Who is the GOAT of Soccer? Messi, Ronaldo, Pelé, Maradona

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Neymar Jr being welcome by Barcelona fans in his debut. He was thought to be the next GOAT but injuries affected his career. Photo credit to David Ramos/Getty Images

The GOAT of soccer is Lionel Messi. Messi solidified himself with goat status after winning the World Cup in 2022, and he’s even predicted to win the 2023 Ballon d’Or, which will only elevate him above everyone else.

I spent the whole day researching all of Messi’s and Ronaldo’s goals, assists, and other relevant stats and matches where I could compare who is the true goat.

In this article, I’m going to break down why both Messi and Ronaldo deserve to be in the goat conversation and what makes them different from other players.

Lionel Messi

Messi smiling while holding the World Cup trophy after a tough road to winning it. Photo credit to Shaun Botterill/FIFA/Getty Images

After winning the 2022 World Cup, many people eliminated Ronaldo from the GOAT conversation and had Messi miles above him. Messi has won countless awards, including seven Ballon d’Ors, four Champions League titles, and 10 La Liga titles. The achievements are immeasurable, only showcasing how great he is.

After facing financial problems, Messi was forced to leave Barcelona as they couldn’t offer him a new contract, and he decided to join PSG in 2021. He was able to still achieve new heights, helping PSG win two league titles before joining Inter Miami this past summer.

Messi won’t just be remembered for his achievements but also for the way he played and revolutionized the game. The way he dribbled the ball and his extraordinary playmaking have only helped him to be named the goat.

Cristiano Ronaldo

Ronaldo celebrating with the 2016 Portugal squad after an emphatic win over France. Photo credit to Jean Catuffe/Getty Images

Ronaldo is world-renowned and is definitely in the top two players of all time. His rapid progression at Manchester United, and specifically his performance in the 2009 UEFA Champions League final against Chelsea, solidified him as a special player.

His time at Real Madrid proved to people why he was such a unique talent, especially helping the Blancos win three consecutive Champions League trophies, helping them become one of the best soccer teams of all time.

Ronaldo is also a national hero, especially after helping his home country, Portugal, upset France and win the 2016 Euros. He left the competition with three goals and two assists and still leaves a mark on soccer fans today. His longevity is one of the most impressive things about him as a player and puts him in the debate of being called the greatest of all time.

Messi vs Ronaldo

Both players are incredible and have shared the stage for many years during their time at Barcelona and Real Madrid. No diehard soccer fan will ever forget the legendary El Clasicos between the rival players, and it led to some of the best soccer matches we’ve ever seen.

Goals

Ronaldo still holds the record for most goals of all time, and he has more than Messi at the time of writing this. Ronaldo has 859 goals compared to Messi’s 821 goals. He doesn’t seem to be slowing down either, and he’s still scoring goals for his current club, Al-Nassr, at the age of 38.

Messi has made his own mark in scoring goals. He has the most goals in a calendar year, at a staggering 91 in 2012. Ronaldo took it personally and tried to break it the following calendar year, but he totaled 69, his most to date.

Assists

Messi beats Ronaldo with a total of 361 assists compared to Ronaldo’s 243. This should be no surprise to anyone since he showcased his playmaking during his time at Barcelona and more so at PSG, where he took on a goal-creating role with the team, allowing Mbappe to score the goals.

Ronaldo’s second run with United was a struggle, but as a fan of United myself, I saw the team around him and how the management style didn’t help. His assists, in particular, would have been incredible for the 2021-2022 season since he created countless goal-scoring opportunities that teammates could never convert.

Champions League

Ronaldo beats Messi in both goals and assists in the Champions League. He has amounted to 140 goals and 41 assists, compared to Messi’s 129 goals and 40 assists. Messi has 20 fewer appearances than Ronaldo, with 163 compared to Ronaldo’s 183.

Ronaldo will always be remembered as the GOAT of the Champions League, though, since he obliterated every team that stood in his way after three peating from 2016 to 2018. Even though Messi has shaken the world many times in different competitions, the Champions League belongs to Ronaldo.

Honorable Mentions

Of course, there are players who changed the world and the concept of soccer way before Messi and Ronaldo ever played a world-class soccer game. There are some unbelievable players who have faded away in some people’s memories, or you probably wouldn’t have heard of some of the players, but I’ll give you an insight into some of the all-time greats.

Pelé

Pelé dribbling the ball during a game in the 1958 World Cup competition. Photo credit to Getty Images

Pelé was arguably the goat and even over Messi and Ronaldo, maybe not in stats but in the way he played the game, there is definitely a case to be made. On an international stage, he is the greatest player of all time since he was able to win three separate World Cup titles.

He won back-to-back titles in 1958 and 1962 and won another World Cup competition in 1970 after dominating Italy. Pelé’s opponents feared him, and his ability to score goals when he pleased and break down defenses puts him in the goat conversation.

Diego Maradona

Diego Maradona lifting the World Cup trophy after defeating West Germany 3-2. Photo credit to Carlo Fumagalli/AP Photo

Many people think Pelé was far better than Maradona, but this is anything but the truth. Even though he had fewer statistics than Pelé, it didn’t make him any less great as a player. He was known for his dribbling, especially at a time when no one could dribble at an elite level like today’s players can.

His first touch, paired with his impeccable finishing, led him to win the 1986 World Cup, and the whole world truly knew what he was capable of as a player. Argentina had 14 goals throughout that tournament; Maradona scored five of them and assisted five of them. Before Messi, there was another Argentine who proved to be one of the best who ever did it.

Final Whistle

So who is the goat of soccer? Messi, without a doubt. Not only his stats but also the way he controls the ball and his consistent high-level gameplay make him the greatest ever.

Messi vs. Ronaldo was a huge debate between soccer fans for many years, but Messi put that to bed once he lifted the World Cup trophy since it’s the most prestigious title in all of soccer.

Ronaldo and Messi revolutionized soccer, but has it crossed your mind who actually invented the sport? Check out our article on who invented soccer.

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AUTHOR

Hi, This is Daniel's Sports Blog. I have been a Sports Fan for as long as I can remember and have grown up watching all types of sports including Basketball, Soccer, Football, Wrestling (WWE specifically), amongst many more! I have not only been watching sports but I have also been competing in a range of sports and I bring my skills and experiences to writing this blog so I can help other sports fanatics understand and appreciate the art of sports.

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