Messi vs Ronaldo: Who has been the best dribbler throughout their careers?

  • Rob Swan

Who has been the better dribbler throughout their careers: Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo?

Most football fans would probably say Messi and for good reason.

The Barcelona and Argentina legend is arguably the greatest dribbler we’ve seen since the great Diego Maradona. He might even be the greatest dribbler of all time.

But let’s not dismiss Ronaldo.

While the Juventus and Portugal superstar is more of an out-and-out goalscorer these days, he used to be one of the sport’s most exciting dribblers and caused the world’s best defenders all sorts of problems with his pace, power and trickery.

Manchester United hadn’t seen a dribbler quite like Ronaldo since the days of George Best.


He constantly had the crowd at Old Trafford on the edge of their seats during his unforgettable stint in Manchester between 2003-2009.

“Running down the wing, hear United sing, Viva Ronaldo!” is a chant that can still be heard from time to time at the Theatre of Dreams, 12 years after his departure.

He also terrorised La Liga defences during his first few years at the Bernabeu before turning his focus completely towards scoring and creating goals.


Cristiano Ronaldo's 'dribbling evolution'

Over on Reddit, two graphics have emerged (via @gasipo_opinions on Twitter) that show Ronaldo and Messi’s ‘dribbling evolution’ over the course of their respective careers.

First, let’s take a look at Ronaldo’s


As you can see, he was averaging over four dribbles per 90 minutes during his early years with United while playing in a 4-4-2 under Sir Alex Ferguson.

This number declined quite steeply during his final seasons at Old Trafford before increasing back to above three dribbles per 90 minutes at Real Madrid.

Since around 2014, Ronaldo has averaged fewer than two dribbles per 90 minutes.

Lionel Messi's 'dribbling evolution'

Now let’s look at Messi’s


First of all, notice on the left-hand side of the graph that it goes all the way up to 10 dribbles per 90.

The Argentine was averaging just shy of nine dribbles per match during the 2007-08 season. Incredible.

His number of dribbles per game declined slightly following Pep Guardiola’s arrival in 2008 but remained above five right up until the 2017-18 season.


Messi, who turned 34 in June, was still averaging over four dribbles per game last season.

Take nothing away from Ronaldo but, based on these eye-opening stats, it’s safe to say that Messi has been the far better dribbler over the years.

Football fans react to the stats

Let’s check out some of the reaction on Reddit…

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