Al Jazeera looks back on the careers of two of the most renowned footballers of their generation.
Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi are playing their fifth and probably last World Cup in Qatar.
Messi, 35, of Argentina and Paris Saint-Germain announced in October that the 2022 World Cup will be his last, while 37-year-old Ronaldo of Portugal and Manchester United has yet to comment on his international future.
For more than a decade, the football world has been debating who is better. The discussion will likely continue long after they hang up their boots.
As football’s two giants reach the twilight of their careers, we take a look at their accomplishments over 17+ years of playing football at the highest level.
Ronaldo has 191 caps ahead of Argentina’s World Cup opener against Saudi Arabia, compared to Messi’s 164.
The former Real Madrid star’s international career took off in 2003, while Messi, who left Barcelona for Paris last year, earned his first international cap against Hungary two years later.
In terms of goals, Ronaldo is way ahead of his Argentinian rivals.
The Manchester United star has scored 117 goals, a record. Messi has 90 goals to his credit.
Both players have major regional competition at international level, with Ronaldo winning the European Championship in 2016 and Messi winning the Copa America in 2021.
At football’s most prestigious event, Messi has played 19 games, two more than his Portuguese rival.
Ronaldo again leads the scoring division with seven goals, one more than Messi.
However, of the two, only Messi has reached a World Cup final at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. The South American football giants lost 1-0 to Germany in extra time.
There was some consolation for Messi as he took home the Golden Ball for best performance at the World Cup in Brazil. In contrast, Ronaldo reached the semifinals once in 2006.
Ronaldo has scored 701 goals in all club competitions, Messi 695 – making him the top goalscorer at club level in the history of football.
But the Portuguese has played 100 more games than Messi, giving the latter a better game-per-goal average.
However, when it comes to assists, the 35-year-old Argentinian is vastly superior to Ronaldo, with almost 50 per cent more than the Manchester United player.