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Messi Is a Better Player Than Cristiano Ronaldo
After losing the Ballon d’Or award to Lionel Messi for four consecutive years, Cristiano Ronaldo won the award in 2013. That and Ronaldo’s excellent start to the new season have revived the old debate over whether he is a better player than Messi.
The conversation was about a specific set of statistics, namely goals. To the extent that data can help us make educated guesses about a player’s performance, Messi is the better of the two at club and international levels.
However, when goals are used as criteria to compare players, it is not enough to look only at the number of goals scored. You also have to break down the conversion rate into things like whether the shots are from inside or outside the zone, expected goal ie. whether the average player will score given the chance and the quality of the opponents.
The results of a recent mathematical study were published in the Washington Post, which showed that between 2009 and 2013, the average quality of Messi’s chances (ie the quality of the chances created) was higher than Ronaldo’s. Ronaldo had more shots, but mostly from long range, and scored only 30 goals from 587 such shots, while Messi scored 28 goals from 287 long range shots. Messi was more efficient because a higher percentage of his shots were converted, ie 9.75% to 5.11%.
The study showed that Messi gets into scoring positions better, as he had 29 shots into the danger zone (from inside the area) compared to Ronaldo’s 20.
Messi is also a better finisher. Between 2009/10 and 2013/14, Messi scored an average of 40% more goals than expected, compared to Ronaldo’s 20% (see WASHINGTON POST – Despite great season, Cristiano Ronaldo is no better than Lionel Messi ; Michael Caley, 7 Nov 2014 ).
Last season, Ronaldo broke the norm and surpassed Messi. This propelled him to win the Ballon d’Or in 2013. But that has to be seen in the light of the fact that Messi missed part of the year due to injury and when he returned to action he almost caught up with Ronaldo who had 31 with 28 points by the end of the 2013/14 season.
In addition, Ronaldo has made a great start to the current season, scoring 12 goals without penalties to Messi’s 7. A plausible explanation for this is not that Ronaldo is now the better player, but that the roles of both players have changed at their respective clubs.
With the addition of Neymar and Luis Suarez on the wings of Barcelona’s 4-3-3 formation, Messi is now playing a deeper playmaking role, which has seen his goals go down and assists go up. His goals per game dropped from just under 1.50 in 2012/13 to 0.86 in 2014/15, while his assists in 2013/14 were just under 0.50 and rose to 0.86 in the current season.
In “Real” the trend was the opposite. With the recent additions of Gareth Bale and James Rodriquez in midfield, Ronaldo has become more attacking and less focused on distribution. He is now taking more shots from outside the box and this season, all but 2 of his 12 non-penalty goals have come from outside the box. His goals per game increased from 1.00 in 2013/14 to 2.20 in 2014/15, while his assists dropped from 0.25 to 0.17 over the same period (ESPN FC GLOBAL – Realignment of stars: Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo switch roles; Michael Cox, 23 October 2014).
Messi has a better shot rate than Ronaldo. The all-time statistics in all competitions show that Messi has 44 goals in 95 matches (0.46 goals per game) and Ronaldo has 51 goals in 116 matches (0.43 goals per game) (INTERNATIONAL STATISTICS – 8 November 2014 .).
World Cup – Messi also tops Ronaldo with 5 goals from 15 matches (0.33 goals per game) to Ronaldo’s 3 goals from 13 matches (0.23 goals per game) (INTERNATIONAL STATISTICS etc.).
Messi’s record is very impressive. In 2014, he led Argentina to the final, was named Man of the Match in 4 games (the most of any player in the competition) and won the Golden Boot as the best player of the tournament.
Contrary to what some critics say, he was most deserving of the latest award. He had the biggest impact on the competition, as without him Argentina would not have made it to the finals. He was the top scorer with 4 goals and assists, created the most chances, had the most successful dribbles, made the most shots in the box and made the most passes of any player.
On the contrary, Ronaldo has a sorry track record. He has only scored three times and against weak opposition, namely a penalty against Iran (2006), the sixth goal in a 7-0 win against North Korea in 2010 and a late goal against Ghana in 2014. In the last tournament, his only real goal contribution was an assist against the USA.
QUALITY OF COMPETITORS
Messi has more goals for club and country. He has 420 goals in 564 games (or 0.74 goals per game), while Ronaldo has 449 goals in 702 games (or 0.63 goals per game).
The big difference is that the Argentine has more game-changing goals and against stronger opposition. His goals are directly related to winning La Liga, winning the Champions League, Olympic gold medal matches and the youth and club world championships.
For example, as of March 24, 2014, he has scored against the best teams for Barcelona, namely: 21 against Real Madrid (Barcelona’s fiercest rivals), 20 against league champions Atlético and 18 against Sevilla (the very successful club of Andalusia). In the Champions League, he has 12 against German teams, 8 against English teams and 5 against Italian teams. And he scored 4 winning goals at the 2014 World Cup.
On the other hand, Ronaldo failed to score in crucial matches and managed to score some goals against weak teams not only with his club but also with his country. For example, in the English Premier League for Manchester United, he scored only 2 goals in 9 games against Liverpool (United’s fiercest rival) and scored 1 goal in 15 games against the mighty Chelsea.
In the Champions League for United, he did not score in his first 26 games and although he scored in the 2014 final against Real Madrid, he did not have much of an impact in the other final he played in in 2009 against “Barcelona” with the score 0:2.
In Spain, he scored only 3 goals in the first 9 games against Barcelona (Real’s main rival).
He has a miserable record in the World Cup as mentioned above and in the European Championship he scored 6 goals against well done Greece, the Czech Republic and a weak Holland team and did not feature against strong teams like Germany and Spain.
Overall, the statistics show that Messi is the better player because he gets into scoring positions better, finishes better and scores more efficiently. Messi has the age advantage because he is 27 and Ronaldo is 29, and while both are likely to play for a few more years, the Argentine will have more time than Ronaldo to add to his list of achievements. Meanwhile, the debate continues.
November 20, 2014
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