lionel messi vs cristiano ronaldo comparison stats footbalyticslionel messi vs cristiano ronaldo comparison stats footbalytics

Lionel Messi vs Cristiano Ronaldo brings for some interesting results in the comparison of a lifetime in World Cup matches. 

Most celebrated football stars of the last two decades are at the twilight of their career. Messi has already announced that this will be his last world cup, and the same should be the case with Ronaldo, who will be 41 years old when the Football World Cup hits the American shore in 2026.

Both of them have won the best possible trophy for their country at the continent level. Ronaldo won the Euro in 2016. Whereas Messi won Copa América in 2021. However, one trophy that has been missing from their illustrious trophy cabinet is the world cup.  They will be captaining their sides respectively, and will look to have their hands on the coveted World Cup trophy in Lusail Stadium on December 18, 2022.

Whether both Messi and Ronaldo will succeed or not in their last attempt, we will get to know in a couple of months’ time. In the meantime, let’s look at how the comparison of a lifetime for Lionel Messi vs Cristiano Ronaldo in Football World Cup history across different categories. 

Footbalytics Methodology

In this analysis, we would be comparing the performance of G.O.A.T players Cristiano Ronaldo vs Lionel Messi in World Cup matches in 3 different categories, which include performance in group stage matches, performance in knockouts, performance stats overall (which includes shots/shots on target/successful dribbles/key passes/ aerial duals/ man of the match, etc.). So let’s do it.

Performance in Group Stage Matches

The group stage stats makes for an interesting comparison right up with Ronaldo a bit ahead in terms of goals as well as assist. Both have played 12 matches at the group stage level with Messi’s 3 appearances in 2006 WC were all little cameos as substitutes.

Ronaldo has scored 7 times with 2 assists. Whereas Messi has 6 group-stage goals to his name with 1 assist. All thanks to a famous hat trick against Spain in 2018 where Ronaldo became the oldest player to score a hat trick in world cup history, Cristiano Ronaldo is a bit ahead of Messi when only group stage performance is taken into consideration.

Performance in Knockouts

Well, these stats might come as a shocker for many fans as both Ronaldo nor Messi have ever scored in any of the knockout games of the World Cup. But if we look at the assists, Messi is the clear winner with 4 assists spreading across three world cups 1 in 2010, 1 in 2014, and 2 came in the last world cup in 2018. Meanwhile, Ronaldo is yet to make any assists as well at the knockout stages. So, Messi is the outright winner at the knockout stage level.

Performance Stats Overall (World Cup Only)

Goals and Assists per game

Ronaldo is slightly better with 0.41 goals per game whereas Messi has 0.32 goals per game. However, in terms of assists, Messi is the clear winner in this with 0.26 assists per game in comparison to 0.12 assists per game by Ronaldo.

Goal Type

Nothing much to choose from here as both of them have 3 goals inside the box. Messi has 2 goals from outside the box (not including free-kick goals) in comparison to 1 from Ronaldo.

Shots/Shots on Target/%of Shots on Target

Messi has stats of 72/28/38.9% in comparison to 91/33/36.3% of Ronaldo. So, we can see that Ronaldo has more shots and shots on target as he plays a more attacking role than Messi in their national team setup.

Successful Dribbles

Messi outscores Ronaldo in this front with quite astonishing numbers of 110 to 36. No surprise he is the best no. 10 in world football for quite some time.

Aerial Duals

Ronaldo being more strongly built and with better heading skills than Messi has won 13 aerial duals in comparison to only 3 by Messi. He outshines Messi if header skills are considered.

Player of the Matches

Both Messi and Ronaldo have won the maximum number of Man of the Match awards by any player along with Arjen Robben from the Netherlands with 6 each. While Messi won 4 out of those 6 in the 2014 World Cup where he took his team to the finals, Ronaldo’s awards are distributed among three world cups (2010, 2014 & 2018).

So, nothing to choose between the two in terms of POTM awards.


Concluding the analysis, both these players in their peak seem to have unmatched performance that only defines their greatness. It is a benchmark for future players to replicate or surpass something that is unreal. But when it comes to World Cup performances, fans of both of them would agree to the fact that expectations were much greater for them. Individual heroics which we have seen a number of times from them in Champions League and La Liga matches is yet to be seen at the World Cup level.

Comparing these G.O.A.T players in World Cup performances, Messi has slightly better records, especially in crucial knockout games. Both would like to go one step further to take their national teams to the glory of winning the most decorated trophy across the globe – ‘THE WORLD CUP’.

Thanks for reading! What’s your take on Lionel Messi vs Cristiano Ronaldo performance for World Cup matches? Please email your thoughts to

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© Footbalytics

By Akshay

Akshay is an author at Footbalytics. His love for football started way back in 1998 when Ronaldo (Not Cristiano) was his first football hero, and the list keeps getting longer ever since. Though Akshay is a Teacher by profession, he firmly believes that there is no better classroom than the Sports field and no better Teacher than Sports.

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