Defining years for their legacies.

Comparing Lionel Messi & Cristiano Ronaldo’s wildly different records over the last three major international tournaments

The last few years, and in particular the three major international tournaments, have proven pivotal in the legacies that era-defining superstars Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo will leave once they finally hang up their boots.

As we went into the 2020s, the debate was raging on between the two players’ vociferously online fanbases.

But things have taken a marked shift since Messi finally ended his long wait for glory with Argentina, following up the Copa America in 2021 by finally lifting the World Cup in Qatar. For the key part he played as Argentina’s captain in both – named Player of the Tournament each time – a record-extending seventh and eighth Ballon d’Or followed.

Messi’s Argentina are now into the semi-finals of the 2024 Copa America in the United States, chasing down a third successive major trophy that would place them alongside the great international sides (West Germany in the 1970s, Spain circa 2010) in the annals of history.

His great rival Ronaldo, who captained Portugal to their first-ever European Championships back in 2016, has not enjoyed quite the same level of success on the international stage in his twilight years.

Portugal have failed to make it past the quarter-finals of their last three tournament appearances – Euro 2020, Qatar 2022, Euro 2024 – while their all-time top goalscorer has now gone nine matches in major international tournament matches without scoring a goal.

Euro 2024 was the first time that Ronaldo has failed to score in a major tournament, streets ahead of any other player in the tournament for expected goals underperformance, with Portugal going home after losing to France on penalties. It was their second successive goalless draw in a knockout game and extended their run without a goal in Germany to 364 minutes.

With Ronaldo finally looking his 39 years as he winds down his club career out in Saudi Arabia, serious questions ought to be asked of Roberto Martinez’s insistence on starting, and never taking off, the superstar. He played all 240 minutes against Slovenia and France and has notched more minutes in the tournament than any other outfield player as we approach the semi-final stage.

We’ve collated all the stats from Messi and Ronaldo’s last three major tournament appearances and compared how they’ve fared.

Lionel Messi

Games: 17
Goals: 11
Assists: 9

Penalties: Five scored (six taken)
Shootout record:

Minutes per goal: 144.5
Minutes per non-penalty goal: 265.0
Minutes per goal or assist: 79.5

Knockout games: 8
Knockout goals:
Knockout assists:
Minutes per knockout goal or assist: 70.9

Shots per 90: 3.4
Shots on target per 90: 1.47
Passes completed per 90: 36.5
Expected Goals: 10.8xG (+0.2xG overperformance)

Match History

Copa America 2021 (winners): Argentina 1-1 Chile (one goal), Argentina 1-0 Uruguay (one assist), Argentina 1-0 Paraguay (blank), Argentina 4-1 Bolivia (two goals, one assist), Argentina 3-0 Ecuador (one goal, two assists), Argentina 1-1 Colombia [3-2 on pens] (one assist, scored in shootout), Argentina 1-0 Brazil (blank)

World Cup 2022 (winners): Argentina 1-2 Saudi Arabia (one goal), Argentina 2-0 Mexico (one goal, one assist), Argentina 2-0 Poland (blank), Argentina 2-1 Australia (one goal), Argentina 2-2 Netherlands [4-3 on pens] (one goal, one assist, scored in shootout), Argentina 3-0 Croatia (one goal, one assist), Argentina 3-3 France (4-2 on pens) (two goals)

Copa America 2024 (ongoing; semis currently): Argentina 2-0 Canada (one assist), Argentina 1-0 Chile (blank), Argentina 2-0 Peru (rested), Argentina 1-1 Ecuador [4-2 on pens] (blank).

READ NEXT: Comparing Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo’s goalscoring records without penalties

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Cristiano Ronaldo

Games: 13
Goals: 6
Assists: 2

Penalties: Four scored (Five taken)
Shootout record: 2/2

Minutes per goal: 189.3
Minutes per non-penalty goal: 568.0
Minutes per goal or assist: 142

Knockout games: 5
Knockout goals:
Knockout assists:
Minutes per knockout goal or assist:

Shots per 90: 3.1
Shots on target per 90: 1.07
Passes completed per 90: 18.9
Expected Goals: 9.9xG (-3.9xG underperformance)

Match History

Euro 2020 (Round of 16 exit): Portugal 3-0 Hungary (two goals), Portugal 2-4 Germany (one goal, one assist), Portugal 2-2 France (two goals), Portugal 0-1 Belgium (blank)

World Cup 2022 (Quarter-final exit): Portugal 3-2 Ghana (one goal), Portugal 2-0 Uruguay (blank), Portugal 1-2 South Korea (blank), Portugal 6-1 Switzerland (didn’t start; blank), Portugal 0-1 Morocco (didn’t start; blank)

Euro 2024 (Quarter-final exit): Portugal 2-1 Czechia (blank), Portugal 3-0 Turkey (one assist), Portugal 0-2 Georgia (blank), Portugal 0-0 Slovenia [3-0 on pens] (blank; missed penalty), Portugal 0-0 France [4-5 on pens] (blank)

Lionel Messi Cristiano Ronaldo Major Tournaments Comparison Stats Goals Assists Trophies 2020s Copa America World Cup Euros