The eternal question of Messi and Ronaldo, or "Dad, is Cristiano playing?"

Eugene Ravdin

Eugene Ravdin


In August 2023, I travelled to Indonesia to root for Latvia at the 2023 FIBA Basketball World Cup. During a two-day break, I took a train from Jakarta to Yogyakarta to see the magnificent temples of Prambanan and Borobudur. I asked our guide if he could show me around the city, and he came with two friends of which just one spoke English. Indraprastha was his name or simply, Prastha.

After we had a tasty meal and a relaxed walk down the main street and established certain intimacy, Prastha, who was my main conversation partner and an interpreter for his friends, took a breath and said: "Ok, and now I will have to ask you an important question."

"Messi or Ronaldo?"

Such has been their impact on football and the fans, that despite both players approaching the end of their stellar careers this question remains relevant throughout the years, still allowing us to learn a lot about a person without asking a lot.

What do you prefer: a solo run or a powerful strike? An artist or a machine? Gift or hard work? Modesty or flashiness? Beard or clean shave? Tattoos or donating blood? Barcelona or Madrid?

So many answers to just one question. A dividing question, one might say. Indeed. "Do we share the same values? Are you like me?" But also a uniting one. "Do we share the same passion for football and its stars?"

My answer to this has always been (and still is) "Messi". But while many fans feel obliged to love one and hate the other, I have the luxury of appreciating them both. And while my admiration of the Argentinian has not waned over the years, I found myself respecting the Portuguese more and more with every season.

Messi is generally regarded as "naturally talented", while Ronaldo is seen as a "product of training and hard work". But what is talent? Yes, Ronaldo could never have recreated Maradona's Goal of the Century like Messi did against Getafe in 2007.

But isn't the ability to keep going at 39 years of age a talent? To keep your body in perfect shape and health. To be still hungry for more goals, records, and trophies after everything he has scored, broke, and won. To train and work so hard for so many years. To answer whenever the national team calls.

A different kind of talent, but talent nevertheless.

Will Cristiano Ronaldo play at the 2026 FIFA World Cup? Will Cristiano Ronaldo score 1000 goals? When will Cristiano Ronaldo retire? Will Cristiano Ronaldo become a manager? These questions are still to be answered, but whatever the answers are, Ronaldo already is a living legend.

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And he has one more talent I came to appreciate just several days ago.

My 10-year-old son has never been into football. His favourite sports are Brawl Stars, Minecraft, and YouTube Shorts. But as I was watching one of the UEFA EURO 2024 early matches, he came to me asking: "Dad, is Ronaldo playing? I never saw him in a match". Meaning, he only knew him from TikTok.

So yesterday, we watched Ronaldo start for Portugal against Czechia at EURO 2024 and become the first and only player to have featured at six European Championships. He contributed to his team’s opener in the injury-time 2-1 win and will return to our TV on Saturday, June 21.

Isn’t this a worthy trait in its own right? To attract kids to this strange and beautiful game they call football.

Cristiano Ronaldo's records at the European Championship

Most EURO goals

  • 14 Cristiano Ronaldo* (Portugal)
  • 9 Michel Platini (France)
  • 7 Alan Shearer (England)
  • 7 Antoine Griezmann* (France)
  • 7 Álvaro Morata* (Spain)

Most EURO appearances

  • 26 Cristiano Ronaldo* (Portugal)
  • 19 João Moutinho (Portugal)
  • 20 Pepe* (Portugal)

Most EURO tournaments

  • 6 Cristiano Ronaldo* (Portugal 2004, 2008, 2012, 2016, 2020, 2024)
  • 5 Luka Modrić* (Croatia 2008, 2012, 2016, 2020, 2024)

Most EURO tournaments with scored goals

  • 5 Cristiano Ronaldo* (Portugal 2004, 2008, 2012, 2016, 2020)
  • 3 Robert Lewandowski* (Poland 2012, 2016, 2020)
  • 3 Álvaro Morata* (Spain 2016, 2020, 2024)
  • 3 seven more retired players

* Playing at EURO 2024

Last updated: 19 June 2024

What records Cristiano Ronaldo can break at EURO 2024

Oldest scorer at EURO: 38 years 257 days - Ivica Vastic (Austria, 2008)

Oldest scorer in EURO final: 34 years 71 days - Leonardo Bonucci (Italy, 2020)

Oldest player to play in EURO final: 38 years 232 days - Jens Lehmann (Germany, 2008)

Oldest player to win EURO: 37 years 23 days - Arnold Mühren (Netherlands, 1988)

Review Author

Eugene Ravdin

Eugene Ravdin

Hey! I've been working for the official UEFA website for 18 years as a translator, reporter, editor, and language version editor in chief.

Reviewed By Editor in Chief

Vadims Mikeļevičs

Vadims Mikeļevičs

Vadims Mikeļevičs is an e-sports and biathlon enthusiast with years of writing experience about games, sports, and bookmakers.