Obvious personality differences aside,
- Both began as right sided inside forwards/wingers. However as of current, Ronaldo plays as a Left Forward supporting a striker in the Higuain model. Messi plays right down the middle but cuts in from the right side.
- Ronaldo shoots with his right foot mostly, Messi uses the left.
- Ronaldo has a more confrontational style, while orginally a trickster, he has developed great speed and acceleration and uses his naturally strong physique to power past defenders. He still uses stepovers when facing a player but more for intimidation than actual use. Messi lacks the power however has a very low centre of gravity, allowing him to turn with the ball at a much higher speed than Ronaldo or any other player save for team mate Iniesta. His superior ball control and flawless technique means he rarely uses tricks or power, preferring to glide past any opponent. Also he is more prone to using a one-two pass (in line with the Barca philosophy) to bypass a tough opponent, something Ronaldo has seldom used in Madrid.
- Ronaldo puts in a lot of power in his shots, often needing a large space to properly execute a shot. he tends to shoot from the left side on his right foot towards the far post. Messi's style for long range goals is to cut inside towards the left before unleashing a left footed shot towards the far post. He is able to do so in an unbelievably small amount of space since he requires virtually no backlift (the movement of a foot backwards so as to give power to the shot).
- Ronaldo is more prone to hit the byline than Messi. This can be attributed to the fact that Barca has virtually no target inside the box. (Dani Alves does hit the byline very often in one-twos with Messi, but Messi himself stays in the 6yard box for a cross to feet).
- Ronaldo is a genuine aerial threat due to physical prowess, Messi possesses a good jump, but is no target man.
Assume what you may of who is superior, but it is an endless argument. Both have changed their playing style over the years so the answer too has changed several times in the past.
Attitude and versatility.
While I find Messi more endearing, I think Ronaldo has more assets as a footballer than Messi. It's a shame though, since all these assets are hidden behind his primma donna attitude.
- He's a better dribbler (Ronaldo dribbles but Messi is more efficient)
- Does not dive nor complain when decisions don't go his way unlike Ronaldo
- Humble. Messi will never say this
- Ambidextrous (Messi almost always relies on his left foot)
- Superior shooting and free kick taking skills.
- Superior aerial ability and overall speed.
Another point to note is that Messi has only played well so far for a single team(Barcelona). Anytime he shows up for Argentina, he is a no show. Ronaldo on the other hand has proven himself at Manchenster United, Portugal national team and now at Real Madrid. I think this attests to Ronaldo's versatility.