Soccer G.O.A.T. Debate: Is Messi the Best Soccer Player of All Time?

By Woodland Soccer Team •  Updated: 07/10/22 •  8 min read

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With Messi’s recent addition of yet another Ballon D’or award to his resume, he definitely cemented his spot as one of the top players of the sport.

Talking about who is the best soccer player in the world will most likely result in a never ending conversation especially when talking with other fans of the sport. Let’s kick off this debate with a disclaimer for soccer fans all around the world (pun intended). There is no wrong or right answer in the G.O.A.T. debate as everyone is entitled to their own opinion. We will be stating facts based on stats, so let’s dig in.

Since starting his professional career early in 2003, Lionel Messi has helped bring his former team FC Barcelona a lot of trophies: four champions league trophies, ten LaLiga trophies, seven Copa del Rey trophies, three Club World Cup trophies, three European Super cup trophies, eight Supercopa de España trophies. With a resume built like his, he is clearly one of the greatest players of his time, but the question everyone is asking — is Messi the greatest of all time when it comes to soccer?

If we are going to look at the Argentinian superstar’s individual achievements, he won the Ballon D’or award seven times, which is the most anyone has ever won. A record of six European golden shoes, seven La Liga Pichichi awards, nine La Liga MVP awards, six Champions top scorer, four Onze d’or awards, and a whole lot more. He is also the top scorer at the same club played in Barcelona (he was followed by Pele who scored 643 goals in 659 games for Santos) while also securing the Guinness world record as the top goalscorer for the club. Lionel Messi is also the All-time top goalscorer in LaLiga and has the most goals in a LaLiga season. Messi also has the most goals per game in the 21st century with a ratio of 0.84 goals per game.

In 2012, La pulga atomica did the incredible. He scored 91 goals in a calendar year, the most ever! That is like 7.5 goals per month or 1.75 per week. If we are going to break it down even further, that means he statistically scored a goal every 68 minutes. A truly unbelievable feat! In 2013, he did another crazy stat, he managed to score against all 19 teams in the Spanish 1st Division in a row. He went 21 games straight with scoring, a record that crushed the previous mark of 10 games. To soccer players, that statline he provided in 2012 is unbelievable, it is simply unreal, but the great Lionel Messi managed to do it.

Top Soccer Assists of All Time

Arguably, there will be a group of people that will say soccer isn’t all about scoring. Being the best in a certain sport needs to check a lot of boxes, you need to not just score to be the best, you also need to win championships, get assists, and be efficient. This is where another one of Messi’s achievements come into play to support his G.O.A.T. resume because Lionel Messi is also number one in top soccer assists of all time with 331 assists which is followed by Thomas Muller of Bayern Munich with 248 assists. He holds the most assists ever in LaLiga and also holds the record in the top 5 European leagues for most assists in a single season with 21 assists. There are only 2 other players that matched it in Europe’s top 5 leagues, Kevin de Bruyne when he was in Wolfsburg, and Thomas Müller in Bayern Munich. This just shows that not only is Messi an elite scorer but also a brilliant playmaker, a truly impressive feat! There wouldn’t be an assist highlight video without Messi, just goes to show how he is built differently, truly an overall player.

These days, when you check on any social media page, or do a simple google search, when the name Lionel Messi comes up, Cristiano Ronaldo’s name also seems to be dragged in the conversation as well, he is deemed to be Messi’s career rival. We can’t have a “best player of all time conversation” without a rival. So let’s break down Cristiano Ronaldo’s stats and achievements as well.

Who is the best soccer player in the world, Messi or Ronaldo?

Before Cristiano Ronaldo became who he is today, he was once a boy born in Portugal who was diagnosed with a heart condition at age 15 and needed surgery. That didn’t stop him from pursuing his soccer career as he was later on signed by Manchester United at age 18 with his transfer fee being around 18 million US dollars, he was considered the most expensive teenager in football history at that time. From the start, he was destined for greatness, an explosive young man supported by a lot of Manchester United fans. He scored his first goal on a free kick versus Portsmouth and the rest was history.

If we are going to look at the Portuguese superstar’s personal achievements, he won the best FIFA Men’s Player award twice, the Ballon D’Or award five times, the UEFA Best Player in Europe award four times, the golden boot four times and so much more. Collectively, he also helped his team in winning the FIFA world cup four times, the champions league cup five times, the UEFA super cup three times, the english league super cup two times and that is just the tip of the iceberg.

Cristiano Ronaldo has produced some number-crunching stats. He holds the record as the highest goal scorer in men’s international soccer. What’s even more impressive is that Portugal has some absolute legends like Pauleta, the PSG legend, and Eusebio, one of the greatest to ever play the game and if we are going to add their goals for their country, it is still not enough to match Ronaldo’s! I guess it’s safe to say he’s the best Portuguese player in the history of the sport.

This has been the debate of the 21st century in the world of soccer: Who is the better soccer player, Messi or Ronaldo? Two of the best athletes with the same magnitude as Pele and Diego Maradona. Some legends and coaches weigh in on the debate with the likes of David Beckham, Ronaldo Nazario, Paul Scholes, Kylian Mbappe, Neymar, Pele, and even Maradona himself!

David Beckham weighed in on the conversation saying “He [Messi] is alone in his class as a player, it is impossible that there is another like him. He, like Cristiano Ronaldo, who is not at his level, are both above the rest”.

The Argentinian legend Diego Maradona also weighed in siding with his fellow Argentinian soccer player saying “I prefer Messi to Cristiano Ronaldo but I acknowledge that the latter is an animal”, he explained.

Considered to be one of the greatest to ever play the sport, the Brazilian legend Pele said “Today, the best player in the world is Cristiano Ronaldo. I think he’s the best at the moment but you can’t forget about [Lionel] Messi, of course, but he’s not a striker.”, said the hero of Brazil.

With Ronaldo being one of Kylian Mbappe’s idols growing up it is not a surprise that he chose Ronaldo over Messi, but the French superstar admitted he often changes his mind when it comes to the Ronaldo vs Messi debate saying “From one year to the next, my choice changes between Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, even if I have to admit to picking Ronaldo more often. I loved him when I was younger.” Now, I am wondering if he will switch sides again considering Messi is now his teammate in Paris Saint-Germain but nevertheless, we will stick with his statement.

Paul Scholes weighed in on the debate and even though playing with Cristiano Ronaldo for six years in Manchester United he admits that Messi is the more complete soccer player compared to his former teammate saying “Messi [is the best] but Ronaldo is brilliant. He scores, he takes free kicks. But as an all-around footballer, Messi — wow, his passing — he has absolutely everything.”

People will say Ronaldo’s scoring is exceptional and there will be some that will say it’s not just about scoring. It will all boil down to a matter of taste as this debate is impossible to settle as long as they are still playing, maybe after a few years once both players are retired, we can finally come to a conclusion. One thing is for sure though, Messi and Cristiano aren’t the same type of player, not even in position but both are really good, both are great and should be enjoyed equally. We as soccer fans are the real winners, we get to watch a masterful performance by both of them every time they step on the playing field, it’s like poetry in motion.

Woodland Soccer Team

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