Lionel Messi v Cristiano Ronaldo: who has the better scoring record at World Cups?

It is astonishing to think that neither Lionel Messi nor Cristiano Ronaldo has ever managed to win the Golden Boot at a World Cup. These two titans are, after all, regarded as the finest players of their generation.

In fact, many would go further than that by saying that they are the two best players of all time. As for who the greatest is, that's a debate that will rumble on for the rest of time, as we have covered here on TopScorersFootball. The wider point here, however, is that for all their extraordinary ability, it is almost impossible to comprehend that they have never topped the list of goalscorers at a World Cup.

Are they out of position?

Some might argue that this is down to their respective positions with neither player an out-and-out forward. Whilst there is a degree of truth to this, the reality is that as time has gone on, they have both moved from the wing to the centre of attack.

Additionally, being the influential players that they are, every attack tends to go through them which does put to bed any idea that they play in a part of the field where goals aren't as forthcoming. However, let's say for a second that even if the pair were primarily deployed as midfielders or wingers at international level, history has shown us that players from these positions have managed to win the Golden Boot at a World Cup as James Rodriguez showed in 2014 with six goals in Brazil, whilst Thomas Muller did the same in 2010 when he netted five goals in South Africa. So, with the facts showing us that there is very little justification for the lack of goals from these greats, who has the better record at World Cups?

Who has the better record?

Up until now, Ronaldo has just outscored the diminutive and agile Messi at World Cups with the Portuguese superstar netting seven whilst the Argentinian captain has six to his name, although this is one of the few areas where the Argentine has struggled for goals as mentioned in his biography on TopScorersFootball. What's more, is that Ronaldo has done so in fewer games having played 17 matches at Hyundai World Cups as opposed to Messi's 19.

Admittedly, the difference is negligible but when all the numbers are crunched, Ronaldo has a marginally better scoring record averaging 0.4 goals per game at World Cups, which can be seen on his stats page on TopScorersFootball with Messi just behind at 0.3. Essentially, there's nothing much to write home about here as far as these numbers go when you consider that the Brazilian Ronaldo once scored eight goals in a single World Cup in 2002. On top of that and as a way of showing once more how far behind Ronaldo and Messi are, Miroslav Klose, who is the leading scorer in World Cup history with 16, has three more goals than both players combined. In reality, every way you look at the evidence on hand, you keep coming back to the same conclusion and that is the duo are serial underachievers at World Cups.

Messi isn't totally empty-handed at World Cups

At this stage, it would be remiss not to point out that Messi was able to win the Golden Ball in 2014, with the Guardian recalling that moment eight years ago here, after scoring four goals at the World Cup in Brazil. Although the Golden Ball and Golden Boot are not the same award, the former is awarded to the player of the tournament whilst the latter, as touched earlier on when recounting Rodriguez's heroics from 2014, is given to the leading scorer at the end of the event. So, while Ronaldo may average more goals, Messi has left a World Cup with an actual accolade.

The last dance in the desert

There is, of course, time for this goal-scoring drought to change with the World Cup in Qatar about to begin. Indeed, the showpiece in the desert will serve as the last chance for both players to finally win this elusive award. But who has a better chance of winning it, the man who wears Nike boots or the man who wears Adidas boots? Interestingly, the latest World Cup betting on Betway, which prices the potential Golden Boot winner, gives Messi, as of the 15th of November, better odds at 12/1 to score the most goals in Qatar. Ronaldo, meanwhile, is at longer odds of 20/1. Perhaps the Portuguese forward's odds have a lot to do with the ill-advised interview he gave to Piers Morgan on the eve of the World Cup, as the Independent reports here, where he attacked his club Manchester United.

Whilst the two developments may seem unrelated, you only need to look at the frosty exchange between Ronaldo and his United teammate Bruno Fernandes upon arrival at the Portuguese camp to imagine that the dressing room could already be fractured before kick-off in Qatar.

It is with this in mind that you would have to conclude that Messi stands the best chance of eventually winning the Golden Boot. Either way, it is the last chance saloon for these two icons.
Andrea Sugler has followed football his whole life and above all the Swedish national team. As Andrea lives in Stockholm, she sees most of the international matches on site, but has also been to most of the European Championships and World Cups in recent years when Sweden has participated, the first time already back in 1992 during the European Championship in Sweden. Andrea also likes to write about football and games, sometimes with successful results.