Lionel Messi vs Cristiano Ronaldo: Answering 13 of the debate's biggest questions

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There are three guarantees in life: death, taxes and the Cristiano Ronaldo vs Lionel Messi debate never ending.

Fans have been debating which of the two footballing superstars is the better player for over a decade now and, sadly, it won't be long until we have a definitive data bank for comparisons.

With the COVID-19 pandemic slamming the brakes on world football, it's likely that both Ronaldo and Messi will play fewer games in front of live audiences than they otherwise would have done.

CR7 will have the number '36' on his next birthday cake, while Messi is only two years his junior, meaning there will soon come a day when the two legends hang up their boots for the final time.

But hey, we haven't reached that gut-wrenching moment quite yet, so we might as well enjoy the fact that the debate is still alive and kicking by diving deep into the statistics.

Messi vs Ronaldo statistics

There are literally thousands of ways you could try and say Ronaldo is better than Messi or vice verse, but we're not trying to achieve that today, we're taking a different approach.

Here at GIVEMESPORT, we've taken 13 statistical questions in the Messi vs Ronaldo debate that fans might be intrigued about and we've done the research to provide the answer.

With everything from penalties, scoring streaks and weak-footed goals being scrutinised, be sure to check out the questions down below and see if your preferred legend comes out on top:

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1. Who has the better record in finals?

Answer: Lionel Messi... just

Technically speaking, Ronaldo has the better record in finals for having won 72.41% of the climaxes he's contested whereas Messi falls short with a 67.65% win rate.

But we're judging them individually here and Messi averages a goal every 0.85 finals (29 strikes in 34 games), whilst Ronaldo is some way off the mark with a 0.66 ratio (19 goals in 29 matches). 

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2. Who has gone on the longest goal-scoring streak?

Answer: Lionel Messi

This record is simply mind-boggling. Messi went a barely-comprehensible 21 matches without failing to score in La Liga during 2012/13, starting in mid-November and lasting until the final game of the season.

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3. Who has scored the most hat-tricks?

Answer: Cristiano Ronaldo

CR7 boasts an impressive 56 career trebles for club and country, but Messi is hot on his heels with 54 match balls in his collection.

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4. Who has the better record at international tournaments?

Answer: Cristiano Ronaldo

Another win for the Portuguese who averages a goal every 210 minutes at the World Cup, compared to Messi's 270, as well as 199 minutes at the European Championships over his rival's 249 at Copa America tournaments.

Portugal v Morocco: Group B - 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia

5. Whose goal-scoring rate is the best?

Answer: Lionel Messi

Arguably the heftiest question of the bunch and Messi takes the acclaim for averaging a goal every 99 minutes and 43 seconds in his professional career, while Ronaldo trails on 111 minutes and 50 seconds.

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6. Who has scored more than three goals in a game the most?

Answer: Cristiano Ronaldo

CR7 has scored four goals in one game on eight occasions and has reached five strikes twice, making for a total of 10 that dwarfs Messi's collection of six four-goal games and a single five-goal match.

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7. Who has the higher proportion of penalty goals?

Answer: Cristiano Ronaldo

True to his rather derogatory 'Penaldo' nickname, Ronaldo has not only scored more goals from the penalty spot (112), but it makes for a higher proportion of his total (16.69%) than it does for Messi (12.63%).

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8. Who has scored the most free-kicks?

Answer: Cristiano Ronaldo

The Juventus star has his grips on this statistic for the moment with 54 free-kick conversions, but Messi is on course to overtake him with 52 strikes and a far superior scoring rate in recent years.

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9. Who has won the most individual awards?

Answer: Lionel Messi

According to michelacosta.com, the self-proclaimed largest statistical study of the two players on the internet, Messi has a superior total of 94 accolades to Ronaldo's 74.

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10. Who has the better record when they're playing each other?

Answer: Lionel Messi

When it comes to sharing the pitch with each other, it's not even close because Messi boasts a higher goal-per-game and assist-per-game ratios in El Clasico ties as well as other club and international clashes.

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11. Who has the higher proportion of weak-footed goals?

Answer: Cristiano Ronaldo

This one is probably to be expected with 17.93% of Ronaldo's career goals coming from his left foot and just 12.91% of Messi's strikes flying off his right boot.

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12. Who has the most Ballon d'Or votes overall?

Answer: Cristiano Ronaldo

Like it or not, we have to chalk out the six iterations of the Ballon d'Or under FIFA's control (2010-2015) because only percentages of the votes were published in that era, putting Messi - who won four of those trophies - at a disadvantage.

So, we'll let you decide how much credence to take from the fact we can account for 3,618 votes of Ronaldo, but only 2,963 for Messi over the years.

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13. Who's had the season with the highest goal-per-game ratio?

Answer: Lionel Messi

The Barcelona legend astonishingly scored 73 goals in 60 games during the 2011/12 season, giving him a ratio of 1.22 goals-per-game(!!!), which defeats Ronaldo's career best of 1.13 from 2014/15.

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Tough questions answered

And breathe. Talk about an ultimate FAQ session on Ronaldo vs Messi.

We hope you've learned something new about the debate today and we have no doubt in our minds that you'll have added some stats to your arsenal when you're next chatting at the pub.

Sadly, though, there's not a magical number or statistic that will ever separate these two legends...

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