The game know as football (or soccer in America) is the world’s most popular sport and for as long as it has been around there have been arguments over the best player to play the game. Over half of the current world population consider themselves to be football fans which proves for varying opinions and disagreements. When any one of these 3.5 billion fans are asked who the best football player ever is the first names that come to their head are the older players like Pele, Diego Maradona and Ronaldinho but more importantly the best players of the last 2 decades, Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. However it is much more complicated than just ‘the best’ and it is near impossible to have a distinctive winner.


I guess the easiest way to decide who the best player in the world is, many would argue, is by looking at stats. Cristiano Ronaldo has scored 791 goals in 1098 games at a ratio of 0.72 for club and country, Lionel Messi has scored 766 goals in 971 games at a ratio of 0.79 for club and country and Pele scored 775 goals in 841 games at a ratio of 0.92 during his time playing football. However there are many reasons that it is impossible to choose ‘the best’ from a set of numbers. For example, the numbers don’t show the oppositions that each player scored their goals against. When you truly analyse the sorts of teams Messi and Ronaldo play week in week out and compare them with the teams that the likes of Pele and Puskas, another player who scored over 800 goals when he played, you realise there is a huge gulf in class that does not favour Messi, Ronaldo and the newer generation of players. Furthermore, there is more to football then just goals. For example, assists and chances created are integral to even scoring goals in the first place. Then you realise that Lionel Messi has the most assists in football history and Cristiano Ronaldo the third, whereas Pele, Puskas and other prolific goal scorers don’t even make the top ten. 


Additionally, for a player to be considered ‘the best’ he has to constantly perform every week and this includes not getting injured, although that is something you theoretically can’t control. For example, Ronaldo Nazario, the Brazilian striker, was hailed as the best player at an age as young as 20 before two career threatening knee injuries sidelined him for two years. On the other hand though, the longest the likes of Messi, Ronaldo and Pele have missed in one period is no more then a couple of months. 


However, many people argue that ‘the best player’ is the player that does the most for his team, or the player who produces the best performances even if they are not consistent, or even the player who performs the best under pressure and not the player with the best stats. What is shocking though, is that even when you look past the stats some of the best performances ever still belong to players like Ronaldo and Messi. For example, in the 2009 champions league final (the biggest European club competition) Lionel Messi produced a man of the match display that won his side the trophy and in the 2018 World Cup Ronaldo scored three goals against a strong Spain side to keep his country in the competition.


To conclude, based on all the possible factors that can be considered, it has to be said that Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo are the two best players to ever play football for the simple reason that they have the best stats, they consistently perform under pressure and their influence on football around the world is the largest. However if you want to try and decide a winner out of the two of them you are going to have to read a different article because that is a much more complicated decision.