Cristiano Ronaldo reaches 500 league goals - how far behind is Lionel Messi?

The Portuguese striker scored four goals in one match in his most recent outing for Al Nassr of Saudi Arabia

Photo composite: Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. Photo: Reuters / AFP
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Cristiano Ronaldo scored his 500th goal in league football on Thursday – bagging all four as Al Nassr beat Saudi Pro League rivals Al Wehda at the King Abdul Aziz Stadium.

Ronaldo hit the 500 mark in the 21st minute with a left-footed strike. He second came just before the interval before he converted a spot kick on 53 minutes for his 61st hat-trick of an illustrious club career.

On the hour, the 38-year-old Ronaldo had taken his league tally of goals to 503 when he slotted in a rebound to give Al Nassr a 4-0 victory.

It edged him further ahead in his never-ending duel with great rival Lionel Messi – who still has some way to catch Ronaldo in the goalscoring charts.

How far behind Ronaldo is Messi?

Ronaldo's quadruple against Al Wehda took him to 503 league goals across five leagues – Portugal, England, Spain, Italy and Saudi Arabia – in 656 club appearances, extending his record as football's most prolific league marksman.

A young Ronaldo scored three goals for his first club, Sporting of Lisbon, 103 across two spells at Manchester United, 311 for Real Madrid – a club record – and 81 for Juventus.

As of the time of writing, Messi is on 490 league goals – 474 for Barcelona, 16 for Paris Saint-Germain – so 13 shy of Ronaldo.

What other goal records does Ronaldo hold over Messi?

Portugal striker Ronaldo holds the record for most Uefa Champions League goals (141) and the most international goals (118). He is also the only player to have scored at five Fifa World Cups.

Messi, by comparison, has scored 129 Champions League goals and 98 goals for Argentina, including two in the World Cup final in Qatar late last year.

What records does Messi hold over Ronaldo?

Messi, 35, managed to one-up his old rival last December by guiding Argentina to a third World Cup triumph when they beat France on penalties in the Doha final.

At 38, it is unlikely Ronaldo will be around for the 2026 World Cup being jointly held in the United States, Canada and Mexico – and even Messi may decide he reached the Holy Grail in Qatar.

Both have won continental titles with their respective countries – Messi's Argentina won the 2021 Copa America while Ronaldo was part of the Portugal squad that won Euro 2016 – but Messi boasts seven Ballon d'Or awards to Ronaldo's five.

How do their overall records compare?

Ronaldo is the most prolific marksman in football history.

His current record stands at 824 strikes across club and international football, while Messi's 807 goals across competitions leaves him trailing Ronaldo at the time of publication by 17 goals.

Messi has collected a staggering 37 trophies in his senior club career including nine La Ligas, four Champions Leagues, three Club World Cups and one Ligue 1 title with his current club Paris Saint-Germain. Ronaldo has collected 30 major trophies in club football including three Premier League trophies, two La Ligas, five Champions Leagues and one Serie A title.

Who will likely finish their careers with most goals?

As it stands, you have to favour Ronaldo.

The Portuguese signed a lucrative two-and-a-half-year contract to join Al Nassr and has already bagged five goals in four appearances for his new club.

The Saudi Pro League, while no doubt improving, is not up to the same high standards as French football, while the AFC Asian Champions League is also inferior to its European counterpart.

Assuming he stays fit, it's not too wild an assumption to think that Ronaldo will increase his goals tally while also elevating the level of Saudi football.

He could one day in the not-too-distant future be joined by Messi in playing his club football in the Kingdom.

Al Hilal, Al Nassr's Riyadh rivals, have been credited with an interest in luring the Argentine legend to the Gulf. Messi has several endorsement deals with Saudi Arabia and his contract at PSG ends this summer.

Ronaldo and Messi squared-off in a high-profile friendly in Riyadh last month. They could renew their rivalry on a regular basis soon.

Updated: February 10, 2023, 11:15 AM