Did we get any closer to settling the Messi vs. Ronaldo debate in 2023?

For well over a decade, the footballing world has been embroiled in a fierce debate, polarising fans and pundits alike: Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo? Two legends of the beautiful game, each possessing an unparalleled skill set, have continually been compared and contrasted, with their respective supporters ardently championing their favourite. As the years have passed, the discussion has evolved, statistics have mounted, and both players have entered different phases of their illustrious careers. Now, in 2023, the question lingers: Has the ongoing saga finally reached its conclusion? With Lionel Messi plying his trade in the USA with Inter Miami and Cristiano Ronaldo playing for Al-Nassr in Saudi Arabia, have recent events and performances tipped the scales definitively in favour of one over the other? Let’s delve into the recent developments, accomplishments, and narratives surrounding these footballing legends to uncover if the Messi vs. Ronaldo debate has found a resolution.



Cristiano Ronaldo, after a disappointing 2022 with Manchester United, had an explosive 2023. Whilst many critics thought that his time at the top table was done, he has disproved that entirely. CR7 has just scored his 50th goal of the year as Al Nassr beat Al Shabab 5-2 to reach the semi-finals of the Saudi King Cup. Astonishingly, it’s the eighth time that Ronaldo has scored 50 or more goals in a calendar year, just one shy of the record that rival Lionel Messi has set, in nine years.

Ronaldo has revolutionised the Saudi Pro League, inspiring many top players across Europe to make the jump to the Middle East, today for example he’ll face his former teammate from Real Madrid, Karim Benzema when Al Nassr will face Al-Ittihad.  

He has lit up the league, breaking many records and scoring a lot of goals. He also appears to be enjoying life in the Saudi capital, often seen at high-profile events and recently caught rubbing shoulders with UFC legend Conor McGregor at the boxing.

In 57 appearances in 2023 for Al-Nassr and Portugal, Ronaldo scored 51 goals and made another 15 assists. 98 minutes per goal is essentially one goal per game, and his 76 minutes per goal contribution is spectacular.

Congratulations on a great year, Cristiano.


Messi has continued to prove his excellence throughout 2023. Fresh off a World Cup victory, the magician continued to thrive, despite having experienced the highest of footballing highs.

He scored his 700th club goal and registered his 300th assist quickly after returning to PSG. He soon overtook Cristiano Ronaldo as the player with the most goals in European club football history. Against Strasbourg, Messi scored to secure a draw for PSG and help the Parisiens secure their 11th Ligue 1 title. In doing so, Messi became the player with the most goals in the history of Europe’s top five leagues, with 496 goals.

He finished the season as the top assister in the French league and he was named to the team of the season. But Messi’s season didn’t stop there. In fact, it was just getting started.

Messi moved to David Beckham’s Inter Miami to link up with ex-Barcelona teammates Jordi Alba and Sergio Busquets. In his first few weeks, he won the Herons their first-ever trophy as he led the side to the Leagues Cup.

In all competitions for PSG, Inter Miami, and Argentina, Messi made 44 appearances in which he scored 28 goals and made 12 assists. This translated to 132 minutes per goal and just 92 minutes per goal contribution.

The Future:

Despite Ronaldo being 38 and Messi being 36, it seems that these two still have quite a bit left in the tank. They’ll face off in a friendly in February of 2024, in what could be the last dance between the pair. Keep your eyes peeled as this is going to be a brilliant match.

What’s more, the World Cup in 2026 will still be on both of their minds, as Ronaldo fights to level the score. Messi hasn’t confirmed anything, but it has been indicated that the magician will continue playing to try and deliver one more World Cup for Argentina. CR7 will be vying to do the same.

The Verdict:

Whilst Ronaldo has probably had a slightly better 2023, they are both undoubtedly the two best players of the 21st century. Some prefer the man from Portugal, others the man from Argentina. Regardless, these are two special players who may never be topped again in the footballing world. Appreciate them and enjoy them both whilst they are still playing, it won’t be long before they retire!

By Nicky Helfgott / @NickyH3lfgott on Twitter

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