IT IS the question that divides football fans across the globe –  who is better: Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo?

They gave Clasicos a bit of extra spice for nine years and now as they prepare to face off in the Champions League this season, SunSport looks at how they compare in matches against each other.

 How Messi and Ronaldo compare in head-to-head battles
How Messi and Ronaldo compare in head-to-head battles

The greatest managers of the modern era have had their say, fans have had their say and even former team-mates have waded in on the never-ending GOAT debate.

So we thought we’d look past the trophies and accolades to see how they fared when they were in direct competition.

The pair know each other well, of course, having gone toe to toe in dozens of El Clasico contests down the years.

Not only would the rivals share the same pitch whenever Real Madrid played against Barcelona, but they would tussle for LaLiga supremacy season after season.

El Clasico has always been more that just a football match to the clubs’ fans and having the two best players in the world took it to a different dimension.

Ronaldo has gone up against Messi 35 times in total during his spells at Manchester United and Real Madrid as well as on the international stage.

And fans will be treated to two more match ups this season with Ronaldo’s Juventus drawn in the same group as Barca for the Champions League.

Barca’s all time leading goal-scorer pipped the former Los Blancos ace by three goals in all of their meetings – finding the back of the net 22 times.

 Ronaldo and Messi have enjoyed a career-long rivalry
Ronaldo and Messi have enjoyed a career-long rivalry

While Ronaldo may have three goals fewer, he holds the record for the scoring in the most consecutive Clasicos – in six consecutive games in 2012.

Messi poetically netted his 500th goal for the Catalan giants against Real in a thriller in 2017, which also put Barca top of LaLiga.

The Argentina ace famously celebrated by whipping off his No10 shirt and holding it aloft to the away support to prove why he is considered to be the greatest footballer of all time.

Ronaldo later had to have his say too, of course.

The next time he visited the Nou Camp and scored in the Supercopa de Espana final first leg in August 2017, he mimicked his great frenemy’s celebration by showing his No7 shirt to the crowd.

In that same clash, Ronaldo’s night hit a sour note when he was shown a second yellow card for diving, which resulted in the forward PUSHING the referee.

He had already been booked for taking his shirt off after mimicking Messi’s celebration.

That has been the only red card shown to either hero in the duo’s 35 stand offs with Messi managing to keep his cool and escape with three fewer yellows than his arch-rival.

 Lionel Messi scored a last-minute winner to give Barcelona a 3-2 victory over Real Madrid in April 2017
Lionel Messi scored a last-minute winner to give Barcelona a 3-2 victory over Real Madrid in April 2017
 Cristiano Ronaldo showed the Nou Camp who was boss in his celebration
Cristiano Ronaldo showed the Nou Camp who was boss in his celebration

Football is a results business so when it comes to score lines, the Argentine maestro leads the way.

In the 35 matches, Messi has 16 wins, Ronaldo has ten and there have been nine draws.

Ronaldo’s United got the better of Barcelona in the 2008 Champions League semi-finals with a 0-0 draw at the Nou Camp and 1-0 win at Old Trafford.

Messi and Co got their revenge a year later, winning the 2009 final 2-0 as Messi scored a header.

That started a run of five consecutive wins for Messi over Ronaldo including a 5-0 Barca win and a 2-1 victory for Argentina over Portugal in an international friendly as both players found the net.

Arguably their greatest contest came in the 2012/13 LaLiga campaign as both players scored twice in a 2-2 draw in Barcelona.

The Portugal icon left Los Blancos for a new challenge at Juventus two years ago meaning their last meeting was way back in May 2018, another 2-2 draw.

Messi has played his entire career so far for Barcelona but is set to leave when his contract expires at the end of the season.

Brazil icon Pele waded in on the greatest of all time debate.

The footballing legend reckons Messi is best player of this generation, just months after siding with arch-rival Ronaldo.

Sun Sport brought to you what the superstars say about each other in the argument that divides football fans across the globe. 

Pele might not be able to split them but in head-to-head battles Messi edges it.

Now all eyes are on the European battles ahead this season as Ronaldo goes up against his long-term rival for the first time in a Juventus shirt.

Arsenal legend Thierry Henry weighs in on Messi vs Ronaldo debate

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