Messi vs Ronaldo – The Alpha Male Edition

For centuries, many have tried to avoid debates on religion and politics because of the highly polarizing nature of the topics. In recent times the Messi vs Cristiano Ronaldo (CR7) debate has joined the ranks of arguments with no end. Both players have amassed armies of loyal supporters who can boast varying reasons why their chosen player is the best the world has ever seen in the sport.

Athletes at this level are often measured by what they produce on the field. Goals, assists, distance covered and trophies won are all yardsticks used by the media, analysts and fans to produce a case of who is the best man. But what about those intangible factors that we use to measure others on a daily basis. While both players stand tall as alpha males on the pitch for very obvious reasons; which of these stars embodies what it is to be an alpha male off the pitch? Who is the ultimate man?

Men who are considered to be at the very top of the food chain have unmistakable characteristics that distinguish them from lesser men. Some of the leading traits alpha males display are: confidence, dominance (without being aggressive), a natural ability to lead, mental fortitude and an insatiable purpose or drive. It therefore stands to reason that these traits are the primary factors behind their successes in their careers and of course with the opposite sex. These characteristics often manifest themselves in body language and speech. Confidence for example is displayed by a man who stands and sits tall, projects his voice, engages his audience with strong eye contact, is comfortable in his environment and has a magnetic charismatic appeal.

Messi and Ronaldo are rarely ever in the same room, except for a room that hosts the FIFA Ballon d’Or. These rare occasions give us a great idea of which player is truly dominant, especially when they have to interact with each other. Pieces of footage and images where both players are in the same room were analyzed to identify which of these two alpha men are most dominant.

The first clip shows Ronaldo and Messi in a press conference. Both players look relaxed. Both are sitting in a characteristically dominant way, where they take up as much space as possible. So far its a tie. However, once the questions start coming Messi begins to display signs of discomfort. He begins to fidget and engage in a bout of facial touching, which is a tell tale sign of discomfort, shyness or a lack of confidence. He also displays facial expressions that suggest annoyance or even disgust. By contrast Ronaldo sits upright without fidgeting as much. He also has a calm expression on the face suggesting comfort in his surroundings. Interestingly he also engages the the interviewer by giving him eye contact, something Messi fails to do convincingly.

The second clip shows Messi, Ronaldo and Arjen Robben receiving awards and speaking to the audience. Now lets put some early disclaimers in. In the animal kingdom, Alpha Males are often the largest in their group. In the human world however, while size is a plus, dominance is not primarily dependent on this factor. Ronaldo and Robben are taller than Messi but take a look at how they present themselves.

As the smoke clears and the players emerge, the signs of who is most dominant begin to play out immediately. Robben and Ronaldo stand in typical alpha posture: Head up, shoulders relaxed, chests slightly out, arms slightly out and legs slightly wider than shoulder width apart. Messi can be seen with his head down, and with his hands in his pockets – a big faux pas in the art of male dominance.

As the video progresses we see Messi continuing to shift his weight from one foot to the next. Then we see what seems to be his trade mark symbol of his discomfort, the ear touch. The signs become even more apparent when each player is asked a question. Ronaldo again displays his dominant qualities by fidgeting far less, and engaging his audience by smiling widely and joking. Robben also displays strong confident qualities by connecting with the audience using his eyes and by cracking a joke. Messi on the other hand, continues to shift his body weight even more noticeably and he rushes through his answer without taking time to engage his audience.


The image above shows both players seated during the award show. Again, both players seem relaxed but there are some typical displays of dominance taking place. While both players are maximizing the space they occupy, Ronaldo goes a step further by invading Messi’s personal space. The hand on the leg is not just friendly but it almost says…”I own you”. It can also be viewed as a protective gesture as well, in a sort of “dont worry Lionel, I’ll deal with it” kind of way.

Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, and partners, at the 2013 Ballon D'Or award.

This image shows each player with members of the opposite sex. Now, it is difficult to say what exactly is happening at the moment the picture is taken, but what do you see immediately? Ronaldo again asserts his dominance on the female by invading her space. In turn, her body language suggests she has Ronaldo’s undivided attention. He engages her with his eyes and seems very comfortable in the moment.

Messi again sits in typical alpha style but seems very uninterested in the female. He looks slightly unnerved about sitting near his fiercest rival and seems to be thinking about something else.


In the image above, both players look slightly uncomfortable sitting beside each other. This may be because of the photographers or that they are aware of their rivalry. However Ronaldo still looks more naturally confident. His head is tilted up and he tries to engage the photographers with eye contact. Messi has his head tilted down just a tad and his eyes are focused away and down from the cameras.


After looking at boat loads of images and footage of both players over many years, Ronaldo seems to be the most aware of his body language and what it conveys. Messi is known to be a little more shy and reserved but he has improved significantly over the years. Ronaldo’s body language at time comes across as arrogant and abrasive but he too has matured and learned to control and tailor his image to suit various occasions.

It is clear that Ronaldo has an inner drive to become not just the greatest on the field but also a strong brand off the pitch. He has been coached to be aware of his body language and to refine his stratospheric confidence. He takes great care in ensuring that he is viewed in the best possible way at all times. Messi is superb on the field but seems to not care much about becoming the great global brand. However, being the greatest on the field does carry a certain amount of weight and Messi is now growing more and more into his off pitch persona.


For me Ronaldo is leading the alpha male contest off the pitch. He is poised, charismatic and has a magnetic appeal that can turn heads. Both men however are still young and I am glad to see Messi’s growth in this area and I can only see him improving. Who do you think is the alpha male?