cristiano ronaldo vs lionel messi ucl statscristiano ronaldo vs lionel messi ucl stats

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

Most celebrated football stars of the last two decades are at the twilight of their career. There is always a constant debate among the fans of each of them regarding who is the ultimate G.O.A.T footballer among them. But on a personal front, they have achieved what every football player just dreams of. 

We have all seen that at the World Cup level, Messi has taken the last leap and came better than Ronaldo in terms of personal stats as well as an achievement as a team. So, we can say that Messi has a slight edge over Ronaldo if international football is considered.

Here in this article, we will take another major tournament – The UEFA Champions League into consideration and compare the stats and performances of both the true icons of the game. However, with Ronaldo moving to Saudi Arabia and PSG getting knocked off in the round of 16, it’s a shame that we won’t be seeing any of them in the quarterfinals of the Champions League this season.

Footbalytics Methodology

In this analysis, we would be comparing the performance of G.O.A.T players Cristiano Ronaldo vs Lionel Messi in UCL 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 Messi a bit ahead in terms of goals as well as assists. Ronaldo has played 98 matches whereas Messi played 86 matches at the group stage level.

Goals and Assists per game

Messi has scored a staggering 80 goals with 28 assists. Whereas Ronaldo has 73 group-stage goals to his name with 26 assists. Messi has 0.93 goals per match in comparison to 0.74 goals per match by Ronaldo.

Goal Type

The Argentinian World Cup winner has scored 8 goals from outside the box excluding 4 free-kick goals. Whereas the Portugal captain has scored 6 goals from outside the box excluding 8 free-kick goals. In terms of headers, Ronaldo is ahead with 8 goals in comparison to 3 goals by Messi.

Performance in Knockouts

Well, these stats are inclined toward Ronaldo as his stats are considerably better than Messi’s. Messi’s exit from Barcelona and new life at PSG does not help his cause as far as the Champions League is concerned. Even after having a very good team on paper, it will be no understatement to say that PSG achieved nothing at the CL level and performed badly at the knockout stage level. 

Goals and Assists per game

Messi has scored 49 goals and provided 12 assists with an average of 0.64 goals per match in 77 Knock Out stage matches. Ronaldo is slightly better with 67 goals and 15 assists with an average of 0.79 goals per match in 85 Knock Out stage matches.

 Goal Type

The former Barcelona captain has scored 10 goals from outside the box excluding 1 free kick goal. Whereas the former Real Madrid starlet has scored 4 goals from outside the box excluding 4 free kick goals. In terms of headers, it is Ronaldo again way ahead with 17 goals in comparison to 1 goal by Messi. In the knockout stage, Ronaldo has scored 4 Hat tricks in comparison to 2 from Messi.

Performance Stats Overall (Champions League Only)

Goals and Assists per game

Nothing to choose between the two, as Messi has 0.79 goals per game whereas Ronaldo has 0.77 goals per game. Even in terms of assists Messi has 40 assists in 163 games in comparison to 41 in Ronaldo in 183 games.

Goal Type

Messi has more outside-the-box goals as he has scored 18 times from there. Ronaldo, on the other hand, has scored 10 times from outside the box. Ronaldo has a slightly better Penalty conversion rate with 19 out of 22 penalties scored whereas Messi has scored 18 penalties out of 23 taken.

In terms of free-kick goals and header goals, Ronaldo is way ahead with 12 free-kick goals and 25 header goals. To our surprise, Messi has only 5 free kick goals and 4 header goals in CL.

Shots/Shots on Target/%of Shots on Target

Messi has stats of 619/289/46.6% in comparison to 790/320/40.5% of Ronaldo. So, we can see that Messi has slightly better accuracy. It is more to do with the kind of role they played in their respective teams. Messi being the playmaker in Barcelona has fewer shots taken in comparison to Ronaldo but with better accuracy.

Successful Dribbles

Messi outscores Ronaldo on this front with quite astonishing numbers of 579 to 247. 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 186 aerial duals in comparison to only 32 Messi. He outshines Messi if header skills are considered.

Champions League Individual Records

Messi’s Champions League records

  • Most Champions League group stage goals: 80 (71 for Barcelona)
  • Most Champions League round of 16 goals: 29
  • Most Champions League goals for one club: 120 (Barcelona)
  • Most successive seasons scoring in the Champions League: 18

Ronaldo’s Champions League records

  • Most UEFA Champions League goals: 140
  • Most goals in a UEFA Champions League season: 17 (2013/14)
  • Most goals in UEFA Champions League knockout stages: 67
  • UEFA Champions League top scorer: 2007/08, 2012/13, 2013/14, 2014/15, 2015/16, 2016/17, 2017/18
  • Most UEFA Champions League appearances: 183
  • Most UEFA Champions League final wins: 5
  • The only player to score in three UEFA Champions League finals
  • One of only two players to score in all six games in a UEFA Champions League group
  • The only player to score in 11 straight UEFA Champions League games
  • Most UEFA Club Footballer/Best Player/Men’s Player awards: 4 (2008, 2014, 2016, 2017)
  • Most appearances in users’ Team of the Year: 15 (2004, 2007–2020)


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.

When it comes to the Champions League, one can agree that Messi has slightly better records at the group-stage level. But at knockouts, Ronaldo is the clear winner. He has single-handedly won crucial knockouts for Real Madrid. Who can forget his semifinal hat trick against arch-rivals Atletico Madrid or his bicycle kick goal against Juventus in the semifinals?

Comparing these G.O.A.T players in Champions League performances, Ronaldo has slightly better individual records and clear winner in crucial knockout games. With Ronaldo moving out of Europe, Messi has a few more years with him to match and overcome some of the personal records held by Ronaldo currently in CL.

Thanks for reading! What’s your take on Lionel Messi vs Cristiano Ronaldo performance in UCL 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.