Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi have dominated world football (soccer) for the better part of the past ten years more than any other players. Despite the fact that they are two very different football players who play two very different styles in two very different roles for two very different teams, these great rivals have smashed innumerable football records, scored an absurd number of goals, and pushed each other all the way to greatness. The vast disparity in their levels of talent from the rest of the players in the globe is essentially the only thing binding the two together. The pair’s continued inclusion in the hall of fame among football’s greatest players is beyond dispute. Although generational prejudice might affect any attempt to rank the greatest footballer of all time, it should be highlighted that Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo are not the greatest football player(s) of all time, either individually or collectively, for the following reasons:

Cristiano is not the most effective ‘Ronaldo’ in the game: Cristiano Ronaldo is not regarded as the greatest Ronaldo to have ever played the game, despite his remarkable success both on and off the pitch. The other “Ronaldos” whose renowned offensive skill is frequently likened to Cristiano Ronaldo’s are Ronaldo de Assisi (also known as Ronaldinho) and Ronaldo de Lima (the phenomenon). Ronaldinho was the entertainer who, at his best, consistently dazzled the football world, whereas Ronaldo de Lima was a more explosive and complete striker who would have likely been the “World’s Best Striker Ever” if he had remained injury-free throughout his football career. The two “Ronaldos” are superior to Cristiano Ronaldo in terms of raw talent, explosiveness, superior technical ability, and the “wow” factor. Cristiano Ronaldo is better than other “Ronaldos” in terms of constituency over the years, phenomenal goal-scoring rates, overall fitness, and prolonged career (due to low rate of injuries).

The greatest Argentine athlete never was Lionel Messi: It is a well-known fact that in order to be the best football player in history, a player must also be the greatest player in the history of his home nation; sadly, Lionel Messi isn’t either. The best football player Argentina has ever produced is not Lionel Messi. Diego Armando Maradona is deserving of that honour. Maradona is a football hero who led Argentina to a world cup victory and S.S.C. Napoli to its first and second League titles [Scudetti] in club history in the Italian Football League. Maradona is widely regarded as one of the greatest football players in history. He is the author of the FIFA Goal of the Century and the questionable goal known as the “Hand of God.” Around the player, there is practically a cult in Argentina. When a new star emerges in the legendary South American nation, Diego Maradona (and Pele) serve as the standard. As a result, even though Messi has excelled on the European stage, reaching milestone after milestone and winning numerous honours, his native Argentina views him as the second-best football player the nation has ever produced.

The World Cup still has significant symbolic value as a quadrennial competition that pits the best of one nation against the best of another, even though the latter rounds of the current UEFA Champions League would rival the FIFA World Cup in terms of quality. Talents from all over the world are increasingly concentrated in the hands of a select few. It is a secret that neither Lionel Messi nor Cristiano Ronaldo have ever won the FIFA World Cup or motivated their respective nations to do so. While Lionel Messi underwhelmed in the 2014 World Cup semi-final and final with his home country Argentina ultimately losing to Germany, Cristiano Ronaldo has won a European Cup (The Euros) with his native Portugal but has never made it to either of those World Cup finals. When Messi won the Golden Ball and was crowned the tournament’s greatest player, the entire world—including Messi—went into astonishment. Additionally, Lionel Messi and Argentina have finished second in the Copa America competition three times. The majority of football players, including Zinedine Zidane, Pele, Diego Maradona, Ronaldinho, and Ronaldo de Lima, who are frequently hailed as the best players in football history, all had significant roles in the World Cup competitions they ultimately won. With regard to Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, the same cannot be stated at this time.

They aren’t the greatest goal scorers in football history: While Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo are among the top goal scorers in football history and have incredible goal per match ratios, they do not rank among the top five. They cannot be compared to great players like Pele, Romario, Josef Bican, Ferenc Puskas (who has a FIFA goal-scoring award named after him), Gerd Muller, or another player who has more than 700 goals in their individual careers. Given that Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo concluded their footballing careers with goal totals far into the 800s, these legendary players’ rate of scoring is more impressive than that of those guys. Therefore, if scoring goals is what makes footballers great, Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo cannot be the best players in football history because better players have amassed more goals than them.

Because of tax payment concerns with the Spanish government (the nation in which they both reside and play), both players have been accused of being criminals. Lionel Messi (and his father) were found guilty of failing to pay their taxes to the Spanish government after a protracted trial that received a great deal of media attention. They were each fined significantly, and Messi was given a two-year prison sentence (he later decided to pay a higher fine rather than receive a 21-month suspended sentence). His court case, guilty judgement, fine, and (suspended) term hurt both his and his football team, FC Barcelona,’s reputation as a righteous player. The Spanish government is also looking into Cristiano Ronaldo for tax evasion; he may go to court (or not), face a stiff fine, and receive a suspended sentence.

The greatest goal scorers of their generation are Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, whose combined goal totals have been inflated by too many penalties. They both score an absurd amount of goals during a football season, yet over half of those goals have come from the penalty spot for both players. Due to the fact that only the designated penalty taker and the custodian need to be defeated, penalties in football are the simplest way to score. Being the chosen penalty takers for their respective club teams, Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo always take every penalty kick granted to them or one of their colleagues, boosting their goal totals. Luis Suarez of Liverpool FC, who later joined FC Barcelona to play alongside Lionel Messi, won the English Premier League’s top goal scorer award and shared the European Golden Shoe award with Cristiano Ronaldo in 2013/2014 by scoring 32 goals in 33 games of open play without taking a single penalty. Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo do not currently possess that record.

Messi and Ronaldo represent the most expensive clubs in football. They represent super-clubs in Spain, where the best teams routinely score several goals. Unfortunately, the current super squad was born out of the new financial order of the second millennium, which has led to some predictability in both domestic and European leagues. While Ronaldo plays for Real Madrid CF, also in Spain, Lionel Messi plays for FC Barcelona. Messi and Ronaldo are constantly surrounded and supported by players of the highest calibre to help them dominate continental club football and boost their international profiles. FC Barcelona and Real Madrid CF are extremely wealthy and powerful football clubs that can afford to buy and stockpile the best and most expensive football talent anywhere in the world. Both teams consistently have a plethora of elite athletes at their disposal, which results in complete dominance in both domestic (Spanish La Liga) and international (UEFA Champions League) football competitions.

The advantage of playing in the Modern Era is that it is virtually impossible to compare players from various eras in a game that has evolved significantly over time. Football was played at a pace that was noticeably slower than it is today when great players like Ferenc Puskas and Alfredo di Stefano were playing. They are still just as talented as Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo despite this. The quality of footballs made and utilised, as well as modifications to the game’s rules, have all affected how the game is currently played. Although players—especially defenders—are physically fitter, faster, and stronger than ever before, they are nevertheless technically weaker than ever. The Champions League’s nineties expansions also benefited modern players because a group stage allows for a margin of error that was just not possible in the knockout-style competition that existed prior to 1995. Attackers have never had it simpler; Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo likely wouldn’t have been able to score 40–60 goals per season in the 1980s, when the game’s rules and the type of ball used didn’t favour strikers and defenders/defenses were stacked with elite players.

They are a part of football’s rich history: Prior to the modern period, when we could watch the Spanish league, Messi, and Ronaldo every weekend, we viewed the history of the game through the lens of our own national experiences. It is important to keep in mind that the majority of Europe only viewed their national teams’ European Cup and UEFA Cup matches in the 1970s and even into the 1980s. So let me make a small recommendation: the next time Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo score an incredible goal, and someone on Twitter suggests that the debate (over who the greatest football player is) is over, go to YouTube and spend ten minutes watching goals from players like Diego Maradona, Johan Cruyff, Pele, Ferenc Puskas, Roberto Baggio, Eusebio, Alfredo di Stefano, and so on. There have been many brilliant players over the history of the sport, and Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo are two of them.

Football positional and generational bias: The search for the greatest football player in history is comparable to the quest for the Holy Grail. Football players and other athletes are all products of their eras. It is challenging to have an intelligent discussion regarding the greatest football player of all time due to the sport’s relative stasis in terms of player growth and the sheer variety of positions and responsibilities within those positions. The best goal scorers, like Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, will always be on the top of any list of the game’s best players because scoring a goal is the primary goal of the game. For more details