketable because of that. But personality-wise, he doesn’t bring much to the table, and his drawn-in attitude towards everything doesn’t help him either

Cristiano Ronaldo:

Ronaldo is the most marketable player alive. He’s top notch sporting wise, handsome and an A-list celebrity in his own right. Publicity’s living dream. 

Who’s more marketable? Ronaldo

There’s no man in football more marketable than CR7. The end.

And Cristiano ties the game to make it 4-4!

Verdict 2: Intangibles

Category and Winner:

Passion for the Game: Ronaldo

Mentality: Tie

Sportsmanship: Messi

Teamwork: Messi

Loyalty: Messi

Defensive Contribution / Work Ethic: Messi

Tactical / Positional Flexibility: Ronaldo

Game-Winning/Lone-Ranger Ability: Ronaldo

Ego: Tie

Marketability: Ronaldo

Intangibles score: 4-4

Final Verdict: Who’s Better?

Technical and Physical Attributes: 4-4

Intangibles: 4-4

Total Tally: 8-8

Winner: Tie

Who’s Better?

Well, I’ve tied them myself. And that’s good enough to say that they’re quite even. 

But what I meant to prove in this article is that in the end, they’re both great, and it’s up to you, the fan, to decide which one you like the best. 

If you feel I’m cheating out of picking one, you can tell me which one you think is best in the comment section below. 

Let the REAL tally begin!

21 comments

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