Cristiano Ronaldo vs Lionel Messi: How every footballer to play with both answered the debate

  • Kobe Tong

The Lionel Messi vs Cristiano Ronaldo debate is alive and kicking right now.

Messi vs Ronaldo debate

While, admittedly, few weeks go by without the footballing juggernauts being compared to one another, Messi's historic triumph at Copa America 2021 has certainly added a new dimension.

After half a decade of Ronaldo's supporters reminding the world that Messi hadn't won a major honour in international football, the two superstars find themselves level pegging once again.

As such, it's arguably never been more difficult to decide who gets their nose ahead in the GOAT (greatest of all-time) debate now that both players have delivered the goods for their country.

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How to settle the debate

And try as we might to settle the conversation with statistics, simulations, videos and everything in between, there's arguably no more reliable method than by talking to players themselves.

Besides, it's one thing to watch Messi and Ronaldo from the stands and another thing to actually share the pitch with them, getting a front-row seat to see just how incredible they really are.

And alas, there is even a small cohort of players who hold the greatly coveted distinction of having shared a dressing room with both Messi and Ronaldo throughout this professional careers.



Footballers who played with Ronaldo and Messi

According to the Guardian earlier this year, that exclusive club of Messi and Ronaldo teammates now stands at 15 players, which begs the question: what do they think about the big debate?

Well, as you can imagine, not all of them have been willing to nail their colours to the mast, but some of the players have indeed put their neck on the line by choosing between the two icons.

So, without further ado, we're going to traipse through all 15 players to try and find their most recent answer to the Messi and Ronaldo debate to see which legend earns the most endorsements.


15 players settle the debate

And yes, there is indeed a clear winner, so be sure to check out the full list of players down below:

1. Angel Di Maria

Source: TyC Sports

"It was a dream to have the possibility to play with [Wayne] Rooney, [Zlatan] Ibrahimovic, Cristiano [Ronaldo], Leo [Messi]... they were players that I used on the PlayStation and I would never have imagined I'd get to play with them.

“I used to watch them and then to have the opportunity to play with them was really nice.

“Leo is the best of the four, Cristiano is a monster and Neymar is simply a joy for football. He's Brazilian and when he plays all he does is have fun."

Winner: Lionel Messi


2. Gabriel Heinze

Source: The Sun

"If I had to pay for one player I would choose [Ronaldo]. I don’t think Cristiano will get any better as a footballer, he is already next to God in his ability.”

Winner: Cristiano Ronaldo

3. Gonzalo Higuain

Source: The Sun

“[Ronaldo and I] had already played together with Real. Many years have passed, and I have found another player, a more mature person, with a family. I enjoyed playing alongside him before and I am glad that we are back together.

“I’m a forward and I have the chance to play with Messi. It’s a privilege to play alongside him.

“Every time he gets the ball you need to be on your toes because you know that at any moment he can give you a great ball or pull your marker away from you. He does things that a striker can anticipate but a defender can’t.”

Winner: Draw


4. Paulo Dybala

Source: The Mirror

"It’s impossible to make a comparison between the two of them or say who is the best because they are at a level on a par with each other and well above everybody else and that has been the case for several years."

Winner: Draw

5. Deco

Source: AS

"From the outset, it is clear that Leo and Cristiano are the greatest.

"Especially because no one thought they could take so many years to this level, but the one that impressed me most despite not being so decisive was Ronnie. For me, he will always be the best."

Winner: Ronaldinho?!


6. Fernando Gago

Source: The Sun

"For me he [Ronaldo] is not No1. For me, the best in the world is Messi because of the way he plays, moves with the ball and changes matches. He is the best I have seen in my life, without a doubt.”

Winner: Lionel Messi

7. Ezequiel Garay

Source: The Sun

"When people ask me who is the best player ever, I say Leo. From the first time I saw him with Argentina Under-15s to this day he continues to amaze me. He has no limit.”

Winner: Lionel Messi

8. Andre Gomes

Source: Marca

"I do not like to compare them out of respect. I will never answer it. I'm Portuguese and I have affection for Cristiano, as much as I do for Messi, who is my teammate at Barcelona."

Winner: Draw


9. Henrik Larsson

Source: The Sun

"Cristiano is unlucky to be playing at the same time as Messi. Ronaldo is a very good player, but Messi is even better. He is out of this world. He’s so good that it’s almost incredible.

"When you see him with the ball at his feet it’s hard to believe that anybody else could do the same. He’s a fantastic player to see.”

Winner: Lionel Messi

10. Gerard Pique

Source: ESPN

"I always said that Messi has some talent that no one has. I mean, he has the ball and his speed controlling the ball. The ball doesn't go two metres far from his foot, it's always there.

"It's impossible to catch him, this talent I didn't see from anyone

"Cristiano Ronaldo is such a different player, they are very different. He is tall, strong, he's really complete. He can do anything. He can do goals with the head, free-kicks, penalties, take one on one.

"But for me it's like Messi is not human but Cristiano is the best of the humans."

Winner: Lionel Messi


11. Nelson Semedo

Source: The Sun

“Real Madrid have noticed [Ronaldo's] absence a lot. I cannot say that it was bad for [Barcelona] that Cristiano left. With him it would have been a more difficult league for us, more competitive.

"He is a player that requires a lot of attention and care. Messi is spectacular. It’s a privilege to play with him, he always surprises, he’s from another planet.”

Winner: Draw

12. Carlos Tevez

Source: Goal

"I think it is only right if Cristiano Ronaldo does believe he is the best in the world. Any guy who gets 37-40 goals a season has a right to believe that, but if you push me I am always going to go on the side of Messi."

Winner: Lionel Messi


13. Miralem Pjanic

Source: Sport

"With the passing of time we’ll be able to fully appreciate what these players have achieved in these past 20 years. They are incredible.

"As a player and a person, [Cristiano] is spectacular. He’s a true athlete who takes care of all the details. [Messi] is an alien. He’s an absolute phenomenon, capable of doing anything with the ball.”

Winner: Draw

14. Arthur

Source: talkSPORT

“I’d go with Cristiano, we’re playing together! I’m not that close to Cristiano that I go round his house for coffee, but we have a good relationship.

"Cristiano never backs down if there’s a teammate in need of something and he always gets to it with a fierce determination.

“He trains like an animal, he doesn’t know when to rest and he encourages you to give your all. He always tells me what to eat, not leaving anything to chance.”

Winner: Cristiano Ronaldo


15. Francisco Trincão

Source: Evening Standard

"I'm very proud to play with both Ronaldo and Messi. It's impossible to say who is better."

Winner: Draw

Clear win for Messi

Have you been keeping count? Fear not because we've tallied up the scores and it seems as though six players have opted for Messi and just two footballers have given Ronaldo the nod.


Elsewhere, six players have taken up residence on the fence by not wanting to choose between their two mates and Deco stands alone in going rogue by picking Ronaldinho over them both.

It's certainly not a set of scores that will end the debate with Arthur picking Ronaldo probably being a little tongue-in-cheek and many of Messi's biggest backers having hailed from Argentine shores.

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Nevertheless, that doesn't make it any less fascinating to hear what the 15 players who have more experience with Messi and Ronaldo than anyone else have to say about the enduring debate.

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