Choosing the greatest of all time (GOAT) in any sport is hard. But soccer fans can’t even agree who is the best right now! The Lionel Messi vs. Cristiano Ronaldo debate has been raging on for the last decade with both camps becoming more entrenched over time.

There is no doubt those two are the best soccer stars playing right now and both continue to break records and set new standards with each passing year. But can either lay claim to being the true GOAT? Let’s try and settle the debate by looking at the other leading contenders.


Edson Arantes do Nascimento (better known as Pele) was widely considered the greatest player of all time throughout the 60s and 70s. Listed as one of the 10 most inspirational athletes of all time in Lottoland Canada’s blog, the Brazilian officially scored 643 goals in 656 competitive games but that figure rises to well over 1000 when friendly matches are taken into account. He won 25 trophies with Santos and three World Cup trophies with Brazil having made his international debut aged just 16.

Diego Maradona

Diego Maradona was the first player to put Pele’s status as the GOAT in serious doubt. The magical Argentine wowed the soccer world in the late 1970s, 1980s and early 1990s having made his professional debut for Argentinos Juniors aged just 15. A successful season at Boca Juniors and a World Cup appearance in 1982 earned him a move to Europe where he joined Barcelona. His time in Spain was hampered by injury, illness and controversy but was also marked by some memorable moments such as the time he was applauded by Real Madrid fans at the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium, an honor only Ronaldinho and Andres Iniesta have received since.

After winning the World Cup with Argentina in 1986 (where he scored two famous goals against England – one with his hand), he then led Napoli to their first-ever Serie A title (the first for any team in the south of Italy). It was during his time in Naples that he earned his God-like status and become a contender for the GOAT. Further controversies, including a failed drug test at the 1994 World Cup, threatened to taint his legacy but despite his many personal problems, he is still regarded as the greatest by many football fans and pundits.

Messi and Ronaldo

Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo have raised the bar for modern footballers. Both have performed with freakish consistency over the years and broken numerous records. Of the two, Messi has the edge with six FIFA world player of the year awards compared to Ronaldo’s five, along with nearly 100 other individual awards and 34 trophies with Barcelona.

Ronaldo may not have as many domestic trophies as Messi but has won the European Championships with Portugal and has won trophies with four different clubs in four different European leagues. However, both players have yet to finish their careers and are still performing at superhuman levels, so there could be much more to come.

So, who is the GOAT?

Any choice will be controversial but with his goal-scoring prowess, dribbling skills and ability to cause jaws to drop to the floor with such regularity, Lionel Messi just gets the nod.