Ronaldo is having a magnificent year, and he leads all goal scorers in La Liga with 20 (three more than Messi). Over the last few years, Ronaldo has routinely been considered second best to Messi simply because Barcelona had defeated Real in almost every competition, but the tables are slowly starting to turn, and with Real becoming increasingly competitive, Ronaldo’s stock has also risen.
Statistically, if not yet reputation-wise, Ronaldo is just as good as Messi (sometimes even better), and his national team career with Portugal is slightly more impressive even though he lacks the same star-studded support that Messi has the luxury of having with Argentina.
His popularity and media presence is still overshadowed by Messi, and his Portugal team can’t boast of any recent major accomplishments.
The Spaniard has the luxury of having a better international record than both Messi and Ronaldo, and Spain is the defending World Cup and European Champion, and is ranked first by FIFA.
Few consider Xavi a better player than his Barcelona teammate Messi (and many wouldn’t even consider him Barcelona’s second, third, or fourth best player) or league counterpart Ronaldo. He’s only 13th on La Liga’s scoring list, and 5th in assists—unexceptional numbers. To make matters worse, he lacks the worldwide recognition that both Messi and Ronaldo have.
Messi is favored to win his third straight Ballon d’Or, but nobody would be surprised if Ronaldo won his second. But FIFA is known for making controversial decisions, so even though Xavi is considered a heavy underdog, anything is possible. Regardless of who wins, this year’s top three finalists all hail from La Liga, which is drawing the ire from critics across the globe...but that is a conversation for another day.