The greatest individual footballing rivalry of all time, Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo have enjoyed some historic duels over the years.
The two most popular footballers the world has ever seen, the GOAT debate rages on to this day despite both superstars having moved away from the intense spotlight of European football.
Regardless of ‘Team Messi’ vs ‘Team Ronaldo’, the attacking dynamos remain two of the most astounding and well-decorated players on the planet, having dominated and defined an era all by themselves.
With the duo set to reunite for perhaps one last time at the Riyadh Season Cup when Messi’s Inter Miami meet Ronaldo’s Al Nassr in early February, it’s worth analysing how the pair have fared in battles with one another throughout their illustrious careers.
Here is the complete head-to-head record between Messi and Ronaldo, as well as some incredibly memorable clashes of yesteryear.
Barcelona 2-0 Manchester United – 27 May 2009
Manchester United had knocked Barcelona out of the Champions League semi-final during the 2007/08 season, Ronaldo going on to the lift his first European trophy in the final against Chelsea. However, in the third meeting between the maestros, Messi got his revenge.
Barca would face Man Utd in the final the following season in Rome, the first of two meetings between Pep Guardiola and Sir Alex Ferguson – the second coming in the Champions League final two years later. The now Manchester City coach had moulded the Catalan club into the best side in Europe, something exemplified by their triumph at the Stadio Olimpico.
It would turn out to be Ronaldo’s final game for Man Utd before his big-money move to Real Madrid, but it wasn’t a happy send-off. The Portuguese failed to make a significant impact in the final, overshadowed by Messi’s brilliance.
Barca had taken an early lead through Samuel Eto’o but Messi would secure the tag of European champions for the Spanish side, redirecting a wonderful looping header over Edwin van der Sar from Xavi’s cross with 20 minutes to play. With Man Utd unable to respond, the Argentine would lift his second Champions League trophy come full-time.
Barcelona 0-1 Real Madrid (AET) – 20 April 2011
The only ever Copa del Rey final clash between the duo, Ronaldo would claim his first victory in a Clasico since his arrival in Madrid. Having lost three and drawn one of his first four battles with Messi in Spain, the former Man Utd forward would be the decisive factor in a tight and cagey final.
Nothing separated Guardiola’s Barca and Jose Mourinho’s Madrid across the 90 minutes in the Copa del Rey final, but Ronaldo would score the winning goal in extra-time. The Portuguese star rose highest to meet a perfectly-weighted Angel Di Maria cross, powerfully forcing a header beyond Jose Pinto in the 103rd minute.
Di Maria would later get himself sent off for a second yellow card deep in extra-time, but it wouldn’t prevent Madrid from getting their hands on the cup in what was the second of four Clasicos in the space of three weeks.
Barcelona 3-2 Real Madrid – 17 August 2011
Having drawn the first leg of the Supercopa de Espana 2-2 at the Santiago Bernabeu, Barca knew they needed to win on home soil to beat rivals Madrid to the trophy. That’s exactly what they did, with a little help from their diminutive magician up top.
Andres Iniesta had put the hosts in front at Camp Nou but Ronaldo produced a smart finish to level the scores just five minutes later. However, Messi would put Barca back ahead just before the break, dinking over Iker Casillas following Gerard Pique’s inventive flick.
Guardiola’s side looked as if they would hold on for Supercopa glory, but they were pegged back when Karim Benzema took advantage of some indecisive defending in the Barca penalty area. But you should never fear when you have Messi, the Argentine playing a delightful one-two with Adriano and rifling a winner beyond Casillas with just two minutes to play.
Barcelona 1-2 Real Madrid – 21 April 2012
With the La Liga title in the balance, Madrid travelled to Camp Nou four points clear of their rivals with the knowledge that a defeat would allow Barca back into the race to be Spanish champions. However, Ronaldo made sure that the capital side could relax heading into the final three games of the campaign.
An unlikely scorer gave the visitors the lead, Sami Khedira putting Madrid in front after just 17 minutes in Barcelona. However, that lead would be eliminated in the second half, Alexis Sanchez poking home with 20 minutes to play.
All Barca hope would be swiftly eradicated by Ronaldo, however, as the attacker fired beyond Victor Valdes following Mesut Ozil’s through ball. The Portuguese would produce his now famous ‘keep calm’ celebration after netting the winner.
The result ensured that Madrid went seven points clear at the top of the table and Mourinho’s men held their nerve in the final few matches to claim a first La Liga title for four years.
Real Madrid 3-4 Barcelona – 23 March 2014
In the highest-scoring clash between Messi and Ronaldo, it was the former who enjoyed the bragging rights at the Bernabeu. As both sides competed with Atletico Madrid for the La Liga title, this proved a pivotal encounter in the race.
Iniesta gave Barca a quickfire lead in the capital with his fierce left-footed strike, but a four-minute Benzema brace would put the hosts in control with 24 minutes on the clock. However, Messi levelled just before the break, the ball falling to the Argentine to produce a typically composed finish with bodies in front of him.
Ronaldo won a penalty for Madrid after half-time – although the foul may have actually taken place outside the area – and fired home emphatically to restore his side’s advantage. But, somewhat unsurprisingly, Sergio Ramos got himself sent off seven minutes later, felling Neymar in the box as the Brazilian raced through on goal.
Messi converted the subsequent spot-kick as Barca began to dominate against the ten men of Madrid, with an incredibly soft penalty being awarded to the visitors just eight minutes from time. Messi stepped up from 12 yards, making no mistake in securing his hat-trick on the big stage.
The result may have been a positive one for Barca, but it ultimately served Real Madrid’s city rivals Atletico, who went on to win the title by three points.
Barcelona 0-3 Juventus – 8 December 2020
The final competitive meeting between Messi and Ronaldo, Juventus’ trip to Catalonia wasn’t all that competitive. The Italian giants, now buoyed by the arrival of the 2016 European Championship winner, would ease beyond a woeful Barca in the Champions League group stage in 2020.
Weston McKennie’s effort was sandwiched in between two penalties from Ronaldo, who will have enjoyed his return to Camp Nou. Messi captained Barca to an underwhelming defeat, the Argentine suffering a final loss at the hands of Ronaldo.
It wasn’t the most glamorous end to this gargantuan rivalry, but it served as the last meaningful game between the duo after years of sensational clashes.
Lionel Messi vs Cristiano Ronaldo – Complete H2H record
- Games played: 36
- Lionel Messi wins: 16
- Draws: 9
- Cristiano Ronaldo wins: 11
Messi and Ronaldo shared a pitch on 36 separate occasions – including international friendlies but excluding club friendlies. In that time, they both scored a fair few goals against one another, Messi netting 22 and Ronaldo bagging 21.
Of his goals against Ronaldo, 21 of the eight-time Ballon d’Or winner’s strikes came with Barca, while just one came with Argentina during an international friendly back in 2011. Messi never managed a goal against his longstanding rival for Paris Saint-Germain in a competitive clash, although he did score against the Portuguese during a pre-season friendly for the French side against the Saudi All-Star XI.
Ronaldo’s goals against Messi sides are slightly more spread out, although 18 of them came for Real Madrid during their Clasico rivalry. Two arrived during Juventus’ 3-0 win over Barca in the Champions League group stage in 2020, while he also scored for Portugal against Argentina during the same international friendly that Messi notched in.
Despite three meetings with Barca during his early days at Man Utd, Ronaldo couldn’t find the back of the net against Messi for the Red Devils.