Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi will renew a rivalry that has captured the attention of the world when the new La Liga season resumes on August 22nd.
The two standout footballers of their current generation continue to push each other to new heights, smashing records for both club and country. But who is the greatest player in the world - Ronaldo or Messi?
An infographic below presents some of their key stats, comparing their performances over the past five seasons. And as expected, it is extremely close! At Soccerjury, we have assigned ourselves the difficult task of choosing who is the greater player between these two footballing giants.
Ronaldo vs Messi broken down (Soccerjury)
Club Form: Goals, lots of them!
By comparing their club performances over the past five seasons, it is apparent that Messi's combined goals and assists rate was superior to Ronaldo's for three of the first five seasons (10/11, 11/12 and 12/13). Messi had more assists in each of these three seasons than Ronaldo, and also scored more goals in the 10/11 and 12/13 campaigns (both players tied the 11/12 season with an incredible 60 goals).
However, during the most recent two seasons (13/14 and 14/15) Ronaldo has outshone his rival in the goal-scoring stakes and has a higher goals and assists rate. The increased number of assists is particularly noteworthy for Ronaldo, since his critics have often accused the Galactico of being "selfish"..
Over the course of the past five seasons, Messi has scored five goals more than Ronaldo (285 vs 280 respectively) although he has played in three more games. Messi also edges their combined goals and assists rate during this period scoring an astonishing 1.43 goals or assists in a game versus 1.35 for Ronaldo. But only a second decimal place separates both players.
The two greatest players in the world today continue to rewrite the record books (Getty)
International Form: Captains and Talismen
Since July 2010, Ronaldo has scored one international goal more than Messi in six fewer caps. However, Messi has a noticeably higher assists rate than Ronaldo (17 assists vs 5 assists respectively), which results in the Argentinian having a higher combined goals and assists rate.
Again the results are very close, and can be argued in favour of either player. Ronaldo has scored more goals than Messi, which Portugal fans will state is the greatest currency in football. But fans of the Argentinian captain will point towards his greater team contribution, and his significantly greater number of assists which ultimately results in goals.
However, some neutrals will remark that despite being the talismen of their national teams, both players have yet to replicate their club performances at international level. This argument can be supported by both players contributing 0.5 goals or assists less per game for their national sides versus their clubs.
Ronaldo and Messi clasp hands before an international match (PA via Daily Telegraph)
Major Silverware: Monopolised
Ronaldo and Messi have collected numerous silverware over the past five seasons, securing all of the major club and individual trophies available.
It is a fact that Messi has won more La Liga and Champions League trophies with Barcelona than Ronaldo has with Real Madrid. However, football is a team game and CR7 fans will state that Real Madrid did not have legends in the mould of an Iniesta or a Xavi to propel the Madrid club to greater success.
In terms of personal awards, Messi had monopolised the Ballon d'Or for the first three years in this comparison, while Ronaldo has claimed this prize in the recent two occasions. Their personal triumph for this coveted award correlates perfectly to which player has outshone his rival in the goals and assists tally for a particular club season.
Critics will claim that both players have yet to win a major international tournament. But there is still time!
Messi and Ronaldo at the 2014 Ballon d'Or ceremony (AFP)
Soccerjury metrics: As decided by you!
Based on fans scoring the physical, psyhcological and proficiency skills of players on Soccerjury, both Ronaldo and Messi had a 85.6% rating on Soccerjury as of July 2015. Ronaldo edged out Messi to a higher ranking based on a decimal rounding. However, more recently the Argentinian has replaced his rival to top the current rankings, which further highlights that very little separates these two icons of the game. But both players should be proud to be ranked 4th and 5th respectively in the greatest strikers of all time.
In terms of valuation, Messi has a higher transfer value on Soccerjury mainly due to the Barcelona player being three years younger than his rival.
Social media: Excluded!
Ronaldo has a greater number of fans than Messi on Facebook. However, the quantity of fans does not correlate to the ability of the player, and can depend on how active a player is on social media and their "marketability". Ronaldo is considered an exponent of social media, while Messi who is more introverted in nature still has no official Twitter account.
For this reason, social media is excluded from this comparison.
Ronaldo vs Messi: fans can decide the rating and transfer value on Soccerjury (Soccerjury.com)
Overall: Who do we think is the best?
At Soccerjury, choosing between Ronaldo or Messi caused a heated debate in our team that lasted throughout the night and into the morning hours. But based on this comparison, it was finally decided that Messi has been the leading player over the past five seasons, but that Ronaldo is the best player at this precise moment in time.
But we realise that only the slightest of margins separate both these iconic players, and even these margins can be debated.