When we stop to think about it for a second, we can’t believe how lucky we are to be alive at this exact moment in time. A time when both Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo are at the peaks of their careers, playing in the same league, and for a pair of teams that are historical bitter rivals. For soccer fans around the world, this is literally as good as it’s ever going to get.
Both players are all-time greats already, and by the time they eventually retire from the game, it’s a fair assumption that the argument of “greatest player ever” will no longer be between Maradona or Pele (or even Cruyff). Only two names will remain in the conversation — Messi or Ronaldo?
The debate will probably never be settled for good, because that’s how these things work when it comes to sports. But regardless of which player you prefer, they each hold a dizzying number of records already — records they will only add to in the next 5-to-10 years. For the sake of fairness, we’ll start with a Messi record, and then alternate until we get through them all.
Messi – Led Champions League Scoring Four Years in a Row
From 2008 to 2012, Lionel Messi absolutely dominated the Champions League, Europe’s top club competition. In every single one of those years, Messi lead the competition in scoring, potting 9, 8, 12, and 14 goals, respectively. In two of those four seasons, Barcelona would lift the Champions League trophy as the greatest team on the planet. Ronaldo has also led the Champions League in scoring four times, but not consecutively. In 2014-15, both Messi and Ronaldo tied at the top of the Champions League leaderboard with 10 goals apiece, along with Messi’s Barca teammate Neymar.
Ronaldo – Most Hat-Tricks in La Liga History
Even though Messi has been in La Liga for his entire career, it didn’t take long for Ronaldo to catch, and then pass, the Barca star when it come to hat-tricks. Since arriving in Madrid in 2009, Ronaldo has recorded an incredible 32 three-goal games (sometimes four- or five-goals) in the domestic league (so that doesn’t even include his hat tricks in Champions Leagues or other Cup competitions).
Messi is lagging slightly behind with 26 La Liga hat-tricks, but the really amazing thing in that in the entire history of La Liga, no other player even reaches double digits. Luis Suarez, Messi’s current teammate at Barcelona, is in third place with eight.
Messi – Most Consecutive La Liga Games With a Goal
The La Liga season consists of 38 games for every team, playing each opponent twice — once at home, once on the road. In the 2012-13 season, Messi took his game to another level by scoring in 21 straight league matches, racking up a total of 33 goals in the process. His tremendous output helped Barcelona win the La Liga title back from Real Madrid that year, who had finally won it the season before (after three straight years of Barca dominance).
Ronaldo – Fasted Player to 300 Club Goals in Spain
Ronaldo didn’t arrive in Madrid until he was already in his mid-20s, but he wasted no time in lighting up the scoresheets. His first six seasons in La Liga saw him score 33, 53, 60, 55, 51, and 61 goals, respectively. His rise to the 300 goal milestone was done at such a ridiculous pace, it made him the fastest to ever reach that mark, in terms of games played. As you’ll read further down in this list of incredible records, Ronaldo hasn’t exactly slowed the pace down since.
Messi – Most Ballon d’Or Wins
The Ballon d’Or is awarded the best player on the planet every year. The award itself has taken a couple different forms over the years, originally being awarded by France Football magazine before being merged with the FIFA World Player of the Year award for a while. Regardless, it’s the largest individual honor a soccer player can earn. And Lionel Messi has won it an astonishing five times! Even more incredible is that he’s finished in second place an additional four times, and even third on one occasion.
Messi may hold the record, but Ronaldo is no slouch. He currently has four Ballon d’Or trophies on his mantle, and has finished runner-up for every single one of Messi’s wins. The two will likely continue to battle it out every year until they retire.
Ronaldo – Champions League Leading Scorer
We suspect that the two incredible talents will battle over this title until the day they hang up the boots. But for now, Cristiano Ronaldo stands atop the mountain that is the all-time goal scoring lead in the Champions League. His 100 total goals (so far) are just slightly ahead of Messi’s 94, and both are still adding to those totals every year.
The pair are ahead of some of the biggest names in the game, including Raul (71 Champions League goals), Ruud van Nistelrooy (56), Karim Benzema (51), Thierry Henry (50), Di Stefano (49), and Zlatan Ibrahimovic (48).
Messi – Most Goals in a Calendar Year
This is a bit of an abstract record, since soccer seasons are generally played over the course of two years, starting in late Summer and going through the winter towards an end in the Spring. But, in 2012, Lionel Messi was so damn good that he set a record that many people didn’t even know existed. From January 1 to December 31 of that year, Messi scored a total of 91 competitive goals for Barcelona and Argentina (96, if you include friendly matches).
Messi broke the previous record of 85, set over 40 years ago by German legend Gerd Muller. Guinness officially recognizes Messi’s 91 goals as a verified World Record.
Ronaldo – Goal in Every Minute
Much like Messi’s record for most goals scored in a calendar year, this one is a bit quirky. However, it has been confirmed that Cristiano Ronaldo was the very first player to score a competitive goal in every single of a soccer game. No, we don’t mean that he once scored 90 goals in a single game. We mean that over the span of his career, at one point or another, Ronaldo has scored at least one goal in every minute of the 90 that make up a complete match.
To be honest, we couldn’t find readily available data on how close Messi is to matching this. But we do know that one other soccer legend recently became the second player to accomplish the feat — none other than Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
Messi – Barcelona’s All-Time Goal Leader
Barcelona has a long history of greatness, and boasts some of the most talented players in the history of European soccer. Stars like Rivaldo, Samuel Eto’o, Xavi, and Andres Iniesta have propelled Barca to countless numbers of victories. Cesar, who starred for the team in the 40s and 50s, was the all-time leading goal scorer for Barcelona until Messi showed up. His 232 official goals (excluding friendlies) was thought to be mighty impressive, until a young superstar smashed that record to bits.
Messi quickly decimated the previous Barcelona record, passing Cesar while he was still in his mid-20s. Now, still shy of his 30th birthday, Messi has 500 competitive markers for Barcelona. Ronaldo has also surpassed the top of the scoring list at Real Madrid, with 396. Of course, he played the first part of his career with Manchester United, whereas Messi has been a one club man for his entire career.
Ronaldo – Real Madrid’s All-Time Leading Scorer
Ronaldo’s rise to the top of Real Madrid scoring required him to pass some true legends of the game. First, there was Alfredo Di Stefano with 323 goals. Next came another club legend, as Ronaldo surpassed Raul’s 323 career strikes. Currently, Ronaldo sits atop the Real Madrid all-time scorers list with 396. That’s pretty incredible considering he spent six years with Manchester United before the blockbuster transfer to Madrid, where he scored an additional 118 goals for the Red Devils.
Messi – Most Most Goals in El Clasico
El Clasico is Spain’s Battle of the Titans. A handful of times every season, Real Madrid and Barcelona face off in what is essentially must-see-TV for soccer fans around the world. It’s a match between two of the richest, most dominant clubs in soccer, but the rivalry goes back farther than that. Supporters of the respective teams also have a historical political divide, with Madrid representing Spanish nationalism and Barcelona representing Catalan separatism.
So far, Messi has the upper hand when it comes to goalscoring in El Clasico. The Argentine star has 23 goals in all versions of the derby (La Liga, Copa del Rey, Super Cup, League Cup, Champions League), compared to Ronaldo’s 16.
Ronaldo – Best Goals Per Game Ratio
If there’s one Cristiano Ronaldo record that blows us away more than anything else, it’s his ridiculous goals per game ratio. Without looking, what would you consider to be a good strike rate for an attacking player? Maybe a goal every other game? A truly skilled player could maybe score in two out of every three matches?
Ronaldo scoffs at those numbers. To date, Ronaldo has scored 396 goals for Real Madrid, in 386 appearances. That works out to more than a goal per game! (1.02 goals per game, to be exact). Messi may have more La Liga goals to his name, but it’s taken him almost 200 more appearances (he has 500 goals in 577 appearances, good for a goal every 0.87 games).