Forget the Cristiano Ronaldo vs Lionel Messi debate. The real question to ask is who was/is the better Ronaldo?
It’s more than likely age will determine your answer to this one. Football fans who grew up in the 1990s and 2000s will probably tell you Cristiano Ronaldo doesn’t come close to his Brazilian namesake, while younger supporters will laugh at the suggestion of even putting R9 in the same league as CR7.
And while it would be lovely to sit back and just appreciate the fact both are generational talents who shouldn’t be compared, that’s not really how the internet, or, more specifically, social media works.
So, the next time you’re having a debate with your parents/siblings/mates about who the real GOAT Ronaldo is, here are five key points for both players to keep in your back pocket.
Argument One: International Trophies vs European Trophies
R9 has won two World Cups
We’ll start with an obvious one. While Cristiano may have that one European Championship to his name, his international trophy haul doesn’t come close to the original Ronaldo’s. Alongside winning two Copa Américas in 1997 and ‘99, Brazilian Ronaldo has also won football’s biggest prize, twice.
The striker could have even won three in a row, were it not for a seizure in the build-up to the ‘98 Final, which hugely impacted his performance. Cristiano, meanwhile, has never even made it past the semi-final stage. Your move, CR7.
CR7 has won five Champions Leagues
Sure, you’ve got your World Cups, but R9 never won the Champions League, did he? Cristiano’s won it five times, with two different clubs — and you wouldn’t rule out the possibility of that becoming six with three before he hangs up his boots.
Furthermore, CR7 is the record goalscorer in the competition. He’s netted 130 times to date, at a ratio of 0.76 goals-per-game. That’s over double R9’s tally, and Cristiano is still going!
Argument Two: Goals vs Versatility
R9 was a goal-scoring machine pre-injury
Let’s stop for a sec and crunch the numbers: 44 goals in 47 apps at Cruzeiro, 54 goals in 57 apps at PSV, 47 goals in 49 apps at Barcelona. All before his 21st birthday. Across two continents and three countries, Ronaldo was virtually unplayable before his career was sadly curtailed by a recurring knee injury.
Cristiano didn’t even properly get going on the goalscoring front until he turned 21. He didn’t set the world alight with boyhood club Sporting Lisbon, and it took him a good few seasons to adapt and hit the heights at Manchester United, too.
CR7 was world class in multiple positions
Okay, okay. Point taken. But Brazilian Ronaldo has always been an out-and-out striker. Cristiano was a winger by trade and only moved centrally towards the twilight of his career. So when looking at CR7’s breakout United season — 31 goals in 34 Premier League apps — you’re talking about a wide man putting up those numbers. That’s insane, when you really think about it.
Cristiano has dominated world football as both a winger and as a centre-forward. His game in the early years was about so much more than just goals, and since he’s played more centrally, he’s proved he can more than keep pace with R9 in that respect anyway.
Argument Three: Serie A vs La Liga
R9 played in Italy’s golden era
When you think back to the football Italia years, the one thing that immediately springs to mind is unbelievable defenders. Paolo Maldini, Alessandro Nesta, Fabio Cannavaro — the list is endless. Ronaldo not only competed against them all, he embarrassed them.
Defending these days isn’t on the same level: high lines, playing out from the back; the quality in the modern game isn’t half of what it was back in Serie A’s heyday. Cristiano wouldn’t last two seconds against some of the players OG Ronaldo ran rings around.
CR7 played in La Liga’s golden era
I’ve got two words for you: Lionel Messi. When Brazilian Ronaldo played, he didn’t have anyone nearly as good as Messi to compete against. Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona were a force to be reckoned with, and the fact Cristiano managed to win a La Liga trophy and out-scored Messi from 2009–2012 speaks volumes.
Indeed, the last decade of La Liga football will go down in history as one of the greatest from any league ever, and CR7 was at the forefront of it all, scoring goals and winning trophies, all while competing against one of the best club sides ever to set foot on a pitch.
Argument Four: Players vs Fan Opinion
Kaká has his say
Who better to bring in on this debate than a player who’s been a teammate to both Ronaldos. Kaká, who played with R9 for Brazil and CR7 at Real Madrid, had this to say: “The best player I’ve ever played with? That’s Ronaldo. I have seen Il Fenomeno do things that nobody else has ever done.” Debate over.
Fans have their say
What good is one opinion when you can get hundreds of thousands? Earlier this year, GiveMeSport put the debate to our Facebook followers via a poll. It was close, but Cristiano Ronaldo came out on top, with 51% of the votes. Sorry, Kaká, but I’ll take a consensus of 155,000+ opinions over yours any day.
Argument Five: Nostalgia vs Longevity
The joy of joga bonito
Look, we can sit here all day and go back and forth on stuff like goals, trophies and the opinions of others, but let’s look at what’s really important: how they made us feel. R9’s name will forever be synonymous with joy; that Brazilian side with him, Rivaldo and Ronaldinho was iconic.
They approached the game the way it should be played: with smiles on their faces and tricks up their sleeves. That series of Nike ads made a whole generation of fans fall in love with the beautiful game or, as the Brazilians call it, joga bonito.
The legacy of greatness
Oh pur-lease. Aside from the fact joy is subjective, Cristiano is leaving a legacy that will live on for generations to come. He’s done a lot more than make us smile. He’s won five Ballon d’Ors, five Champions Leagues, a European Championship, and is closing in on the record for the most international goals scored by any individual.
This is a player who’s been at the pinnacle of world football for around 15 years now… and he’s still going! The knee injury to R9 was unfortunate, but when their careers are placed side-by-side there’s only one clear winner — and it isn’t joga bonito!
- Football fans choose Cristiano Ronaldo as the best Ronaldo
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- Watch: Brazilian Ronaldo rounded the goalkeeper to score 88 times in his career