Lionel Messi vs. Cristiano Ronaldo: Comparing Their 2013 Stats so Far
The new year is less than a full month old and already the two best footballers on the planet, Leo Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, have scored hat-tricks, won games single-handedly for their clubs and reinforced their status as the best in the game.
With the two topping the La Liga scoring charts, January 2013 has proven once more that they have the consistency and longevity to keep up their astonishing scoring rates like no other in Europe's top leagues.
It is not just in scoring goals, though, that they are expected to contribute.
Here is a complete rundown of how Messi vs. Ronaldo has shaped up in the first month of this year.
From a Team Perspective
Individual acclaim is all well and good, but both players are (or should be) playing with the greater good in mind—that of their team winning matches.
Barcelona and Real Madrid have both played seven matches so far in 2013, with one rather notable fixture to come late in January.
From their seven games in January, Barça have won five, drawn one and lost one. A cup draw with Malaga and a league defeat, their first of the season, to Real Sociedad were the upsets amongst victories over Espanyol, Cordoba, Malaga (league), Malaga again (cup second leg) and Osasuna.
Messi started six of those games, being replaced in just one of those matches.
The capital-based side have also won five of their matches, but they have not been beaten in 2013, drawing twice instead. Osasuna and Valencia (in the Copa del Rey) have held Real.
Madrid have defeated Real Sociedad, Celta Vigo, Valencia (in league and cup) and Getafe.
Cristiano Ronaldo, like Messi, started in six of those games.
Barcelona scored 25 goals in their seven matches, conceding nine. Real netted 20 times, conceding only four goals.
There were also six red cards in the games involving Madrid, five of which were handed to Jose Mourinho's men.
Three reds were dished out in Barcelona's fixtures: one for the Catalan side and two for their opponents.
Doing What They Do Best: Scoring Goals
The weekend of Jan. 26 saw Cristiano Ronaldo and Leo Messi score seven goals between them.
Whatever else you want from your team, whatever else the attackers are expected to contribute, you know if you have players like these two in your team, then you've got a good chance of winning any given match.
So far in 2013, Messi scored a penalty against Espanyol, three goals in three games against Malaga, an early goal against Real Sociedad and four goals most recently against Osasuna.
Nine goals in six appearances so far in 2013.
Ronaldo has followed suit with a brace against Sociedad, a cup hat-trick against Celta Vigo, a double blank against Valencia in two cup games, another two goals against the same opposition in the league and a hat-trick against Getafe.
10 goals in six appearances.
While Messi has started the calendar year in more consistent goal-scoring form, hitting the back of the net in every match he has played, Ronaldo has been dominating the games in which he does score.
Less than a month into the new year, Ronaldo already has two hat-tricks to his name—and Messi hit four in his most recent outing.
Between the two, they have 19 goals in January alone. That is more than every single player in the top five European leagues have managed to score since the start of the entire season, with the exception of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Edinson Cavani.
On-the-Ball Contribution in Statistics
For the purposes of levelling out the competition, only La Liga games will be considered for this area.
Cristiano Ronaldo leads the entirety of Europe's top five leagues in terms of shots per game, recording an average of 7.4 attempts on goal in each league match he plays in.
No other player from England, Spain, France, Italy or Germany even manages to register an average of six shots per game.
Messi isn't too far behind, in third place on that particular ranking, averaging 5.3 per game.
How does their January form stand up to the season-long average then?
Against Sociedad, Ronaldo was in no mood to let anything stand in his way. He rattled off a massive 14 shots during the game, hitting the back of the net in the 68th and 70th minutes. Nobody else reached five attempts during that fixture.
For once, though, he was not the main man in terms of shots on goal in the 5-0 win over Valencia, attempting only three shots—and two of them ended up as goals.
Ronaldo was back to his average level most recently, with seven shots and three goals (one penalty) against Getafe.
The Portuguese attacker has averaged eight shots per league game in 2013, along with 2.7 dribbles and one key pass per game. His shots and dribbles are above his averages for the entire season, while his key passes for teammates are slightly down.
Messi, conversely, has taken 21 shots in his four league games this year, averaging out at 5.25 per match—almost exactly continuing his average rate for the season.
He also recorded averages per game of 3.25 dribbles and 1.75 key passes, which are also both close to his usual average.
One final point to note is that Messi's 21 shots yielded seven goals, a 33 percent shot conversion rate which is better than his already-excellent season average of 30 percent.
Ronaldo's 24 shots brought him seven goals also, a 29 percent conversion rate which is significantly higher than his season average of just 14 percent.
Looking Ahead: Head-to-Heads and into February
As mentioned, both teams have one fixture remaining in January.
Fair to say that either player might prove conclusive in it, as it happens to be a Clasico fixture with the two giants meeting in the Copa del Rey semifinal on Jan. 30. The second leg is in late February at the Nou Camp.
Barcelona won last season's Spanish Cup and will be eager to not relinquish their crown against their biggest rivals. But on the other hand, it could be that the cup is Real's biggest chance of a trophy this season.
Who will hit the most goals and contribute the most to their team during the second month of 2013?
Who Has Started off 2013 Better?
These are two footballing phenoms who show their abilities and skills on a weekly basis.
It is almost impossible to separate them—though captains, managers and football personalities did just that when they voted Messi as the world's best player for 2012.
They've both started off 2013 in sublime fashion, scoring almost the same number of goals in the same number of games and having a massive impact on their teams' fortunes.
Who has started off the year "better" is a little subjective. Ronaldo has scored a greater percentage of his team's goals (50 percent versus 36 percent), but have Real Madrid faced tougher opposition overall?
Playing Malaga three times in a month is no easy feat, but the only other top-half team that Barça faced was Real Sociedad (currently ninth).
Real played Valencia three times in a row, also played Sociedad and did not play a Segunda team, whereas Barcelona (without Messi) faced Cordoba.
Messi has continued largely along the same path of immense form that he has been in all season, so perhaps the recent improvements in Ronaldo's game give him the slightest edge going into El Clasico on Wednesday.
Statistical data from WhoScored.com