Messi vs. Ronaldo – The Final Showdown?

Vinay Kshirsagar and Philemon Kiptoo

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Why these two (Messi & Ronaldo) – Main Page

by Philemon Kiptoo

Over the years, every generation has had a soccer legend; a player who dominated the sport over a particular period. In the 50s and 60s, the heroics of Pele as he spectacularly led Brazil to three World Cup trophies echoed globally. He was the king of the game, and is still considered the best ever. Then came the 70s and 80s – the Argentine idol Maradona was the new face of soccer. He overturned tides in Italy when he brought the lowly regarded Napoli to the level of top European clubs. Back home, his heroics in the ‘86 World Cup have become tales that fills every Argentine with nostalgia.

The late 90s and early 2000s were arguably dominated by many players; Brazil’s Ronaldo, and Ronaldinho, France’s Zidane and Italy’s Maldini are a few notable individuals.

However, after that, the debate over the best and most dominant player for the last decade has been reduced to Messi and Ronaldo, Argentine and Portuguese respectively. To put this in perspective, the Ballon D’or, the award for the best soccer player every season, has been won by either one of these two for the last 10 years; a record feat.

As the countdown to the World Cup tournament this year in Russia gets nearer, it makes sense to see how the two biggest soccer personalities for the last 10 years will perform in Russia. This World Cup is particularly important because it will probably be their last participation in the tournament (at least at top form). Currently, Ronaldo is 33 years and Messi is 30, hence it’s probable that the two will not participate in the next World Cup at top form.

For those who want more information about Messi and Ronaldo, below is a quick description of who they are:

                                                            Brief highlights of Messi and Ronaldo in action



Lionel Andres Messi Cuccitini is an Argentine professional soccer player who plays as forward for Spanish club Barcelona and the Argentina National Team.

Born in 1987 in Rosario, Buenos Aires, Argentina, Messi moved to Spain at the age of 13 and signed for the Catalan side, FC Barcelona who agreed to pay for his medical treatment. After making quick progress through the youth academy, Messi made his competitive debut at age 17. Despite enduring an injury-prone career at first, Messi quickly established himself as an integral member of the Barcelona team. Since 2007, he has been either a finalist or winner of the Ballon d’Or. At the age of 22, he won the Ballon d’Or and FIFA World Player of the Year Award by record voting margins. That set the Argentine to an improbable football career that saw him steer Barcelona to two unprecedented trebles in the 200/09 season and the 2014/15 season. However, everything hasn’t been a bed of roses for the footballing genius. With the Argentina National Team, he hasn’t won a major trophy. In the previous World Cup in 2014, he steered Argentina to the final only to lose to an extra-time goal to Germany. He has also captained his national team to the finals of the two last two COPA America tournaments (2015, 2016) and lost both finals to Chile on penalties. In all these tournaments however, his individual performance has been spectacular. He won the player of the tournament in the 2014 World Cup and both COPA tournaments. This summer presents Lionel Messi another chance to rally his team for a victory in Russia and heal the wounds of losing in the last final.

To sum his individual ability, Messi has been compared to only two other players in history: Pele and Maradona.


Cristiano Ronaldo dos Santos Aveiro is a Portuguese professional soccer player who plays as a forward for Spanish club Real Madrid and the Portugal National Team.

Born in 1985 on the Portuguese island of Madeira, a young Ronaldo was diagnosed with a heart condition and had to undergo an operation at age 15. Thereafter, he began his club career playing for Sporting CP before transferring to  Manchester United in 2003. It was at United that Ronaldo rose to footballing prominence. He steered United to win the Champions League in 2007/8 and three consecutive Premier League titles. He has either been a finalist or winner of the Ballon d’Or since 2007, except in 2010. He was the subject of the most expensive football transfer when he moved from United to Real Madrid. At Madrid, Ronaldo didn’t register much success at first. However, he has helped Madrid win three out of four European titles since 2014. In Euro 2016, he led Portugal to an unexpected victory despite not fully participating in the final match, thanks to an early injury.This World Cup offers him a great opportunity to build on Portugal’s 2016 success. 

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[1] “Messi’s Biography” April 22, 2018.

[2] “Ronaldo’s Biography” April 22, 2018.

[3] “The Greatest Soccer Players of all Time”, April 21, 2018.


How to cite this page:

“Messi vs. Ronaldo – The Final Showdown?” Written by Philemon Kiptoo and Vinay Kshirsagar (2018). World Cup 2018 Guide, Soccer Politics Blog, Duke University, (accessed on [date]).