Eighty-six goals in a calendar year. Take a moment to digest the enormity of that statement. Lionel Messi has scored, on average, a goal every 4.24 days in 2012; a truly magnificent achievement from a truly magnificent footballer. However, as Messi (deservedly) laps up the praise of fans, pundits and players alike, Cristiano Ronaldo is setting the Bernabéu alight with some equally jaw-dropping football.
The most expensive man in football history has scored one hundred and sixty-seven goals in as many games for Real Madrid; that alone is a massive achievement. Messi has scored more in that time, and in the process has won the Ballon d’Or three times compared to Ronaldo’s sole triumph in 2009. Messi will probably win it again this year and rightly so, eighty-six goals (at least) speaks for itself. Ronaldo meanwhile has scored an embarrassingly-low figure of sixty-one goals in 2012, however in some ways Ronaldo’s achievements are more impressive than Messi’s.
At Barcelona, Messi is the star, the main-man. Guardiola built his Barcelona team around the little Argentinean and Vilanova has followed suit (who can blame them?). Every move comes through Messi, in forty-seven appearances between November 2011 and November 2012, Messi received the ball far more times than Ronaldo did, nearly double in fact. Although immediately down to Barcelona’s style of play, Messi has had the platform to make seven hundred more passes in the final third and attempt one hundred and thirty more dribbles than Ronaldo.
Messi’s influence at Barcelona is reminiscent of the ‘Be-A-Pro’ mode on the FIFA series of video games. In 2012 alone, Messi has slotted in fourteen penalties, which coincidently is more than any Premier League team received in the whole 2011/2012 season. As the figure of eighty-six has drawn closer and closer, many players in the Barcelona camp have openly stated their desire for Messi to get the record. This is evident in the manner of Messi’s goals over the past few months; players are shying away from shooting themselves in order to tee-up the little magician. This is furthered by the fact that Messi has scored more than half of his team’s goals in the last year.
There is a stark comparison in Ronaldo’s case. He is fighting for the spotlight in one of the biggest clubs in world football. Mourinho’s Galacticos possess the likes of Gonzalo Higuain and Karim Benzema going forward, two of Europe’s deadliest strikers. Ronaldo found the net sixty times in the 2011/2012, a ridiculous figure in itself. Benzema and Higuain are in second and third place respectively, they found the net fifty-eight times between them. Compare this to the Messi’s support acts at Barcelona, Fabregas and Alexis Sanchez found the net just thirty times between them. In the last year, Ronaldo has scored 42% of Real Madrid’s goals while Messi has scored 56% of Barcelona’s.
The manner of each player’s goals also makes for interesting reading. Messi has scored 91% of his goals in the last year with his left foot, while Ronaldo has only scored 73% of his goals with his stronger right. Ronaldo has also scored a larger amount of winning goals than his Argentinean adversary. Twenty-one compared to Messi’s eighteen, this implies that many of Messi’s goals were scored in games which had already been won.
The fact of the matter is that had Ronaldo been playing in any other era of football, he would be regarded as the best player in the world at that time. It’s just unfortunate for him that he is trying to out-play probably the greatest of all time. Ronaldo is the Andy Murray of football, deserving of more credit and unlucky to be plying his trade at the same time as some of the greatest sportsmen in history.
These two will always be compared against each other; everyone has an opinion and their own personal favourite. On Messi, Pep Guardiola stated: “Don’t try to write about him, don’t try to describe him, just watch him”, a thought that could certainly be extended to a certain Mr. Ronaldo over in Madrid. Why bother comparing the two? Just sit back and admire two of the greatest footballers in history competing against each other on a weekly basis.