Comparing Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi’s career-best seasons

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Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo battle for the ball during Real Madrid v Barcelona. Camp Nou, Barcelona, October 2013.

It will take some getting used to but it appears that after a decade of dominance, Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo are no longer the two best players in world football.

The two players broke all kinds of goalscoring records at Barcelona and Real Madrid respectively, great rivals where the two icons enjoyed the peak years of their careers.

We’re now in the early stages of the 2022-23 campaign, where Ronaldo is unthinkably a bench player for a side in the Europa League, while Messi appears to be enjoying a resurgence after an uncharacteristically ordinary debut season at PSG.
So it’s time to accept that the two modern greats are extremely unlikely to ever reach the heights that they were once at, by far and away the two best players in the world for an unthinkably long amount of time.

But who was the best while at the peak of their powers? We’ve decided to take a look back and compare the two in terms of their records from their best individual years – 2011-12 for Messi, and 2014-15 for Ronaldo.

Interestingly, despite the two players racking up obscene numbers of goals and assists, they each had much more collective success in other campaigns.

Messi was astonishing in 2011-12, but Barcelona finished runners-up to Ronaldo’s Real Madrid that year, while he missed a costly penalty in their Champions League semi-final defeat to Chelsea, though they at least lifted the Copa del Rey.

Meanwhile, while Ronaldo was enjoying his best individual season, Messi was winning the treble alongside Luis Suarez and Neymar for Luis Enrique’s all-conquering Barcelona.

Here’s how the two icons stack up against one another while they were at their very best.

Lionel Messi (2011-12)

Games: 60
Starts: 56
Sub appearances: 4

Goals: 73
Assists: 29

Penalties scored: 14

Hat-tricks: 10
Free-kicks: 3

Minutes per goal: 71.5
Minutes per non-penalty goal: 88.4
Minutes per goal or assist: 51.2

Trophies Won: Supercopa de Espana, UEFA Super Cup, FIFA Club World Cup, Copa del Rey

READ: Comparing Lionel Messi’s seven Ballon d’Or-winning years

Cristiano Ronaldo (2014-15)

Games: 54
Starts: 52
Sub appearances: 2

Goals: 61
Assists: 21

Penalties scored: 13

Hat-tricks: 8
Free-kicks: 2

Minutes per goal: 76.1
Minutes per non-penalty goal: 96.6
Minutes per goal or assist: 56.6

Trophies Won: UEFA Super Cup, FIFA Club World Cup

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