Cristiano Ronaldo Lionel Messi red card sent offGetty/Goal composite

Who has more red cards in their career: Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo?

Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo are more or less neck-and-neck when it comes to certain statistics - goals, Ballons d'Or and so forth - but one area where there is no comparison is discipline.

The Barcelona captain and the Juventus star are both fierce competitors and they are known for letting their tempers spill over on occasion when opponents manage to get into their heads or, indeed, if things aren't going their way on the pitch.

Messi was controversially sent off in Argentina's Copa America 2019 third-place play-off victory against Chile in July following a heated confrontation with Gary Medel. It was his first time seeing red in 14 years.

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But just how exactly does the Barca forward measure up to his arch-rival when it comes to crossing the officials?

Ronaldo's red card record is much more damning than that of the Argentine, whose contentious dismissal against La Roja was just his second red card in his senior career.

Cristiano Ronaldo & Lionel Messi red cards

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May 15, 2004Cristiano RonaldoAston Villa 0-2 Manchester UnitedPremier League
August 15, 2005Lionel MessiHungary 1-2 ArgentinaInternational friendly
January 14, 2006Cristiano RonaldoManchester City 3-1 Manchester UnitedPremier League
August 15, 2007Cristiano RonaldoPortsmouth 1-1 Manchester UnitedPremier League
November 30, 2008Cristiano RonaldoManchester City 0-1 Manchester UnitedPremier League
December 5, 2009Cristiano RonaldoReal Madrid 4-2 AlmeriaLa Liga
January 24, 2010Cristiano RonaldoReal Madrid 2-0 MalagaLa Liga
May 17, 2013Cristiano RonaldoReal Madrid 1-2 Atletico MadridCopa del Rey
February 2, 2014Cristiano RonaldoAthletic Club 1-1 Real MadridLa Liga
January 24, 2015Cristiano RonaldoCordoba 1-2 Real MadridLa Liga
August 13, 2017Cristiano RonaldoBarcelona 1-3 Real MadridSupercopa
September 19, 2018Cristiano RonaldoValencia 0-2 JuventusChampions League
July 6, 2019Lionel MessiArgentina 2-1 ChileCopa America
January 17, 2021Lionel MessiBarcelona 2-3 Athletic ClubSupercopa
April 9, 2024Cristiano Ronaldo Al-Hilal 2-1 Al-NassrSaudi Super Cup

Messi's first red card came on his Argentina debut against Hungary in 2005. The Blaugrana star replaced Lisandro Lopez on the 64th minute, but his international bow ended after just two minutes when the then-18-year-old was deemed to have struck Vilmos Vanczak - who was pulling the attacker's shirt. He was shown his first Barcelona red card after he lashed out in the Super Cup final in 2021.

By contrast, Ronaldo has been sent off on multiple occasions while playing for Manchester United, Real Madrid and Juventus. Notably, the Portuguese has shown himself to be somewhat prone to losing his cool in derby matches.

For example, while playing for the Red Devils, Ronaldo was sent off in Manchester derbies in 2006 and 2008, a totally reckless foul on former Man Utd legend Andy Cole earning him his marching orders on the first occasion.

Lionel Messi red card Argentina Copa America 2019Getty Images

During his time at Real Madrid, Ronaldo was sent off in the 2013 Copa del Rey final against Atletico Madrid, a game in which he also scored, but one that Los Blancos ultimately lost.

He also has the distinction of being sent off in a Clasico match, having been shown red in the first leg of the 2017 Supercopa de Espana, which was a classic in the Messi vs Ronaldo genre.

When Ronaldo put Real Madrid 2-1 up on the 80th minute - incidentally cancelling out Messi's equaliser three minutes before - the Portuguese removed his shirt and held it up to the Camp Nou crowd in defiance.

Of course, that shirtless display of provocation earned him a booking and the Catalan crowd were given some solace two minutes later when referee Ricardo de Burgos Bengoetxea showed the Madrid man a second yellow for diving.

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A red card famously reduced Ronaldo to tears in 2018 when he was sent off less than half-an-hour into his first ever Champions League match for Juventus.

With 29 minutes on the clock against Valencia at Mestalla, the Portuguese collided with Jeison Murillo and the altercation resulted in referee Felix Brych showing the Juve forward a red card.

CR7 recently received his 12th career red card and first since making the controversial switch to the Saudi Pro League as the Al-Nassr superstar seemingly elbowed an Al-Hilal player at the end of a frustrating 2-1 Saudi Super Cup semi-final defeat for his side.

Lionel Messi vs Cristiano Ronaldo: Red cards head-to-head

PlayerNumber of red cardsStraight red cards
Lionel Messi33
Cristiano Ronaldo128

As you can see from the tables above, Ronaldo has a much poorer disciplinary record than Messi, with 12 red cards being shown to him during the course of his senior career against the Argentine's three.

Of Ronaldo's 12 red cards, four came at Manchester United, six were shown when he wore the colours of Real Madrid, one came in a Juventus shirt, and the last one more recently at Saudi Pro League club Al-Nassr. Eight of those dismissals were straight reds.