Lionel Messi vs. Cristiano Ronaldo: An era-defining rivalry and a final shot at World Cup glory


They broke all the records, but can they win the World Cup?

November 18, 2022

Above: Nazario Graziano /

For more than a decade, Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo have defined each other’s careers, legacies and the world of football.

They successfully matched each other, climbing to previously unmapped heights, but they embody different philosophies.

Messi – shorter and more reserved, was a natural football genius who shared his creativity with the team, assisting almost as many goals as he did. Then there’s Ronaldo — taller, a physical specimen who bulldozes through defense, grafting and training until he’s better than anyone else on the pitch.

But for all their accolades, neither of them won the World Cup. Qatar 2022 could be their last chance to see if one of them can finally win the biggest trophy.

See how the star players match up, back to their professional debuts.

Cristiano Ronaldo

Lionel Messi

August 2002

Ronaldo makes professional debut 17 years old, Playing for Portuguese club Sporting Club Portugal.

Cristiano Ronaldo is in his first season with Sporting Lisbon. Julio Azevedo/Icon Sport/Getty Images

August 2003

First cap for the Portuguese national team 18, Came off the bench against Kazakhstan.

In 2003, Ronaldo fought for the ball in a friendly against Kazakhstan. Antonio Simmons/EPA/Shutterstock

October 2004

exist 17 years old, Messi takes the lead 778 appearances for Barcelona. At that time, he was the youngest player to represent the club in an official game.

Lionel Messi holds the ball during a private photo shoot for El Gráfico magazine, in Rosario, Argentina, October 12, 2003. Marcelo Boeri/El Graph/Getty Images

August 2005

Make Argentina debut, in 18 years old, Came on as a substitute in a friendly against Hungary but was sent off after just two minutes.

Lionel Messi was comforted by his team-mates after receiving a red card against Hungary. Attila Kisbeneder/AFP/Getty Images

June 2006

The Nets scored the first of seven World Cup goals in four games, becoming — 21 years old – the youngest Portuguese player Goal in the World Cup.

Ronaldo hurdling during the 2006 FIFA World Cup in Germany. Clive Mason/Getty Images

become youngest player Represented Argentina in the World Cup and scored goals in the game 13 minutes, Became the sixth youngest goal scorer in tournament history.

Lionel Messi celebrates scoring a goal during the 2006 World Cup in Germany. Lawrence Griffith/Getty Images

April 2007

He scored arguably his greatest goal as he bypassed several Getafe defenders. One of 672 strikes For Barcelona.

Lionel Messi celebrates after scoring against Getafe. Louis Jean/AFP/Getty Images

May 2009

Inspiring Barcelona to beat Ronaldo’s Manchester United in Champions League final The second of four titles. He finished the game as top scorer.

Lionel Messi celebrates after winning the UEFA Champions League in 2009. Etsuo Hara/Getty Images

July 2009

Joined Real Madrid from Manchester United, setting a then world record $130 million cost.

Ronaldo’s packed stadium at the Santiago Bernabeu. Dennis Doyle/Getty Images

November 2009

After inspiring Barca to a historic three trophies in one season, 22 years old Became the first Argentine to win the Ballon d’Or.

Messi won the Ballon d’Or in 2009. Dennis Doyle/Getty Images

December 2009

Wins the inaugural Puskas Award for a stirring performance 40 yard target — The average speed of the ball is 64 miles per hour – Manchester United vs Porto.

Ronaldo won the FIFA Puskas Award for the most outstanding goal of the 2008/09 season. Michael Regan/FIFA/Getty Images

July 2010

Argentina eliminated 2010 World Cup Eliminated by Germany in the quarterfinals. Messi was named in the Tournament XI but he has been accused of caring more about club than country.

Messi walked off the pitch in frustration after his 2010 World Cup defeat. Paul Gilham/FIFA/Getty Images

April 2011

Time magazine named Messi one of the most influential people in the world The first year in two consecutive years.

time magazine

March 2012

exist twenty four, He broke Barça’s scoring record and scored 91 goals in the same calendar year.

Lionel Messi gives the thumbs up during the La Liga clash between Barcelona and Granada. David Ramos/Getty Images

April 2014

Time magazine named Ronaldo the most 100 Most Influential People year.

Ronaldo lifts the Champions League trophy after the Champions League final against Atletico Madrid. Lawrence Griffith/Getty Images

July 2014

Argentina lost to Germany in the World Cup final. Messi created a record of the best player of the game four times in a single World Cup, and received the Golden Globe Award for the best player with excellent results. Seven goals.

After losing the 2014 World Cup final, Messi was disheartened. Lawrence Lindhout/Socrates/Getty Images

November 2014

Messi becomes La Liga top scorer in history After scoring a hat-trick against Sevilla, he broke Telmozzara’s record of 251 goals.

Messi was thrown into the air by his team-mates as he celebrated his new record. Louis Jean/AFP/Getty Images

The CR7 galaxy is named after the football star who, at the end of a season enjoying the most prolific season of his club career, scored 61 appearances in 54 games.

An artist’s impression of CR7, a very distant galaxy discovered with ESO’s Very Large Telescope. M. Grain Fair/ESO

October 2015

Become Real Madrid’s all-time top scorer 324 goals. he ended his career in madrid 450 goals in just 438 games.

In 2015, in the La Liga game against Levante, Ronaldo scored the team’s second goal. Victor Carretero/Real Madrid/Getty Images

June 2016

Goal in the quarter-finals of the Centenary Copa America established his status Argentina’s all-time top scorer. He announced his national team retirement after La Albiceleste’s defeat in the final, a decision he overturned shortly thereafter at the request of the Argentine president.

After the Copa America final, Messi waited to collect the runner-up medal. Nicholas Cam/AFP/Getty Images

July 2016

Won first major international trophy at European Championships in France but was carried away in tears after the match 25 minutes final.

Ronaldo presents the Henri Delaunay trophy to supporters during his victory ceremony in Lisbon, Portugal. Carlos Rodriguez/Getty Images

initially sentenced 21 months Jailed for tax fraud, but escaped $2.3 million All right.Messi and his father Jorge Messi found guilty of defrauding Spain $4.6 million Between 2007 and 2009.

Lionel Messi, left, and his father, Jorge Horacio Messi, listen as they face a judge. Alberto Estevez/AFP/Getty Images

April 2017

Hat-trick against Bayern Munich, becoming the first player to score 100 Champions League goals.

Ronaldo celebrates scoring his team’s third goal against Bayern Munich. Chris Brunskill Ltd/Getty Images

March 2018

score his 100th Champions League goal, Reached the milestone in fewer games than Ronaldo. So far, only he and Ronaldo have scored at least 100 goals in the competition.

Lionel Messi celebrates against Chelsea in 2018. David Ramos/Getty Images

May 2018

first player Won the Champions League five times. He won his first title with Manchester United in 2008, before winning spells with Real Madrid in 2014, 2016, 2017 and 2018.

Ronaldo celebrates his fifth Champions League trophy. VI Images/Getty Images

June 2018

In Russia 2018, became the first person Score Eight Continuous participation in major international competitions.

Ronaldo smiles against Morocco at the 2018 World Cup. Yuri Cortez/AFP/Getty Images

July 2018

exist 33Ronaldo reportedly signs for Italian side Juventus $117 million transfer transaction.

Ronaldo has moved to the Old Lady after a hugely successful spell at Real Madrid. Emilio Andreoli/Getty Images

October 2018

Kathryn Mayorga accused of rape, claims she was paid $375,000 A non-disclosure agreement was signed; the case was later dismissed. He denies the allegations.

Ronaldo is seen at the Palms Plaza Hotel and Spa on June 14, 2009 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Charlie Galley/FilmMagic

July 2019

Messi is sent off with a red card 37 minutes America’s Cup playoffs.He refused to accept his third-place medal and was banned from international football for three months as well as $50,000 beautiful.

Messi got into an altercation with referee Mario Diaz de Vivar after being shown the red card. Alexander Schneider/Getty Images

July 2021

photo’s Messi holding America’s Cup America – his first international trophy – became favorite Sports photos in Instagram history at the time.

August 2021

Return to Manchester United and complete the first season The club’s top scorer. After the explosive interview in November 2022, the relationship with the team fell apart.

Ronaldo pictured with then-Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer after signing. Ash Donelon/United/Getty Images

on the sign two years A deal with France’s Paris Saint-Germain ended his long-term stint with Barca, with the Catalan club in financial trouble.

Paris Saint-Germain Qatar president Nasser Khelaifi poses for a photo with Messi after the Argentine joined the club. Stephane De Sakutins/AFP/Getty Images

September 2021

Breaking international scoring record with two goals against Ireland 117 goals in 191 international appearances And cemented his status as an all-time great.

Ronaldo reacts during a FIFA World Cup qualifier against the Republic of Ireland. Carlos Costa/AFP/Getty Images

February 2022

first person to arrive 400000000 Instagram followers.

Cristiano Ronaldo/Instagram

September 2022

win record No. 164 Argentina caps and points 90th international goal, Putting him third on the all-time men’s international scoring list.

Lionel Messi celebrates scoring in an international friendly against Jamaica in 2022. Andrés Kudage/AFP/Getty Images

November 2022

aim to win a First World Cup after four failed attempts. If he scores, he will become the first man to score in five World Cups. He needs three more goals to overtake Eusebio as Portugal’s all-time top scorer.

Ronaldo celebrates beating North Macedonia in 2022. Pedro Fiuza/NurPhoto/Shutterstock

aim to win a First World Cup after four failed attempts. If he plays in Qatar, he will be in the elite squad, as only three previous players have played in five World Cups.

Lionel Messi celebrates after scoring his first goal against Bolivia in 2021 Juan I. Roncoroni/Getty Images

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