4th, 41/12 (9/2) 6th, 42/6 (8/4), FA Cup Championship Manager
2nd, 54/61 (5/3) 1st, 57/58 (8/4), CDR, CL Real Life
£15.5M / £75K £14M / £90K Value/Wage
Okay, 2 became 1 and became 1 again within three weeks. Ronaldo was snapped up by Barcelona for £19.5m and for a brief fleeting period after the World Cup there was a chance we could see Ronaldo and Messi play together. Unfortunately, by the time the season started, Messi was away to Chelsea for a fee of £23m. TV Money mustn’t have crept up in this universe. Ronaldo didn’t make much waves in Catalonia, they were dumped out of the UEFA Cup fourth round by Recreativo and in the Copa del Rey first round by Alaves. They finished 4th. Two places higher than Messi in England. He did score in an FA Cup final win against Newcastle, so there was that. Super Cup final and Champions League quarter final losses to Liverpool stunted Messi in Europe.
6th, 54/17 (11/3) 1st, 55/6 (10/4), UEFA Championship Manager
2nd, 48/51 (13/13), CL, Euros 1st, 49/41 (11/8), CDR Real Life
£15M / £85K £8M / £90K Value/Wage
Domestically, both Messi and Ronaldo experienced less than impressive results with Chelsea finishing 8th and Barcelona finishing 6th. Tenerife and Nottingham Forest ran out surprising winners of their respective leagues, Forest also dumping Messi’s Chelsea out of the League Cup. They were put out at the quarter final stage of the FA Cup by Manchester United, as were Barcelona in the Copa del Rey to Hercules. In Europe, however, both of their clubs upped their game. Ronaldo experienced another Champions League final, this time losing to Atletico Madrid and wouldn’t meet Lionel Messi in the UEFA Super Cup this season after Messi had netted in a penalty shootout to topple Recreativo.
The European Championships in Ireland were next though, and LionelM essi was hungry for goals, scoring 2 of Spain’s three goals in the tournament as they sailed through to the quarter finals. Unfortunately for Leo, they were beaten again by England in the quarter finals. Ronaldo wouldn’t get on the scoresheet but would make it to the final at Lansdowne Road. He put in man of the match performances in a 3-0 group stage win over Bulgaria and a quarter final win over Germany. Ronaldo did net in a semi-final shootout win over England but couldn’t find form in a final loss to Italy.
1st, 49/14 (4/4), CL 1st, 49/9 (2/1) Championship Manager
1st, 46/42 (11/11), CL 2nd, 52/54, 7/4, CDR Real Life
£5.25M / £100K £4.4M / £90K Value/Wage
Finally, Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi were in the same division – £18.5m prised Ronaldo to Highbury and Arsenal. The comparisons finally started swirling after that brief flirtation together at Barcelona in 2014. Well – Ronaldo captured the European Midfielder of the Year in both 2016 and 2017, came runner-up in Ballon d’Or, won the league at a canter and the Champions League. In fact, it could have been a quadruple for Ronaldo as they missed out in both domestic cup finals. Ronaldo missed the FA Cup final loss to Liverpool, which featured an Arjen Robben hat-trick but scored in a League Cup final loss to Manchester United.
Lionel Messi, in comparison had a poor season. He was rarely picked for Spain and failed to hit double figures in front of goal. Chelsea would miss out on Champions League football again, finishing fifth. They were out in the cups to lower league opposition: Cardiff and Fulham before bowing out in Europe to eventual winners Las Palmas in the quarter-finals. Ronaldo’s Arsenal snatched four points over Messi’s Chelsea.
5th, 46/15 (6/2) 1st, 55/9 (0/0) Championship Manager
3rd, 44/44 (7/6), CL 1st, 54/45, (5/4), CDR Real Life
£3M / £100K £2.9M / £90K Value/Wage
Another lean season. For both. 5th and 8th for Arsenal and Chelsea respectively whilst they were both dumped out of the domestic cups before the final four stage. Ronaldo had seven swings at silverware and missed all of them, losing the Super Cup, Charity Shield and Intercontinental Cup finals. A piece of silverware slipped through the fingers of Lionel Messi as well. They lost the UEFA Cup final to Las Palmas. Ronaldo and Messi exchanged 1-0 wins over each other as Nottingham Forest destroyed the league again.
The World Cup returned and both Spain and Portugal were there but Lionel Messi wasn’t. On the World Cup in which they drawn in the same group, alongside China and Egypt. Spain beat Portugal in the opening match, without a typical Ronaldo strike. A 2-0 loss to Egypt meant a Messi-less Spain went through and Portugal were out after just two games. Spain would go onto get eliminated at the round of 16.
Rest of Career:
Cristiano Ronaldo | 843 appearances, 246 goals (Int’l: 142 apps / 48 goals)
2001-2005: Sporting Lisbon, 2005-2014: Juventus, 2014-2016: Barcelona, 2016-2020: Arsenal, 2020-2023: Benfica
Cristiano Ronaldo wouldn’t find anymore silverware at Highbury despite a promising start and unfounded quadruple. They finished in 5th and 3rd with struggling campaigns domestically and on the continent. He couldn’t captain Portugal to a European Championship in his final tournament, they were eliminated by a Messi-less Spain in the group stages. He returned home after the tournament, at the age of 35, to Benfica. He made sure he eclipsed Messi’s professional club appearance record in his final season, adding 20 games, having needed seven to beat it. He would become Leixoes manager.
Lionel Messi | 829 appearances, 213 goals (Int’l: 105 apps / 31 goals)
2001-2014: Barcelona, 2014-2019: Chelsea, 2019-2020: AIK
Messi would retire in the sun of Stockholm as a coach at AIK. He spent a further, unsuccessful season at Chelsea where they preserved their UEFA Cup status via the league position of sixth. At AIK, he would steer them close to the Allsvenskan in his only playing season, but they lost out to Goteborg. In a twist of fate, Messi’s AIK was knocked out of the UEFA Cup second round by Chelsea on penalties. He would retire three months later at the end of the Swedish season. He was shortly joined by goalkeeping coach Gianluigi Buffon.
Cristiano Ronaldo | 11 major honours in CM01/02 / 22 in real life
Portuguese Liga (3): 2001-02, 2003-04, 2004-05
Taca de Portugal (2): 2001-02, 2002-03
UEFA Champions League (2): 2009-10, 2016-17
UEFA Cup (1): 2011-12
Coppa Italia (2): 2011-12, 2012-13
Premier League (1): 2016-17
Lionel Messi | 12 major honours in CM01/02 / 26 in real life
La Liga (6): 2002-03, 2003-04, 2007-08, 2009-10, 2010-11, 2012-13
UEFA Cup (2): 2002-03, 2015-16
Copa del Rey (3): 2005-06, 2007-08, 2009-10
FA Cup (1): 2014-15
As expected, both Messi and Ronaldo weren’t as prolific in front of goal because to build players like the two greatest to have ever played the game would have been realistic. Their goal records are entirely unrealistic. Their international careers in-game almost mirrored real life, Ronaldo making a final and Messi not scratching the surface, albeit with Spain and not Argentina. Messi was more loyal than Ronaldo in terms of the amount of clubs he played for, and Messi trumped Ronaldo on the amount of honours, as he has done at the time of writing. This experiment has said absolutely nothing different to what you already know.