Lionel Messi vs. Radamel Falcao: Comparing La Liga Superstars

Samuel MarsdenFeatured ColumnistDecember 12, 2012

MADRID, SPAIN - FEBRUARY 26:  Falcao of Atletico Madrid celebrates after scoring his team's opening goal during the La Liga match between Atletico Madrid and Barcelona at Vicente Calderon Stadium on February 26, 2012 in Madrid, Spain.  (Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images)
Denis Doyle/Getty Images

Two South American heavyweights come nose to nose on Sunday night, hundreds of miles away from their home continent.

Last weekend, both men laid down their credentials.

In Barcelona's corner, Lionel Messi scored twice to secure three points in Seville against Real Betis. Those two goals—if you haven't heard—took him beyond Gerd Muller's record of 85 goals in a calendar year.

In Atletico Madrid's corner, Radamel Falcao fired in five goals against Deportivo La Coruna. Not since 2002 and Fernando Morientes has a player scored five in a La Liga game, and yes, that includes Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.

If it were actually a boxing match, the stats would undoubtedly favor the little Argentinian. His form so brilliant, consistency so good that records continue to tumble at an alarming rate. So alarming, that the only argument people present is that he has become boringly good.

A scroll down @MessiStats Twitter profile gives you some numbers:

4: Only player to be European Cup top scorer four years in a row;
50: Most goals scored by a player in a La Liga season;
91: Total goals scored by Messi in 2012, including five in Barca friendlies.

His Colombian nemesis is no ordinary sparring partner, though. If his five strikes last weekend were motivated by a poor performance against Real Madrid, his motivation has never before lay in big-game failings.

He's topped the Europa League scoring chart for the last two years. The last two finals have both been dominated by "El Tigre." For Porto, in 2011, he scored the only goal against Braga. For Atletico, last season, he scored twice as Athletic Bilbao were dispatched 3-0 in Bucharest.

In Monaco this August, the 26 year-old put in a first half performance in a bout with Chelsea so good, that Europe has still not stopped purring. A hat-trick inside 45 minutes carved Los Rojiblancos name on the UEFA Super Cup.

Physically, Falcao out-powers Messi. Standing at 5'10" while "La Pulga" slinks in at 5'7", the Atleti forward cuts a much more imposing, lean figure than his Barca counterpart. Both possess great pace, something not instantly associated with either though.

The lights of the Camp Nou should shine brighter on Messi, though. Gerard Pique recently commented,p "Leo is from another planet while Cristiano is only the best among humans." Falcao definitely falls into the human category.

Diego Simeone's best hopes of ending Tito Vilanova's unbeaten La Liga campaign depend on the teeth of The Tiger. As they did against Valencia and Real Madrid, two away days where Atletico failed to turn up.

Last weekend Falcao scored five; Messi, two. But somehow it was the 25-year-old Barca man who stole the headlines, usurping Atleti's No. 9 by breaking Muller's record. It is a familiar tale.

The two players will stand side-by-side in the tunnel this weekend, as the music welcomes them to the pitch. Expect La Pulga, in his home ring, to triumph over El Tigre.