Cristiano Ronaldo vs. Lionel Messi: Who Will Be the Top Goal Scorer This Season?

Thomas HallettCorrespondent IINovember 16, 2011

BARCELONA, SPAIN - NOVEMBER 29:  Cristiano Ronaldo of Real Madrid (R) and Lionel Messi of FC Barcelona look on during the La Liga match between Barcelona and Real Madrid at the Camp Nou Stadium on November 29, 2010 in Barcelona, Spain.  Barcelona won the match 5-0.  (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
David Ramos/Getty Images

We're at a stage now where you can't talk about one without bringing up the other; Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo go hand in hand, much like their respective clubs Real Madrid and Barcelona. The race for the Pichichi, La Liga's top goal scorer, will undoubtedly fall to either No. 1 and 2 of world football. But it's the manner in which either will get there that will write headlines for the remainder of the season.

In Cristiano Ronaldo we're seeing a player fronting a much-improved Real Madrid from last year. There seems to be a lot less anger on the part of Madrid and more a desire to play the football they know best: counter-attacking in its finest form. Much like their counterparts in Catalonia, it's a brand of football that no other team can perform as well as they do.

The rotation of the front-line has been impressive and consistent. Ronaldo, the ever-present, links up well with any of the strikers on offer at the Bernabeu and continues his almost unrivalled scoring form.

But with all the praise the can be on offer for last season's Golden Shoe winner, the questions and comparisons can never end when the greater prize remains in the hands of Lionel Messi.

Both men have recently hit milestones for their clubs with Ronaldo reaching his 100th goal for Madrid and Messi scoring his 200th for Barcelona. It's almost humorous the way both hit these goal-scoring records at the same time, as if the world didn't already have enough to fuel the Messi vs. Ronaldo debate.

Ronaldo and Madrid are very much on the rise to not only remove the gap between themselves and Barcelona, they're also keen to prove that their £80 million signing can live up to and overtake the phenomenon at the Nou Camp.

This season that gap may be getting smaller and smaller.

The Barcelona attack on domestic glory is more central to Messi's individual game, using his intelligence and ability to unlock opposition defence and create space for others—a more systematic game moving their players strategically rather than the blitzkrieg-like counter-attacking of Madrid.

Does this always come to fruition? No, as we've seen against Sevilla. The greatest team of the modern age simply ran out of ideas and could find no way past Javi Varas. Similarly, Messi, who does hold one more goal this season over Ronaldo, recently went three games without scoring. Of course, he went on to score a hat trick in the fourth game, but that's where the problems arise.

If he's not doing it for Barcelona, then who will?

Madrid don't seem to have that problem. It's a burden of responsibility that does not weigh as heavily on Ronaldo and will perhaps favour him over the course of the season. With two of the finest strikers in world football alongside him and Xabi Alonso pulling the strings in midfield, Ronaldo can feel at ease knowing the goals will come.

Does this favour the Portuguese and allow him greater chance of becoming the top scorer in La Liga? Perhaps if he weren't going head to head with Lionel Messi.

But the difficulties will soon come to the fore for Messi, who so far this season has shown that he is human and is sometimes incapable of doing what we all expect of him.

The Pichichi and overall top goal scorer in Europe will fall to the player with the greater supporting cast—a company of talent who will ease the responsibility to be the best and allow for those at the tip of the sword to shine to their maximum.


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