Ronaldo may be good, but Lionel ain't Messi-ing around: A head-to-head look at modern football's greatest rivalry

Ask any football fan these days about brilliant players, and two names will surely pop up - Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi.
Ask any football fan these days about brilliant players, and two names will surely pop up - Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi. PHOTOS: AFP, EPA

Ask any football fan these days about brilliant players, and two names will surely pop up - Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.

They are undoubtedly the two greatest names in world football today, unless of course you're speaking to older people who miss Zinedine Zidane or George Best.

The duo, who ply their trade in the Spanish La Liga, have dominated the international football scene for the past few years, jostling for the major prizes constantly, and in the process breaking all sorts of records with their ridiculous exploits on the pitch.

We put them head to head to see just how they stack up against each other on and off the pitch.


Ronaldo was born on Feb 5, 1985, in Funchal, Portugal. At 31 years old, he is two years older than Messi, 29, who was born on June 24, 1987, in Rosario, Argentina.


At 1.7m, Messi is shorter than the 1.85m-tall Real Madrid forward. While the Portugese would probably fare better in the air - though Messi has also scored some whopping headers himself - the diminutive Argentine has the benefit of a lower centre of gravity which provides better balance for his quick turns.


When he was six years old, Messi joined boyhood club Newell's Old Boys. He left for Barcelona's La Masia football academy when he was 13, and has been at the club since then, climbing through the youth ranks to become a first team legend. He plays as a forward for FC Barcelona.

Ronaldo has been more of a journeyman. From 1992 to 1995, he played for amateur side CF Andorinha, before moving to local club C.D. Nacional until 1997. At the age of 12, he joined Sporting Lisbon's football academy, gradually progressing to the first team. In 2003, 18-year-old Ronaldo signed for Manchester United as the most expensive teenager in English football at that time. He left for Real Madrid in 2009 with a trasfer fee of £83.7 million (S$146 million).


At age 10, Messi was diagnosed with a growth hormone deficiency, which meant he would remain small physically. However Barcelona sponsored his treatment, which he completed when he was 14.

Ronaldo was diagnosed with a racing heart at 15, a condition that could have forced him to stop football. But he recovered after an operation in which a laser was used to cauterise the affected area of his heart.


The Barcelona star was found guilty of three counts of tax fraud in July 2016, and sentenced to 21 months in prison, which he is currently appealing.

In October 2005, then-Manchester United player Ronaldo, was questioned by police for six hours, after two women in their 20s accused him of rape. He was later released as there was not enough evidence.


Ronaldo has dated a bevy of beauties, including English models Alice Goodwin and Gemma Atkinson. From 2010 to 2014, he dated Russian model Irina Shayk, who is currently pregnant with Hollywood actor Bradley Cooper's baby. Ronaldo's son, Cristiano Jr, was born in June 2010, and the identity of the mother has never been revealed. The Portugese forward is now dating model Georgina Rodriguez, who attended the Best Fifa Football Awards 2016 in Zurich with him.

Meanwhile, Messi and his long-time girlfriend Antonella Rocuzzo, who is the same age as him, have two sons, Thiago, 5, and Mateo, 2. They are childhood sweethearts who met during his time at Newell's Old Boys.


One-club man Messi has won an astonishing eight La Liga titles with Barcelona, and four Champions League trophies, among a slew of other achievements at club level.

Ronaldo won three Premier League titles with Manchester United and one Champions League trophy, before jumping ship to Real Madrid where he has won one La Liga title and two Champions League trophies.


The two fleet-footed stars have basically been swapping the major individual footballing awards between themselves, in an ongoing rivalry.

Ronaldo has clinched four Ballon d'Or awards, awarded by French football magazine France Football to the best male player in Europe. He won FIFA World Player of the Year award in 2008, and 2016's Best FIFA Men's Player award, among his many other accolades in an illustrious career.

Messi has five Ballon d'Or awards, the most by any player, including that streak when he won four consecutively from 2009 to 2012. He was also FIFA World Player of the Year in 2009.


At international level, both Messi and Ronaldo are captains for their respective countries, Argentina and Portugal.

The Argentine wizard initially retired from international football after his team's defeat to Chile in the Copa America final in June 2016, but reversed his decision in August.

He was part of the side that won the FIFA U-20 World Cup in 2005, and Olympic Gold Medal for football in 2008 in Beijing.

Meanwhile, Ronaldo led Portugal to its first ever major trophy, after clinching the UEFA European Championship trophy in July 2016.