Cristiano Ronaldo vs Lionel Messi: Who played better in their El Clasico games together?

  • Kobe Tong
Ronaldo and Messi in El Clasico.

Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi are winding down their careers.

As strong of a statement as that might sound for two players who make the entire ageing process seem like a myth, the reality of the situation is that neither superstar is occupying their prime any longer.

Don’t get it twisted, that doesn’t mean that they’re in any way playing poorly because – frankly – they could be about 50 lightyears away from their peak and still play better than near enough every footballer on the planet.

Messi and Ronaldo on the decline

But all that being said, even the most ardent of Messi and Ronaldo fans would have to hold their hands up and admit that the 2021/22 season has proven a step backwards for them both.

Yes, Ronaldo has still been phenomenal as the second-highest goalscorer in the Premier League, but his overall tally of 23 strikes is nevertheless a downgrade from the 36 that he amassed in 2020/21.

Similarly, there have been question marks raised about the performances of Messi at the Parc des Princes with his paltry total of four goals in Ligue 1 proving seriously out of character.

It’s a sad reality that can’t help but make us feel nostalgic for the days when Messi and Ronaldo were hoovering up Ballon d’Or trophies like they were going out of fashion and smashing home 50 goals a season.

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Messi and Ronaldo competing in Spain

And what makes our yearning for those heady days all the stronger is that the two GOAT contenders shared a division back then as they flew the flag for Real Madrid and Barcelona.

Obviously, now, Messi has moved to Paris Saint-Germain and Ronaldo has cycled through Juventus and Manchester United in a merry-go-round that means clashes between the two completely hinge upon Champions League draws.

But back in the dizzy days between 2009 and 2018, football fans had the privilege of watching Ronaldo and Messi slug it out in their primes whenever the fixture list threw up El Clasico.

In fact, such is the nostalgia for those glory days in the beautiful game that Ronaldo and Messi’s performances in those Barcelona vs Real clashes have once again been the talk of the town on social media.

Ronaldo and Messi shake hands.
Soccer Football – La Liga Santander – FC Barcelona v Real Madrid – Camp Nou, Barcelona, Spain – May 6, 2018 Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo with Barcelona’s Lionel Messi before the match REUTERS/Albert Gea

Comparing their stats in El Clasico matches

We say that because a post from Twitter user @LSPNFC_ attracted thousands upon thousands of replies for making the argument that Messi completely outshone Ronaldo in El Clasico games against each other.

It was a fascinating concept that led us to corroborate the statistics displayed in the post as best as we could over at michelacosta.com, which is one of the biggest statistical studies of Ronaldo vs Messi on the internet.

The results? Well, yes, it just so happens that Messi really did get the better of Ronaldo across the 30 El Clasico matches where they were both on the pitch between 2009 and 2018.

While we could neither confirm nor deny some of the data on the original post, the corroberated stats nevertheless painted a clear picture of Messi outperforming his rival both in terms of goals and assists.

Messi notched 20 goals and 11 assists in 30 games, finding the back of the net every 134 minutes, creating a goal every 243 minutes and notching a goal contribution every 86 minutes.

By contrast, Ronaldo produced 18 goals and one assist from his 30 matches, leading to an average of a goal every 141 minutes, assist every 2,538 minutes and goal contribution every 134 minutes.

Marry that to the fact that Barcelona won 14 of the 30 games whereas Real Madrid only secured victories in eight with the remaining matches proving draws, it’s fair to say that the Argentine got the better of his adversary.

Messi and Ronaldo in El Clasico.
Football Soccer – Barcelona v Real Madrid – Spanish La Liga Santander- Nou Camp Stadium, Barcelona, Spain – 3/12/16. Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo and Barcelona’s Lionel Messi in action during the “Clasico”. REUTERS/Sergio Perez (SPAIN – Tags: SOCCER SPORT)

Messi takes the win

Whether or not you believe that to be the case during that 2009-2018 period in general is down to you, but clearly Messi had the upper hand when the pair were literally sharing a pitch.

However, none of that’s to say that Ronaldo was even vaguely poor during those El Clasico matches because the standard of comparison between two male players has arguably never been higher.

The crazy reality of the situation is that we were almost certainly treated to the greatest two players in history not only sharing a league, but sharing one of the sport’s biggest rivalries for nine whole years.

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It’s a shame that we’ll never get it back, but boy are we grateful that it happened in the first place.

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