1. Ronaldo has proven himself for multiple teams while Messi can only do it in the Barcelona system
This argument has taken various forms over Messi’s career. Earlier on under Pep, critics said Messi was only great thanks to Xavi and Iniesta or because of the team’s tiki taka style. They also used the success of Barcelona’s Spanish core with Spain to diminish Messi’s importance. Then under Luis Enrique, the style of play became more direct, the role of Xavi and Iniesta diminished, yet Messi carried on performing similarly well. Now that their old arguments didn’t hold up, critics tried to diminish Messi’s importance by suggesting he wouldn’t be the same without Neymar and Suarez alongside him.
If adapting to a completely new system under Enrique was not enough, then the past 12-18 months have officially dispelled any claim that Messi depends on having a superb Barcelona team around him. During this time, Neymar and Iniesta left, Suarez declined significantly, and the team has little tactical plan other than passing to Messi and hoping. Despite those changes, Messi’s brilliance remains as clear and obvious as ever. The notion that Messi is a “system player” or reliant on his teammates makes no sense when he has remained the best under various systems and alongside wide ranging calibers of teammates. If you’re still not convinced, just watch the way this current Barcelona team plays when he is not on the pitch.
2. Ronaldo is much better in the Champions League
It’s undeniable that Ronaldo and Madrid have been the dominant force in Champions League over the past 2-3 seasons. However, the idea of Ronaldo outperforming Messi in the competition over their careers simply is not true. Goalscoring is typically the main argument Ronaldo fans use, but even from that perspective Messi has been better. Over their Champions League careers, Messi has scored 105 goals in 127 appearances (.83 per game) while Ronaldo has 120 in 154 appearances (.78 per game).
When you consider other aspects of the game, the gap is even wider. Just think back to how Messi destroyed Manchester City in 2015 without scoring or contrast his impact against Bayern in the 2015 semis with Ronaldo’s against Juventus that same year even though both players ended up scoring the same amount. Another instance of goal stats downplaying Messi’s influence and overplaying Ronaldo’s is the disparity between their displays in the 2011 and 2014 finals. Both players scored once, but the difference in their impact couldn’t be further apart.
3. Ronaldo is a more complete player
This claim was very popular before his recent shift to more of a striker. The argument was that Ronaldo could score free kicks, long range goals, headers, and with both feet while Messi couldn’t and was therefore less complete. Firstly, Messi is far better at free kicks, far better at long range shots, and arguably better with his weak foot. Secondly, there’s more to being a complete player than scoring different types of goals. Ronaldo’s other contributions might be unfairly diminished by some who claim he is just a goalscorer, but he’s still not nearly as complete as a player who is arguably the best dribbler, playmaker, and goalscorer in history.
4. Ronaldo proved himself in England while Messi couldn’t do it against English sides
As Arsenal, City, United, Chelsea, and now recently Tottenham supporters have found out, this claim is obviously untrue. In 28 Champions League matches against English clubs over his career, Messi has scored 22 and assisted 6. These numbers are far better than Ronaldo’s against the same teams. Stats aside, his displays against United in the finals, City numerous times, or Tottenham just last week also illustrate that the non scoring parts of his game are just as strong against English clubs as well.
5. Ronaldo won a major trophy with his Portugal but Messi can’t perform for Argentina
While it’s true that Ronaldo has the edge in major NT trophies won, Messi has been better on an individual level with Argentina over his career than Ronaldo has with Portugal. Messi has outperformed Ronaldo at World Cups, led Argentina to four finals, and gotten them through qualifying phases they couldn’t have passed without him. Doubting his ability to perform or inspire Argentina makes no sense in light of their recent WCQ campaign. In that campaign, Argentina picked up just 7 points in 8 matches without Messi compared to 21 in 10 with him in the team. The only reason for claiming Ronaldo has done better with Portugal is them winning a final with him on the sidelines, which isn’t a compelling argument for him being a better player.