Why debate who the G.O.A.T is? Just enjoy it

Bradley Piros , Sports Editor

Every sport has their greatest player of all-time. In some sports, the G.O.A.T may have played many years ago and has long been retired. Most sports compare current players to ones of the past, but all you can do there is compare stats.

Everyone knows that Michael Phelps is the greatest swimmer of all-time, or Tiger Woods with golf, Serena Williams of women’s tennis, Wayne Gretzy with hockey, etc. But, in some instances we get to witness two of the sport’s greatest competitors play against one another in our lifetime, and we’re so lucky to do so.

There are so many we’ve seen or that we currently get to see. Tom Brady vs. Aaron Rodgers for the greatest QB of all-time, Roger Federer vs. Rafael Nadal in tennis, Jeff Gordon vs. Jimmy Johnson in NASCAR and most importantly, the reason I’m here today: Messi vs. Ronaldo.

Now, I will throw out a quick disclaimer. I’m not usually one to partake in these debates. I go in with the “enjoy this while you can” mentality. In a few year’s time, all of those players will be retired, and we’ll look back and still be arguing about who was better. Ultimately, everything in life isn’t a head-to-head competition, so when we get to see two of the sport’s greats play at the same time, let’s all just shut up and enjoy it.

With that being said, let me tell you why Lionel Messi is better than Christiano Ronaldo (just kidding).

This debate is timeless. I can type this article today, I could type this article tomorrow, I could have typed it 10 years ago and I could type it in 10 years when both of these legends are sadly retired from the game. I chose to write this article today. Why, you may ask? That’s because Ronaldo just scored his 700th career goal at the age of 34.

I’m not here to debate, though. I’m here to do a little comparing and contrasting and tell you why we just need to enjoy this great thing we have going on because we won’t have it much longer.

You read that correctly earlier. Ronaldo became only the sixth professional soccer player to score 700 career goals. It took him 974 games to do so, snagging 220 assists along the way. A whopping 450 of those goals were with his time at Real Madrid, 118 of them were with Manchester United, 32 with Juventus, five with Sporting Portugal and 95 for his national team Portugal.

Messi will reach that elite 700 goal club, but isn’t quite there yet. He’s netted 672 goals and assisted 277 in 828 games. He sccored 604 of those goals for long-time club team FC Barcelona while the other 68 were scored while playing for his national team Argentina.

So, let’s do a quick bit of math. A goal equals two points while an assist equals one. Ronaldo would have 1,620 points in 974 games while Messi would have 1,621 points in only 828 games. So, it’s easy to say that Messi is better because he has more points in 146 less games than Ronaldo and most people use this angle when defending Messi as the G.O.A.T.

But still, I’m not here to debate. The next thing people always compare is the number of trophies. Ronaldo has played in 76 tournaments and won 30 of them for a 39.5 percent win rate. Messi has played in 73 tournaments and won 34 of them for a 46.6 win percentage. So, you could conclude that Messi is better because he’s won more tournaments, but I’m not done.

Those are team tournaments. Messi (very arguably) had a better team surrounding him. Think back to some of the players he’s graced the field with: Andres Iniesta, Xavi, David Villa, Sergio Busquets, Carles Puyol and Dani Alves just to name a few. Let’s not forget about that lethal attacking trio with himself, Luis Saurez and Neymar. The point is, team tournaments are team earned, not just by one player, so I feel they shouldn’t be applicable to be used as stats when comparing two specific players. (Insert all the mad Michael Jordan vs. LeBron James debaters here)

Rather, we can compare them by their individual trophies. The most notable individual prize in the world of soccer is the Ballon d’Or. This goes to the best male player of the year. Messi and Ronaldo have both taken home the hardware five times each. Messi won it four straight years from 2009-2012 as well as in 2015. Ronaldo won in 2008, 2013-2014 and 2016-2017. For the first time in 11 years, Messi didn’t make the Ballon d’Or finalists list and for the first time in 10 years, someone not named Messi or Ronaldo won the trophy; that player being Real Madrid and Croatia midfielder Luka Modiric.

There’s one more thing that people argue. Which player turns up on the big stage more? I’ll just say it; neither player has won a World Cup, so neither of them really shows up there. They can only carry their respected countries so far. The thing Ronaldo has Messi beat in is the Champions League. In 164 games, Ronaldo has 127 goals and 40 assists. He’s also won the tournament five out of 17 times (29.4 percent of the time). Messi has scored 112 goals and assisted 32 in 137 appearances, winning the whole thing four times out of 16 (25 percent of the time). Once again, though, the Champions League is a team tournament therefore titles should not be used to compare the two G.O.A.Ts. So once again, let’s do a little math; same rules apply, one point for an assist and two for a goal. That would give Ronaldo 294 points in 164 games and Messi 256 points in 137 games, which if you break that down even further, it’s pretty dang even.

Now, is my math equation maybe not the best comparison? Probably. But, does it paint a picture that the two are the game’s greatest players of all-time? Yes.

That’s the point here. It isn’t about who’s better. Sure, comparing their stats is fun and all, but we shouldn’t revolve our lives around debating who is better. Just enjoy these top athletes while you still can, because it’s not every day you get to witness two G.O.A.Ts playing one another.