Paul Stewart column: Why I think Cristiano Ronaldo is better than Lionel Messi

Cristiano Ronaldo made his return to Old Trafford with Juventus this week
Cristiano Ronaldo made his return to Old Trafford with Juventus this week

This week, I want to pay tribute to Cristiano Ronaldo; love him or hate him, you cannot argue at what he has achieved in his glittering career.

I remember him bursting on the scene more than 15 years ago, a young footballer that oozed confidence and had dazzling skills but frustrated fans as he failed to to deliver an end product to match his great play.

In the early days it was difficult to see if or not this undoubtedly talented player would be able to develop, or if frustration from team-mates and coaches would hamper his progression.

The reason I wanted to highlight Ronaldo is after watching him play this week for Juventus – and it is fair to say the debate will always be had about who is the better; Lionel Messi or Ronaldo?

I understand that football is about opinions, but the fact that Ronaldo has tested his ability in every top league gives him the edge.

As I watched the game against Manchester United on Tuesday, I was looking for changes in his attitude, any signs of coasting or adjustments in his style of play.

What I did see was an athlete that has taken care of himself, kept in peak physical condition and who hardly looks 34 years of age.

In support of my argument, here are a few statistics.

He began his senior career at Sporting CP, before signing with Manchester United at age 18 in 2003.

After winning his first trophy, the FA Cup, during his first season in England, he helped United win three successive Premier League titles, a Champions League and a World Cup.

By age 22, he had received Ballon d’Or and FIFA World Player of the Year nominations and at age 23, he won his first Ballon d’Or and FIFA World Player of the Year awards.

In 2009, he moved from Manchester United to Real Madrid in a transfer worth £80m and won 15 trophies, including two La Liga titles, two Copa del Reys, four Champions League titles, two UEFA Super Cups, and three Club World Cups.

Real Madrid’s all-time top goalscorer, Ronaldo also scored 34 La Liga hat-tricks, including eight hat-tricks in the 2014–15 season.

After joining Madrid, Ronaldo finished runner-up for the Ballon d’Or three times behind Messi before winning back-to-back Ballons d’Or in 2013 and 2014.

After winning the 2016 and 2017 Champions Leagues, Ronaldo secured back-to-back Ballons d’Or again in the same years before a third consecutive Champions League in 2018, making him the first player to win the trophy five times.

In 2018, he joined Juventus for the highest fee paid for a player more than 30 years old – and the highest paid by an Italian club.

He was also named the best Portuguese player of all time by the Portuguese Football Federation in 2015, having made his senior debut in 2003 and won more than 150 caps.

He has appeared and scored in eight major tournaments, becoming Portugal’s most capped player and his country’s all-time top goalscorer.

He scored his first international goal at Euro 2004 and helped Portugal reach the final before taking the full captaincy in July 2008 and leading Portugal to their first triumph in a major tournament at Euro 2016.

For good measure, he received the Silver Boot as the second-highest goalscorer of the tournament before becoming the highest European international goalscorer of all-time.

The above stats are available online but you can’t argue that they are outstanding and a CV that would challenge any other world athlete.

I just marvelled at how he looked head and shoulders above any other player on the pitch on Tuesday.

When you consider what United paid for Paul Pogba and other clubs have for so-called ‘world class’ players then his transfer fees must surely seem value for money.

The debate will rumble on regarding who is the best of Ronaldo or Messi; for me it’s Ronaldo, but I am sure you will no doubt have your view.

If you have taken the time to read his career to date, then I would challenge anyone to dispute opinion, but as I have said, please contact me with any views or questions and I would be more than happy to answer them next week.