The 2022 FIFA World Cup is going to see the potential swansong performances of two of the biggest and best players of this generation in Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi.
Ronaldo, 37, has already achieved international football immortality with his amazing record of most goals scored in international games. The Portuguese superstar has scored a whopping 115 international goals for Portugal, six more than Iranian football legend Ali Daei.
He has also won two trophies with his country: the UEFA Euro 2016 title where they saw off France and the UEFA Nations League title where they saw off the best version of Netherlands since 2014.
His eternal rival, Messi, 34, has also been phenomenal for Argentina. His international career is no doubt legendary in the eyes of neutrals, but it is a bone of contention in his home country of Argentina as many believe he has not matched up to Diego Armando Maradona, the man who they call “God”.
This is despite Messi being the player with the most caps for Argentina (he is also in the top 30 for players with the most international caps). This is also despite the Paris Saint-Germain forward being the player with the most goals (also the most international goals in South America) and assists, alongside dominating every other key attack stats in the Argentinian national team.
Messi has also won an international trophy with his country, beating Argentina’s eternal rivals Brazil to the 2020 Copa America on Brazilian soil.
However, both players are international legends but on the biggest international stage, Messi just about edges Ronaldo.
Here are the stats of both players considered as the Greatest Of All Time (GOAT) in football in the World Cup from their first game till date.
Number of World Cups
Messi and Ronaldo have played at four FIFA World Cups each. Both Ronaldo’s and Messi’s first World Cup was the 2006 edition held in Germany at the ages of 21 and 19 respectively.
Both were fresh faced youths who had just begun to make waves in club football, and we’re already being compared in terms of talent, skill and output. Ronaldo was already four years a senior professional footballer by then while Messi was only two years into his senior career.
Number of appearances
Ronaldo has two less appearances (17) than Messi (19) at the World Cup despite debuting in the same year and even going further than Messi in their debut year.
Messi reached the quarterfinals with Argentina while Ronaldo and Portugal made it to the semi-finals. Messi, still only a greenhorn at the time, only played three games in that World Cup while Ronaldo, already a full-fledged member of the Portugal national team, played six games.
However, Messi went on to reach the quarter finals (2010), the finals (2014) and the round of 16 (2018) in the subsequent World Cups while Ronaldo went on to reach the round of 16 (2010), leave at the group stages (2014), and the round of 16 (2018) in the subsequent World Cups.
Number of goals
Ronaldo, however, has one more goal than Messi in the global showpiece, a thing that has typified their careers.
In his 17 World Cup matches, he has seven goals while Messi has six in his 19. However, Ronaldo has scored in four straight World Cups as one of only three players to ever do so. Messi, on the other hand, didn’t get on the scoresheet in the 2010 edition.
Number of assists
And just like it is with Ronaldo’s goals, so it is with Messi’s assists. The Argentine has always been the better playmaker, creating more and assisting more.
Messi has five total assists in World Cups (two in 2006, one in 2010, 2014 and 2018 respectively) while Ronaldo has just two (one each in 2014 and 2018).
Putting both their goals and assists together, Messi has 11 total goal contributions from 19 games while Ronaldo has nine from 18 games in their four World Cups, which edges the seven-time Ballon d’or winner over the five-time Ballon d’Or winner.