Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi have defined football for a generation, but they’re finally winding down and the 2022 World Cup in Qatar seems to be their last dance. How have the two modern legends compared at this biggest stage in the twilight of their careers?
Naturally, there’s no shortage of focus on the two captains. Messi comes into the tournament off the back of brilliant form for PSG, with Argentina being talked up by many as the pre-tournament favourites. As ever, there’s noise around Ronaldo, who is officially a free agent after terminating his contract at Manchester United. He departed the club after giving a controversial interview on the eve of the World Cup.
Messi finished runner-up in 2014, with Mario Gotze’s extra-time strike proving the match-winner in a 1-0 victory for Germany over Argentina, while the furthest Ronaldo ever made it was to the semi-finals, where Portugal lost 1-0 by beaten finalists France in 2006.
Mexico veteran Andres Guardado is the only other player to have featured at each of the last five World Cups going back to 2006. This is almost certainly Messi and Ronaldo’s last chance to lift the most prestigious trophy of them all, and the only one that still exudes them both.
Unfortunately for Ronaldo, it looks like he’s missed that last chance, after Portugal suffered a shock defeat to Morocco in the Round of 16. Some have spoken of his ability to keep going into his forties, but it appears as though time is catching up with him.
It would be an astonishing turnaround were he to make the 2026 World Cup as a 42-year-old, and we may well see him announce his retirement from the international game in the coming days.
Like Red Devils boss Erik ten Hag, Portugal manager Fernando Santos decided that his team would be better served with Ronaldo out of the starting XI.
The 37-year-old started each of Portugal’s group-stage games, scoring one goal with the opener from the penalty spot in their first match of the tournament.
However, he was dropped for the first knockout clash, which proved an astute decision as his replacement Goncalo Ramos scored a brilliant hat-trick in a stunning 6-1 victory over Switzerland.
Ramos got the nod ahead of Ronaldo for the quarter-final against Morocco, but Portugal’s all-time top scorer was introduced off the bench in the 52nd minute. Morocco were leading 1-0 at the time and Ronaldo failed to score an equaliser, going on to leave the pitch in tears following the shock loss.
Roy Keane never quite got his wish, as Qatar 2022 proved to be an underwhelming tournament for Ronaldo, who at least set a new record as the first and only footballer in history to score in five different World Cups.
Here’s how Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi stats in the 2022 World Cup compare:
Lionel Messi – 5
Cristiano Ronaldo – 3 (2)
Lionel Messi – 4
Cristiano Ronaldo – 1
Lionel Messi – 2
Cristiano Ronaldo – 0
Minutes per goal or assist
Lionel Messi – 75
Cristiano Ronaldo – 291
Chances created per 90 minutes
Lionel Messi – 2.8
Cristiano Ronaldo – 1.2
Successful dribbles per 90 minutes (success rate)
Lionel Messi – 2.2 (50%)
Cristiano Ronaldo – 0 (0%)
Dispossessed per 90 minutes
Cristiano Ronaldo – 1.5
Lionel Messi – 2.2
Tackles per 90 minutes (success rate)
Lionel Messi – 0.6 (75%)
Cristiano Ronaldo – 0 (N/A)
Passes per 90 minutes (passing accuracy)
Lionel Messi – 47.6 (84.6%)
Cristiano Ronaldo – 26.6 (75.6%)
Shots per 90 minutes (inside penalty area)
Lionel Messi – 4.6 (3.0)
Cristiano Ronaldo – 3.4 (1.9)
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