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A Detailed, and Fact Based Study. Who Is Better, Ronaldo Or Messi?

Ehab El JundiContributor IDecember 10, 2010

A Detailed, and Fact Based Study. Who Is Better, Ronaldo Or Messi?

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    Messi Or RonaldoDavid Ramos/Getty Images

    The discussion over who is the best player in the world has been going on forever. At any point of time, people differed on who they consider to be the best footballer of a certain era. This era is no different. Although in my opinion that has more to do with personal preferences that actual facts on the ground. 

     

    In this day and time, we are blessed to witness two talented footballers plying their trade in world football on a weekly basis. Leo Messi and cristiano Ronaldo. Hence, the discussion over who is the best footballer in the world doesn't end with a tournament, or with a match. It goes on throughout the year, as they dazzle everyone with their performances in whatever competition they play in. In my opinion, Leo Messi has the upper hand. He is without a doubt the finest active footballer in the world. However, Real Madrid fans, and some English fans, especially those of Manchester United, would argue that Ronaldo is more "Complete".

     

    And so, I thought, the best way to settle this argument is to look at their overall contribution to their teams in the Spanish League, and in The Champions League, since these are the two major competitions in which both players play week in and week out.

     

    Let us agree on a definition first. The most complete player, is the player who adds value to his team's all around performance. Scoring goals, providing assists, retains position, and enhances his teams chances of scoring and winning through effective play. To this end, I will study 11 different aspects of their game. Interlinked on numerous occasions, but when looked at individually, they accentuate important contribution to the overall team's performance. These aspects, or parameters, are:

    1. Goals scored
    2. Goals from open play
    3. First Goals
    4. Goals to minutes ratio
    5. Assists
    6. Assists to minutes ratio
    7. Shots on Target
    8. Shots accuracy
    9. Completed passes
    10. Passing Accuracy
    11. Contribution to team goals

How Many Goals Did Messi & Ronaldo Score Since The Beginning of The 2010 Season

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    Messi has an intimate relationship with the net!Denis Doyle/Getty Images

    The most obvious statistic, which most people consider to be the single most important parameter when comparing two attack-minded players is Goals. This is not entirely correct, especially when we are talking about players who are not out and out strikers. Nevertheless, it remains a key parameter.

    So who performed better?

    So far, and up to Real Madrid's game against Auxerre in the Champions League Cristiano Ronaldo has scored 20 Goals, which is an amazing tally, considering that we haven't even finished the first half of the season. Still, Messi managed to get the upper hand in this category, as he amassed 21 Goals in La Liga and the Champions League.

     

    Ronaldo 20

    Messi 21

    So, on grounds of who scored more goals Messi prevails.

     

    Winner: Messi

     

    *Note: Messi's 3 goals against Sevilla in the Super Cup, goal against Ceuta in the Copa Del Rey, 2 goals for Argentina against Brazil & Spain are not counted. 

Goals Scored From Open Play

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    Ronaldo scored 4 penalties in 2010 so farDenis Doyle/Getty Images

    I'm not trying to undermine the importance of any goal scored for the benefit of the team. However, all pundits and fans look down on goals scored from penalties. Free kicks are indeed and art. Nevertheless, goals from open play give you an idea about the players ability to position himself in the right place to receive a pass, or his ability to manoeuvre and react to a certain situation with a certain layout of players.

    Since the beginning of the season Cristiano Ronaldo scored 5 Penalty kicks, and one free kick. On the other hand, Messi scored only one goal from the spot. This means that Messi managed to score 20 times from open play, while Cristiano Ronaldo scored only 14.

    Ronaldo 14

    Messi 20

     

    Winner: Messi

First Goals

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    Messi steps up when Barcelona needs him the mostJasper Juinen/Getty Images

    it is well known that the first goal has a huge psychological impact on the team's performance. More so when opposing teams tend to defend, and put men behind the ball all the time, such as the case with Real Madrid, and Barcelona. Teams of lower status, and sometimes even similar status will set deep and defend against Barcelona and Real Madrid. As time passes by, things get complicated and players start to get impatient and irritated. Therefore, a first goal can have a huge impact, as it will open up the game and enhances the team's chance to win.

    When looking at both CR7 & Messi, we can see that Cristiano Ronaldo has scored 4 first goals for Real Madrid in La Liga and The Champions League, while Messi scored 10. It is a huge contribution. In more cases than not, Messi is the one who steps up and opens the flood gates for Barcelona.

    Ronaldo 4

    Messi 10

     

    Winner: Messi

How Long Does It Take Messi and Ronaldo To Score

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    Ronaldo scores a goal every 92 minutes, but Messi does wvery 74!Angel Martinez/Getty Images

    Statistics show that Messi & Ronaldo are scoring at well. They have also been mirroring each others performances for the past few weeks, but when you look at the total number of minutes played by each player, you can see a considerable difference!

    How long, on average, does it take Messi to score? The answer is 74 minutes. This means that Messi's average is more than one goal per game. As for Ronaldo, he scores a goal every 92 minutes on average.

    It is quite amazing. Just by looking at these numbers you realize the calibre of these players. Still, and as impressive 92 minutes is, Messi still beats it with an average of 74 Minutes.

    Ronaldo 92

    Messi 74

    Winner: Messi

Who Is The Bigger Provider of Assists?

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    Messi celebrates with his teammatesDenis Doyle/Getty Images

    As previously mentioned, Goals are not the only parameter based on which you judge a player. Even if this player was a forward. Messi plays in a free role. Something similar to Secondary Striker, He can play behind the attack, on the wings, in the middle, or drops deep to participate in the playmaking. Similarly, Ronaldo has more freedom than any other Real Madrid player, even under the strict regime of Jose Mourinho. Therefore, you would expect both players to provide for their teammates. Look for an incisive pass, that will set a teammate clear on goal, or in a good position for scoring. Therefore, the number of assists measure the player's teamwork, and his ability to act as a playmaker, when options for a scorer are needed.

    In this category Ronaldo has a total of 7 assists. A great tally for a forward. However, yet again, Messi bettered Ronaldo with a total of 9 assists. This was probably best seen, when Messi provided two interplanetary assists to help Villa score against Real Madrid, in a game where both Messi and Ronaldo didn't score. In a team where playmaking is usually the responsibility of Xavi, Messi turned into the provider during the most important game of the Spanish domestic competition.

    Ronaldo 7

    Messi 9

    Winner: Messi

Assists To Minutes Ratio

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    Ronaldo provides an assist every 264 minutes on average. Messi does every 172.es inDenis Doyle/Getty Images

    This is also a measure of both players efficiency and contribution. 

    Messi provides an assist to a teammate every 172 minutes, while it takes Ronaldo 264 minutes to do so.

    Ronaldo 264 Minutes

    Messi 172 Minutes

    Winner: Messi

Who Makes The Keepers Work More? (Shots on Target)

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    Ronaldo takes aim at Auxerre's goalAngel Martinez/Getty Images

    You don't score if you don't create chances, and you don't create chances if you don't make the keepers work. In that spirit, the more a player forces an opposing keeper to make saves, the better he is. Goals can be scored from rebounds or the keeper might be forced to send it behind the line for a corner.

    In this category you would expect that Ronaldo prevails. He is well known for his powerful shots, even from a very far range. So he did he perform against Messi?

    Since the beginning of 2010 season, Cristiano Ronaldo forced the keeper to work for his money on 54 occasions, while Messi sent only 44 shots the keeper's way.

    Ronaldo 54

    Messi 44

    Winner: Ronaldo

Who Interrupts His Team's Play With Stray Shots?

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    Messi hits the target with 55% of his shots, while Ronaldo does in 41% of hisAngel Martinez/Getty Images

    The more shots on target the better. However, it is no good if you are sending shots to the sky! It interrupts your team's attack, and wastes a potential opportunity for scoring. Sure, everybody misses every once in awhile, but missing frequently is a problem.

    This time Messi compensates for his fewer number of shots compared to Ronaldo, with the accuracy and quality of his shooting. This specific statistic is very interesting for Messi's critics, because he was always rated second best compared to Ronaldo when it comes to shooting. 

    The Argentine wizards retains pole position with an accuracy of 55%, compared to a considerably lower accuracy level of 41% for Ronaldo.

    Ronaldo 41%

    Messi 55%

    Winner: Messi

Who Is More Of a Team Player? ( Completed Passes )

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    Messi completed more passes (651) than Ronaldo attempted (624) so far in 2010David Ramos/Getty Images

    Football is team sport, and no matter how gifted player is, he is of little use to his team if he is not a team player. This is never more true that when the situation gets tough, and the opponent is making life hard for your team. Therefore, it is important to be able to fit into the team's system, as this will add to the overall efficiency of the team.

    Having that I mind, one should look no further that the number of passes a player exchanges with his teammates. The continuous movement of the ball can unsettle the opposing defence, and put the attacking team in a better position for scoring. It became the philosophy of Barcelona, which the whole world learned to admire and fear at the same time.

    Messi manged to fit well in the system, and became an integral part of it. This is proven by the number of passes, 651, he completed while playing for Barcelona in this year's version of La Liga. Ronaldo on the other hand managed 451 completed passes

    Ronaldo 451

    Messi 651

    Winner: Messi

Messi Completed More Passes (651) Than Ronaldo Tried (624) So Far This Season

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    Ronaldo, tired of the battle so far.Angel Martinez/Getty Images

    Pundits and fans alike know that if your opponent can't have the ball, then they can't score. The idea of retaining position stems from this concept, and on the evidence of Barcelona's recent demolishing of Real Madrid, it's a strategy that works. Barcelona had 75 percent of the ball during the first half simply by avoiding misdirected passes, coupled with pressure on the opponent once the ball is lost.

    Having that in mind, when comparing two players once should give more credit to the once that loses the ball fewer times. In the battle between Messi and Ronaldo, Messi comes on top once more by having completion rate of 84 percent of his passes compared to Ronaldo's 72 percent.

    Ronaldo 72 percent

    Messi 84 percent

    Winner: Messi

Who Is More Important To His Team's Attacking Play?

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    Messi is behind 55% of Barcelona's goals.David Ramos/Getty Images

    Messi and Ronaldo play for two of the most attack-minded teams. Teams that score loads of goals. But who has been involved in more of his team's goals, Messi or Ronaldo?

    In the Champions League and La Liga, Barcelona scored 55 goals so far. Messi was involved in 55 percent of them, either by scoring or assisting them. This more than half of the teams total. Whereas, Real Madrid scored a total of 50 goals, and Ronaldo was involved in 54 percent of them. It is definitely very close, and it would be a little harsh to give Messi the points for this parameter.

    Still, numbers are numbers, and Messi wins with the slightest of margins.

    Ronaldo 54 percent

    Messi 55 percent

    Winner: Messi

The Verdict

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    Messi proved with numbers that he is the best player in the worldDavid Ramos/Getty Images

    In the previous 11 slides I tried to analyze every meaningful contribution a forward can add to his team's performance. I used facts from the ongoing season, to compare Cristiano Ronaldo's performance to that of Lionel Messi, and in 10 times out of 11 Messi came on top. 

    A lot of people will still argue that Ronaldo is a better, or a more completer, player than Messi. Still, those claims can not be justified. It is true that both of them are great players, and that football fans are blessed to be able to see them play on a weekly basis, but the truth is that Messi's overall performance is far more superior to that of Ronaldo's.

    Total Score:

    Ronaldo: 1

    Messi: 10

    Winner: Lionel Messi

Bonus: Entertainment, Fairplay, Personality, and Encounters

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    Messi prevails over RonaldoJasper Juinen/Getty Images

    Some people don't believe in numbers. They don't believe in statistics and like to interpret the game in a different way. The judge a player on the level of entertainment he provides, on his sportsmanship, on his personality and whether he is a role model or not, and on his performances against his main rivals.

    I'm not one of those, because even though Maradona wasn't the ideal role model, and this me being polite about it, nobody can deny that he is the best player who ever stepped on a football pitch. Still, even if I look at these things, Messi still comes on top.

    Messi is definitely more entertaining. He scores unbelievable goals, and dribbles past walls of defenders with never seen before skill, unlike Ronaldo who uses shear power and speed to get past his opponents. This is probably why Ronaldo fails to shine against top team who have amongst their ranks more accomplished defenders who can't be forced off the ball, or beaten with shear pace.

    Messi is humble. A player who is loved by the fans, his teammates, the press and even by his opponents. He doesn't seek the lights like Ronaldo does, and handles his popularity with grace. We still remember how he went to the stands to celebrate with his mother when he equalled the Brazilian Ronaldo's record of league goals during his last game in the 2009-2010 season. On the other hand, Ronaldo is well known for his antics and snobbish attitude, and the way he handles himself in games forced FIFA officials to criticize him, like Claus Bo Larsen, the referee who was extremely annoyed by Ronaldo because of his dives.

    Finally, when the two met, Messi almost always came on top. Save for Manchester united's encounter with Barcelona in the Champion's league semi-final, during which everyone said that Messi played far better than Ronaldo did, Messi always came on top. Most recently in the latest Clasico when Barcelona thrashed Real Madrid 5-0. Before that it was 2-0 & 1-0 while Ronaldo was with Real Madrid. Preceded by a 1-0 win over CR7's ManU in the UCL final.

    So, even if you want to look at this way, Messi still prevails

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