In a response to a rather exhaustive Messi vs Ronaldo article by Benjamin Morris here, I thought it would be a useful exercise to put Messi against Ronaldo in every aspect of their game, according to what happened on the pitch. Not on probabilities.
That means, that convoluted terms like expected goal ratio or ‘passes longer than 50 yards from attacking mid to attacking third’, will count for a grand total of a naught.
Let’s stick to what materialized on the pitch and made an impact on the scorecard. Let’s also stick to simple metrics which show a clear cut picture of who is the better and more complete player even though using only statistics to compare the two, completely negates the fact that:
- Messi play for a substantially better national team than Ronaldo. Messi also plays with the national team against a substantially weak opposition than Ronaldo. Argentina, even without Messi, has the best strike force in the world in the form of Higuain, Tevez, Angel Di Maria, Lavezzi, Aguero, Pastore etc. At Portugal, it is only Ronaldo and if you’re being generous, Nani. In fact, let’s not even count Nani, he plays for Sporting afterall.
- Barcelona, even without Messi is a top team. Real Madrid on the other hand is considerably weaker when Ronaldo is not on the pitch. Add to that the fact that everything Barcelona does has to pass through Messi (otherwise Messi gets grumpy and stops running altogether).
- Real Madrid on the other hand plays to gain from Ronaldo’s strength points. The system isn’t built for Ronaldo. It’s built for counter attacking football which is favorable for players like Ronaldo, Bale and Benzema to shine.
Anyway, moving on to the numbers.
Scoring a goal is the hardest thing to do in football and for some reason. Looking at Messi and Ronaldo though, and you could be forgiven to think otherwise.
Both Ronaldo and Messi score goals for fun. Yes both of them, not just Messi. And we can only compare Messi to Ronaldo as these two players are head and shoulder above the rest.
Scoring goals is great but to really gauge how much better (or worse?) Messi is as compared to Ronaldo (compared only to Ronaldo because other players don’t matter here.) we need to look at not only the number of goals both of them scored but also the number of goals both of them have scored in various situations.
For the sake of simplicity and comparison, we’ll take their records from the season Ronaldo moved to Spain.
Of course, some might say Ronaldo gets the worse end of this deal because he scored those mammoth 40 odd goals with Manchester United and then another 25 before moving to Real Madrid.
That is true but that (somewhat. I want to give Messi some edge here) also means that Messi’s goal hauls of 15 plus goals and 35 plus goal in the two seasons preceding Ronaldo’s first season at Real Madrid also don’t count.
So all in all, it is pretty fair to impose these three conditions:
- Messi will be compared to Ronaldo and only to Ronaldo because Ronaldo is the only player who has challenged Messi’s supremacy all these years.
- Counting will start from the point when both played in La Liga. Well for Messi it has always been La Liga (a dark spot on his resume to some extent) but for Ronaldo it means that his Manchester United record will count for very little.
- Goals scored in lowly tournaments will not count for both players. That also would hold true the rest of the charts in the post. So Messi’s Maradona goal against Getafe won’t count because it was in Copa Del Rey semi-final. Ronaldo’s bullet header against Barcelona also will not count because it was in Copa Del Rey final. We’ll stick with elite tournaments (as in the case of clubs) which are La Liga, Champions League and International (excluding friendlies). The rest don’t count in anyway
- when numbers would be averaged per season, they would be averaged for 38 games and not the actual amount of games played. One could pick any random number but 38 seems to be more appropriate since it is the number of games a team plays in La Liga per season. Every season.
Moving on to charts then since I sincerely hope that this post will enlighten a many “Messi the best ever” advocates.
The charts clearly shows that in the category of scoring goals (the one aspect of their game that is absolutely vital aside from all relatively worthless statistics like dribbling,passing,shots whatever the case may be), Ronaldo, at worst, matches Lionel Messi. (update: Ronaldo now has 303 goals to Messi’s 299, since 2009 in major tournaments like La Liga, Champions League, World Cups, Euros)
Messi and Ronaldo both play, for their respective teams as men who are required to score goals first and create goals later. So, in the most important category of all for any striker, the number of goals scored, Ronaldo just edges past Lionel Messi.
How some writers have conjured up that Messi is impossible is something I can’t comprehend.
The charts, rather make it clear that it is actually C.Ronaldo who has the better goal-per-game ratio than Lionel Messi.
Forget the arguments that Messi plays in the most attacking team Europe has ever seen while Ronaldo has to constantly evolve himself according to, whoever is at the helm at Real Madrid.
Under Jose Mourinho, it was pure counter attacking football from Real Madrid. Under Ancelotti, it moved towards the Barcelona model with a lot of passing and team goals.
Messi on the other hand has been playing under the same philosophy since the beginning of his days at Barcelona. From Rijkaard to Guardiola to Luis Enrique. Every coach made sure that they got the best out of Lionel Messi even at the expense of other players.
Ronaldo on the other hand had to adjust to Mourinho’s defensive style for some games and under Ancelotti he had to improve his composure throughout the game because the built up was much more controlled this time around.
Though it has to said, both these players have notched up some staggering numbers. The likes of which, will probably, never be repeated. And if scoring this amount of goals doesn’t automatically get you a place in Top 10 all time list then I don’t know what would or should.
Pele seems adamant, but Messi and Ronaldo have carved up their place in history like nobody else.
Before we get to the other figures, another ‘revelation’ of sorts can be seen by observing the minutes taken per goal. Ronaldo gets the better of Lionel Messi there as well.
Messi, with all his experience in La Liga since the beginning of his professional career at Barcelona C, B and then the big FC Barcelona lags behind Ronaldo in the amount of minutes he takes to score a goal. The figure, (data was taken from whoscored.com) shows that Lionel Messi of Barcelona takes over four minutes more than Ronaldo to score a goal.
Considering that Ronaldo started his professional career as a pure winger in Portugal and then turned himself into a goal scoring winger at Manchester United (C.Ronaldo actually became the highest goal scorer winger in the history of Manchester United).
Paul Scholes actually was quoted as saying that it was unbelievable that Ronaldo could score so many goals from the position he played that season (2007-2008).
And that wasn’t even the beginning for Ronaldo as he again transformed himself into a in-drifting striker at Real Madrid and broke more records.
I wouldn’t like comment about Messi for now, but Ronaldo’s evolution as a player definitely puts him up at the top of the pile in terms of adaptability.
Now, it should be unmistakable that Ronaldo is more effective in the area than Lionel Messi. That is pretty unusual for a big who is as big as Ronaldo.
Most people would have given the advantage to Lionel Messi for being more of a dribbler inside the penalty area since his short stature and quick acceleration allows him to shift weight and wrong foot unfortunate defenders more quickly than Ronaldo.
It is bit of a shock really that Ronaldo, playing for the team he plays for i.e Real Madrid, can be so lethal inside the penalty area.
Ronaldo is mostly known for his running speed, dribbling and power shots. All these attributes would point to a player who would be:
- great on the wings
- would be good with the crosses with both feet
- able to score lots of goals from outside the area.
As it turns out, Ronaldo is all of the above and more since he has notched up 212 goals for Real Madrid since his arrival from Manchester United, to Messi’s 207 for Barcelona since 2009.
Given the system Messi plays under, it almost defies logic that Ronaldo would be the one who scores more from positions inside the penalty area.
Barcelona is notoriously brilliant for their tiki-taka football. Lionel Messi along with the likes of Iniesta, Xavi (now has left Barcelona), Pedro, Neymar and Suarez play lots of short, accurate and cunning passes in and around the penalty area of the opposition to frustrate them and then open them up like a can of beans.
And no doubt, this system which Barcelona employs is most conducive to scoring goals while being close to the opponent’s goal. Messi’s tally of 207 from inside the box is seriously insane. But Ronaldo’s tally is even insaner.
But let’s move even closer to the goal now. Let’s move inside the six yard box. Here we see, as expected, that Lionel Messi takes the lead with 46 goals to Ronaldo’s 43.
Again, the margins are so close between these two that it is almost impossible to separate them as players.
Messi’s exploits inside the six yard box has a very logical explanation. As mentioned above, the tiki-taka football.
Barcelona is a very light team in terms of weight when it comes to football. Most of it’s players are short, fast and agile.
Hence, they are able to move rather quickly and with purpose inside the penalty area of any opposition. Their low center of gravity ensures that can skip past ill-fated defenders more quickly than any other set of players in world football.
Plus, the fact that Barcelona coaching staff work extremely hard on perfect passing triangles. Barcelona is the amongst the top clubs in Europe but when it comes to short passes inside the penalty area, Barcelona is simply in a league of its own.
Messi’s tally from inside the six yard box is a testament to his movement inside the six yard box, his quick feet, sharp thinking and the usefulness of the system Barcelona staff makes them play in.
Ronaldo’s tally is equally stunning. When you have a player as quick as Ronaldo on your team, there is only one way to play the game, that is hard direct counter attacking brand of football.
And it has worked out pretty well so far for Ronaldo. Looking back at his Manchester United days, I don’t think many would have been able to predict Ronaldo becoming such a devastating player in six yard attacking range.
If we come to goals scored from outside the box, again, we have a situation which disregards common perception that just because Ronaldo is able to shoot harder, he might be in the lead when it comes to scoring from long ranges.
The chart clearly shows that Messi just edges Ronaldo with 46 goals to Ronaldo’s 44 from goals scored outside the penalty area.
There is a catch though. Ronaldo’s goals from outside the area are mostly from way outside the area, we are talking about 20 plus yards at the least, sometimes even 35 yards out.
Messi on the other hand, indeed scores more from outside the box, but his long range goals are from ‘just’ outside the area.
Which still takes a lot of skill but in terms of longitudinal range, Ronaldo has more versatility.
Where Messi excels is in the curved shot deparment. He can take shots from unbelievable angles which bamboozles hexed defenders as well as goalkeeper who have never been trained to expect a shot from such tight angles.
Messi clearly takes the edge from Ronaldo when it comes to goals scored from curved shots.
In short, Messi has the edge when it comes to scoring goals from curved shots while Ronaldo has the edge when it comes to scoring sniper shots from way outside the penalty area.
Both have been able to score some wonder goals in their careers and there is little doubt that they will continue to do so in the future.
Ronaldo vs Messi: Goals Scored From Different Situations
When it comes to comparing the best of the best, we don’t just count goals. We count where those goals were scored from and then we go one step further and dissect the numbers into categories such as situational goals. The chart below will certainly help understand the concept (which isn’t hard to grasp to begin with, but anyway):
In Goals scored from open play deparment, we notice that Messi races ahead of Ronaldo with 217 goals to Ronaldo’s 155.
Messi lead in this situation can be explained by Barcelona’s style that is so favorable to players who like to score goals from open plays.
Barcelona is a top side and being a top side, it is very accurate with its passing percentage. The amount of work Barcelona players put in perfecting their through balls and ball over the top of defenses is mind boggling.
And since Barcelona can hardly do damage from the air, they double up on the time spent in practising their passing skills which allows them to open up teams with razor sharp ground passing.
Add to that the fact that most of Barcelona players, at least their core team, has been playing with each other for over a decade. With Barcelona:
- Lionel Messi is in his 12th season for Barcelona,
- Iniesta is in his 14th season,
- Xavi who left last season had 17 seasons while
- Puyol spent his whole career with Barcelona.
- If you count:
- Daniel Alves 7 seasons,
- Pique’s 8 seasons
- Abidal’s 8 seasons
- Victor Valdes 12 seasons,
then you’re talking about a bunch of players who have played with each other for the whole duration of their peak careers.
That is a rarity in modern football and hence gives Barcelona a huge advantage against their opponents without giving weight to actual players on the team sheets.
It builds up team chemistry and hence every player knows where and how, to find the other player who might be in a position to create a chance or score a goal.
Compare Messi’s Barcelona to Ronaldo’s Real Madrid now. Real Madrid’s current experience goes something like this:
- Luka Modric 4 seasons
- Toni Kroos 2 seasons
- Ronaldo 7 seasons
- Benzema 7 seasons
- Marcelo 10 seasons
Now, it isn’t Barcelona’s fault that Real Madrid keeps jolting it’s first team squad on a season by season basis, but it doesn’t change the verifiable truth that Barcelona has a huge edge over every other team when it comes to forming core partnerships in every corner on the pitch.
Since, Ronaldo doesn’t have the same kind of chemistry (the kind Messi has between his teammates )between him and his teammates, it seems likely that he is unable to connect with his teammates on a as regular basis as Messi, to go through defensive lines and score goals.
Ronaldo’s traits of sheer pace and strength also isn’t suitable to scoring goals from open plays. Of course he is way above your average joe even when it comes to getting the ball into the back of the net from open plays, but what Ronaldo really excels at is counter attacks.
Counter attacks, require minimalistic amount of coordination with your partners when compared with open plays and Ronaldo razes the ground with his 35 goals to Messi’s 17.
While initially it might astound you that Ronaldo has scored just 13 goals Messi’s 10 from set pieces, a deeper look will explain the stats appropriately.
Regardless if your prefer Ronaldo or Messi, one certainty that can never be challenged is Ronaldo’s heading ability is like country miles ahead of Messi’s aerial ability.
How did then Messi get so close to Ronaldo’s goals from set pieces. It’s simple. Messi relies on his ability to change his positions inside the penalty area quicker than everyone else.
That allows him to be effective on rebounds from free kicks or simple tap ins on the far post from long balls.
Just that we are on the safe side, goals scored from free kicks does not mean goals scored from free kicks. We’ll get to Ronaldo’s and Messi’s free kicks later, right now the charts only show instances where Messi and Ronaldo scored goal from a set piece taken by another player.
In Ronaldo’s case it would be Kroos while for Barcelona it could be Iniesta, Dani Alves or whoever since they don’t have a specialist in that department.
Probably because Barcelona doesn’t need someone who is a free kick specialist because most of their plays constitute accurate ground, short, passes and quick unpredictable movement off the ball to catch voodooed defenders napping.
Ronaldo’s 13 goals from set pieces, might have all come from headers but you can bet that Messi’s didn’t.
But to each his own. Ronaldo plays to his strengths while Messi to his own. No one can fault Messi for not scoring from headers and you certainly can’t fault Ronaldo for not being miles ahead of Messi in terms of goals scored from set pieces.
The next category is goals scored from penalty kicks. Cristiano Ronaldo has been bashed in the media for scoring too many goals from penalty kicks and to be fair to his critics, he does score a lot of penalty kick goals.
But is it really Ronaldo’s fault?
If defenders can’t contain him or handle him inside the penalty area because of his quick feet and obscene strength on the ball, then Ronaldo is more than obliged to take a dive when they do take him down with a sliding tackle that misses the ball.
As Alex Ferguson (former Manchester United coach) said in 2008 that Ronaldo is one of the most courageous players on the pitch for Manchester United. Ferguson also stated that Ronaldo should go down if he feels that he was illegally challenged as their is no point in acting as a ‘tough guy’ and keep enduring pain from reckless tackles.
In fact, Cristiano Ronaldo of Real Madrid should be recognized for his penalty kick consistency. He is one of the all time greats in penalty kicks as he rarely misses and puts them in the absolute corner of the net with power almost ninety percent of the time.
If there is one weakness in Messi’s game, then it’s his penalty kicks and he has missed some vital ones. The one against Chelsea in the semi-finals of the Champions League in 2012 was one and then just this season he missed another one.
Some might think that scoring a penalty kick is a piece of cake, but you still have to score them to make them count. If Messi’s experience tells us anything, then it’s that even the best players miss a lot of penalties.
Ronaldo, isn’t one of those ‘best players’. The fact that Messi has trouble scoring penalties, is a testament to Ronaldo’s ability on free kicks. He rarely misses and hence makes sure that if teams do foul him (or his teammates), he can make penalise them duly for halting a goal scoring opportunity earlier.
With that said, we can clearly see in the chart that Messi has scored 39 goals from penalties compared to Ronaldo’s 56.
Now, that clearly indicates that Ronaldo has been targeted by the media unfairly, since Messi has scored a ton of them himself.
Goals Scored In Terms Of Body Parts Used Since 2009-2010 season.
The chart above tells us nothing new about the rivalry between Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi in terms of goals scored. They are pretty neck to neck, and in fact, Ronaldo just edges Messi in terms of overall goals scored in competitions that are worth more than mere pennies.
Perhaps the most eye-popping stat that chart displays is the amount of goals Messi has scored with his right foot. Yes, you read that right. Messi has indeed score a goal more than Ronaldo when it comes to scoring goals from one’s wrong foot. How is that even possible?
Ronaldo has been known as a wicked two footed winger all his life while on the other hand, Messi has always been criticized for not having a solid right foot. Well, the simple explanation is that Ronaldo scores difficult goals with both feet.
While Messi, always up to one of his tricks, scores goals with his right foot only when the goal is open and the keeper is begging him to miss. So instead of finishing a move off with his left foot, Messi gets creative and strikes the ball into the back of, in most cases, an open net. Ronaldo, has one of the most accomplished left foots in Europe at the moment.
He can pass with it, he can shoot with it and he can definitely finish with it (both with a curl shot and a power shot). Messi on the other hand, rarely passes the ball with his right foot and certainly doesn’t score goals with his right foot if there is the slightest chance of him missing.
Of Course, there is the valid argument that Messi doesn’t really need to use his right foot since his left foot runs the whole gamut from curl shots to chipped goals over the keeper’s head. Time for some video evidence:
Just ignore the commentary in the video below.
As mentioned before, Messi’s right foot is about as useful as a grave robber in a crematorium. It’s limited and very inconsistent. The fact that a ‘brilliant’ Messi goal from the right foot had to come from near the penalty spot gives an indication that his right isn’t really something that’s dependable.
When it comes to scoring goals from their preferred weapon of choice (right for Ronaldo and left for Messi), true to type, Messi slips past Ronaldo by the tightest of margins by scoring 235 goals with his left foot compared to Ronaldo’s 204 goals from his right.
A 31 goal margin might seem a lot but average that over the course of seven seasons and that comes down to about four goals a season.
The last category has a one sided judgement really. Ronaldo demolishes Messi in the heading department by quite a margin given that not many forwards score goals from header anymore. Messi, on his best day, is able to sneak between defenders and score with a free header like he did against Manchester United in the Champions League final 2009.
He slipped between Ferdinand and Vidic, and scored from the easiest header one could hope to have in a given final. Conversely, Ronaldo is head and shoulders above all other attackers in Europe when it comes to scoring goals from headers.
He doesn’t just score goals from headers, he scores impossible goals from headers, like the one against Sevilla last season.
Notice how Ronaldo is able to get unreal power behind his header with such loop even when his body is moving backwards away from the goal. Messi might have surprised many with the amount of goals he has scored with his right foot (still ahead of Ronaldo by a single strike) but Ronaldo, as expected, is off the charts with his heading ability.
When it comes to the single most valuable statistic in football i.e scoring goals. Ronaldo is just ahead of Lionel Messi. Messi might be a more influential player on the field for Barcelona, an assertion that will be fiercely challenged in the consequent paragraphs but when it comes to doing the most difficult action in football, i.e score a goal, Ronaldo reigns supreme over everyone else including Messi.
Ronaldo vs Messi In Terms Of Total Shots Since 2009
Second to goals scored, the value of a forward is measured by the amount of danger he creates in and around the penalty area. How many times he tests the goalkeeper and can the player in question skip past players to create an opening to take a shot in the first place.
Besides, taking shots on goal collectively raises the morale of the team especially in difficult away games and lets the home team know that the visitors are not hesitant and more than willing to make it a tough night for the hosts.
There is a reason why football’s ancient wisdom says “If you don’t take shots, you will never going to score”. Let’s go ahead and compare Messi with Ronaldo in terms of shots taken in major tournaments since 2009. So in terms of making your presence felt and heralding your arrival on the pitch as an attacker who wants to ‘attack’ not play just to get a paycheck, Cristiano Ronaldo of Real Madrid is miles ahead of Lionel Messi of Barcelona.
Cristiano has taken a mammoth 1933 shots for the whites compared to Lionel’s 1432. As divulged before in this post, the fact that Ronaldo can be this much ahead of Barcelona’s Messi in terms of shots taken is nothing less than bedazzling.
To put it in simple terms, Barcelona is an all out attack team. It attacks, it defends from the front and rarely is on the back foot in a given football match. Real Madrid, is probably the second most attacking team in Europe but a distant second to Barcelona.
Real Madrid’s approach to most matches is a balanced one. Mostly, Real Madrid defend exclusively in their own half which means that players have to get back to defend a lot more when compared with Barcelona players.
Consequently, when Real Madrid do go forward, there aren’t many men available in advanced positions to support the attack. That should translate to Ronaldo taking less shots than Messi, since most of the time Ronaldo has much less support at the front than Messi.
Common sense also dictates that since Real Madrid commit less men than Barcelona in attack, the men who do go in attack get marked by more defenders. The diagram sort of supports our hypothesis that Messi is better at taking shots in tight spaces inside the six yard box.
Since one can’t possibly dribble his way to the six yard box against any opposition, it points towards Barcelona committing men into the penalty box of opponents and then carving them open with short, sharp and crisp passing.
Even with Barcelona’s tiki-taka football, Ronaldo isn’t far behind from taking shots from six yards since counter attacks also provide opportunities to attackers to make runs inside the penalty box to get on the end of crosses or low hard passes across the fact of opponent’s goal.
Messi has 101 shots to Ronaldo’s 90 from the six yard box. However, the area from where rationality suggests that an attacker would do things on his own to make space and rattle goalkeepers, Ronaldo again takes the lead over Lionel Messi.
Ronaldo has taken 918 shots to Messi’s 810 from outside the six yard box but inside the penalty area since 2009. From out of box position, where a forward has to exclusively rely on his own skill to even get a sniff at an opponent’s goal, Ronaldo has an even bigger lead of Lionel.Ronaldo’s 926 shots from outside the box dwarf Messi’s respectable total of 521.
The charts shown above comprehensively show that Ronaldo not only reigns supreme over Messi in terms of sheer number of shots but also in terms of minutes taken per shot. Ronaldo takes a shot every 12 minutes compared with 17 minutes per shot for Messi.
Some might argue that Messi is perhaps more considerate, restrained and calculating when deciding to take shots (or not take shots), which is a valid point. But Ronaldo’s philosophy and his numbers, still gives any team a better chance of asserting its dominance in any given football match.
The charts clearly corroborate what most experts seem to agree on, that at home, teams can quickly establish the status quo by taking good amount of shots in a short amount of time and in away games, the visiting team can stop home teams from dictating the terms of play.
Ronaldo’s style of play checks both boxes.
Shot From Various Situations Since 2009
Ronaldo’s dominance over Messi in terms of taking shots on goal was established with the previous diagram. If we analyze those shots with respect to the situations from where they were taken , we come to some strange conclusions.
First of all, notice the little bar that is stacked on top of both bars. That counts for penalties taken in terms of shots. For penalties score by each player, refer to previous diagrams in the goals scored section.
Messi has taken 47 penalties compared to Ronaldo’s 63. Again, the myth that Ronaldo takes so many penalties has been busted. Because even though Ronaldo takes more penalties than Messi, and perhaps any other player, the difference between their numbers (over a period of seven years Ronaldo has taken 16 more penalties than Messi) isn’t at all significant enough to warrant Ronaldo the nickname ‘penaldo’.
The problem seems to be with the amount of penalties Ronaldo ‘scores’. And in fact that does seem to be a problem as shown in previous charts. The simple conclusion that can be drawn here is that Ronaldo doesn’t necessarily takes ‘a lot more’ penalties than Lionel Messi.
But he definitely scores more of them.
Ronaldo and Messi also come pretty close in terms of shots taken from open plays. In fact, Ronaldo edges him in this department as well even though Messi’s main source of attack come from open plays while Ronaldo has to play for counter attacks and air balls.
Messi’s one dimensional shooting numbers (bulk of his shots come from open plays) is a testament to the fact that he is not as complete a player as Ronaldo.
Ronaldo’s share of shots taken from the head and on counter attacks, is more balanced than Messi’s distribution of shots in terms of situations.
If this chart proves anything, it’s that Ronaldo contributes way more than Messi from counter attacks, but that could be down to the Real Madrid preferred mode of attack. Paradoxically, he also contributes more from open plays.
How can Ronaldo possibly outstrip Lionel Messi in terms of shots taken from open play? Ronaldo is clearly the more aggressive of the two players and definitely more willing to take on the opposition than Lionel Messi.
If it counts to anything then, Ronaldo is also at a distance from Messi when it comes to shots taken from set pieces. That could be down to Ronaldo’s better aerial ability and penalty box awareness.
Remember, from the previous chart, it was clearly visible that Ronaldo had taken more shots from inside the penalty area than Messi, who had, in turn, taken more shots than Ronaldo from inside the six yard box.
Who is More Accurate Of The Two When It Comes To Shots?
The bar chart above gives a broad perspective of the accuracy Ronaldo and Messi are able to achieve in their shots and the body parts they prefer to use while bludgeoning teams with their hammer shots.
Twenty-Seven percent of Messi’s shots are inaccurate to Ronaldo’s thirty five percent. So Messi after all is the more accurate shot taker of the two. But does his accuracy percentage justifies the vastly lower number of shots?
It would be wise to remember that, the shots a striker misses even by inch is counted as off target. So there is no way to tell if Messi is indeed the more accurate of the two in terms of getting close to scoring a goal with a shot.
What can be said here is that, again, these two are pretty close in terms of what they do for their teams on the pitch.
Ronaldo’s on-target shots make up for 42 percent of his total shots which is just few percentage points lower than Messi’s 48 percent. And that’s about the only statistic in shots taken category where Messi has the ascendancy.
22 percent of the shots Ronaldo has taken since 2009 were counted as blocked shots compared with Messi’s 24 percent. That illustrates that Ronaldo’s ability to get away from defenders and open up space for his shots is superior to Lionel Messi’s.
The most interesting fact that comes out from the chart above is the amount of times Ronaldo and Messi, both, have hit the post. Ronaldo’s 47 just edges Messi’s 45. If you average that over a period of six seasons that comes to about 8 posts a season for Ronaldo and about seven and a half posts per season for Messi.
The most straightforward number that demonstrates Ronaldo’s dominance over Messi is the heading one. Ronaldo towers over Lionel Messi with 228 headers vs Messi’s 93. Astonishingly, Ronaldo’s average comes close to 40 headers a season. That is, to say the least, mind boggling considering the fact that he is probably the most dangerous striker in the world when the ball is on the ground.
To be the world’s best in both aerial and ground numbers is simply impossible. Messi’s ground shot numbers could be explained away because that is his style of play. Messi can’t be effective from the air or from indirect free kicks so it is logical that he has to put up adequate numbers from his ground play.
How Ronaldo beats Messi to ground numbers and still come out on top in aerial numbers is truly exceptional.
Messi’s one-dimensional play can be gauged from the fact that about 81 percent of Lionel Messi’s shots come from his trusted left foot. On the other hand, Ronaldo takes about 67 percent of his shots from his lethal right foot.
That points to only one thing. Ronaldo can be more dynamic with the ball when it comes to situations where he has to get a shot away on goal (or close to the goal depending on how you look at it). And perhaps this is the reason why Ronaldo is fo far ahead of Lionel Messi in terms of shots taken since his arrival to Real Madrid from Manchester United in 2009.
Messi’s wildly skewed shot percentage from his left foot could be down to the quality of his left foot. A legitimate question that could be asked is why Messi would even bother to use his right foot when his left foot is so much better at doing everything on the pitch.
Well, the same argument could be made for Ronaldo. Why would he try to score goals with his left foot or even be so wonderful with his heading ability when his right foot can do an excellent job.
Being two footed simply allows players to be more unpredictable in their plays and hence defenders can’t anticipate their moves easily when they run at them with the ball.
Ronaldo forms the perfect balance when it comes to body parts used for taking his shots. His left foot counts for about 20 percent of his shots while the rest of the shots come from his head.
Messi on the other hand only takes 11 percent of his shots from his left foot and even lower number of shots with his head.
Not that Messi needs to be a reasonable header of the ball, but it certainly wouldn’t hurt if Messi could develop some variety into his play as he enters his post peak years.
The last column (which is barely visible) is labelled as ‘others’.
In Ronaldo’s case, the ‘other’ body part was probably the upper part of thigh a couple of seasons ago but in Messi’s case, I think most of us know the answer.
For a player most regard as one of the greatest players of all time, that behaviour on the field was ignominious. The least said about that, the better but it does bring a bad vibe when professionals cheat on the field of play.
Messi vs Ronaldo: Assists Since 2009
(Through Ball – An attempted/accurate pass between opposition players in their defensive line to find an onrushing teammate (running through on goal)
Right off the bat we can learn that Messi is indeed the better assist maker of the two. Messi, since 2009, has been able to notch up an assist in a given match 105 times compared to Ronaldo’s 81.
The difference comes down to Messi having made 24 more assists than Ronaldo over the period of six to seven seasons.
That comes down to about 4 more assists for Lionel Messi than Ronaldo on a per season basis. Not to say that Messi isn’t the better assist maker of the two but the media banter Ronaldo receives of being a finisher rather than a creator now seems total nonsense.
And if we can slightly alter the numbers by taking out the assists Messi made from corners and indirect free kicks, since Real Madrid have a designated player for that who isn’t named Ronaldo, then Messi’s total assist count amounts to about 96 to Ronaldo’s 79.
Now, if can just step back a little and compare the finishers Messi has played with at Barcelona to what Ronaldo has had to deal with at Real Madrid, then we should be able to come to an objective assessment of why Messi has been able to put up marginally more number of assists than Ronaldo.
Have a look at the players Messi has had finishing off his through balls ( including corners, low passes across the face of the goal, indirect free kicks) at Barcelona since 2009:
- Thierry Henry
- Zlatan Ibrahimovic
- Alexis Sanchez
- David Villa
- Luis Suarez
And now have a look at the strike partners Ronaldo has had at Real Madrid since the season 2009-2010:
- Alvaro Morata
We can easily come to the conclusion that Messi has had the better strike force with him at Barcelona than Ronaldo at Real Madrid. And right now, we are not even considering the scenario where the whole of the Barcelona team adjusts to accommodate Lionel Messi season after season while at Real Madrid Ronaldo has to adapt to whatever structure the new coach puts out for the team.
Benzema and Neymar might be bracketed in the same quality of strikers but the margin of skills gap between the likes of Henry,Ibrahimovic,Sanchez,Villa,Suarez and Raul,Chicharito,Moratta cannot even be set side by side.
As far as the kinds of assists both players i.e Ronaldo and Messi, make for their respective teams, Ronaldo comes close to Messi in almost every kind.
Assists made from crosses put Ronaldo at 11 and Messi at 14 while assists made from through balls have Ronaldo at 11 and Messi at 42. A gap of almost 30 assists. Messi makes almost four times as many assists as Ronaldo from through balls.
But, that doesn’t necessarily mean that Messi’s through ball is four times a good as Ronaldo’s. What that gap merely confirms is the fact that Ronaldo starts his plays from much wider (and in most cases further up the pitch) position than Messi, who almost always plays wherever he feels like it on the day.
What the radial chart above does tell us explicitly is that Ronaldo makes 59 assists to Messi’s 48 from positions marked as ‘others’.
The ‘others’ category consists of all those occasions where Ronaldo did the hard work by dribbling down the wing past two, three player and put in a low cross across the face of the goal for another teammates for a simple tap in goal.
And since Real Madrid mostly play a counter attacking style of football, logic suggests that it would indeed be the case since in counter attacking football a player (who plays in Ronaldo’s position) is more likely to run down the wings and square the ball into the box for another teammate than calculate a through ball from a playmaking position behind the striker or thereabout.
With Barcelona’s arrangement of players on the field, a through ball has more probability of being an effective source of goals rather than from situations categorized as ‘others’ in the radial chart above.
Therefore, Messi has more through ball assists while Ronaldo has greater number of assists from plays excluding through balls.
Mostly it comes down to the style of the player in question. Messi likes to go past two or three players and score a goal while Ronaldo prefers to score goals from sniper shots that remove the constraint of going past defenders.
Similarly, Ronaldo is the kind of player who likes to run down the wing and put in a low hard ball across the face of the goal for one of his teammates to latch onto.
While Messi’s preference (since his positioning on the pitch is more central) is always to look for a through ball, when is not scoring goals that is, rather than go down the wing and put in a cross or something.
Some of it might also have to do with the fact that at Real Madrid, Ronaldo doesn’t have partners who like to make runs that are conducive to through balls. Benzema and Bale mostly lurk inside the penalty box when Ronaldo has the ball.
Conversely, Messi has players with him who are experts at making sneaky runs off the shoulder of the last defender. So a through ball makes life much easier for Messi rather than a tiring run on the wing leading to a pass across the goal for a tap in goal for someone else.
Messi vs Ronaldo in terms of Key Passes on the Pitch Since 2009
Key passes are passes made by any player that leads to a shot on goal by a teammate.
In short, a key pass is to an assist what a shot-taken is to a goal-scored.
Ronaldo has been accused by some sections of the media for being a selfish player when on the field.
But as shown in the case of “Messi is more of a creator and Ronaldo is more of a finisher”, Ronaldo indeed comes uncomfortably close to Messi in this department as well.
Ronaldo and Messi are pretty neck to neck at generating key passes from crosses. Messi has been able to rack up 25 key passes from corners. And since Ronaldo doesn’t take corners for Real Madrid, he has zero contribution from that position.
Regardless, Messi overshadows Ronaldo in terms of key passes executed from through balls. The reasons for this anomaly has been explained several times in the previous paragraphs but mostly it’s down to the separate and distinct systems they play in for their respective clubs and personal preference.
Similar to case with key passes from corners, Messi has 32 key passes from free kicks to Ronaldo’s five. I can’t remember the last time Ronaldo took a long free kick or an indirect free kick on the field for Real Madrid since Real Madrid have had the likes of Xabi Alonso, James Rodriguez and Toni Kroos for those type of situations.
While Barcelona, for all the star players it has at every position, has never had an indirect free kick specialist in its ranks.
So as with everything else at Barcelona, when the situations demands it the honors go to Lionel Messi to take those as well.
However, if we compare the total number of key passes produced in terms of length then the chart shows that Ronaldo is indeed competitive with Lionel Messi having made 44 long key passes to Messi’s 52 and 485 short key passes to Messi’s 581.
Messi’s lead in terms of short key passes, if averaged for per season, comes to 16 more than Ronaldo. Which further comes down to 1 key pass per 2 games approximately more than Ronaldo.
Lionel Messi’s advantage over Ronaldo in key passes category does seem to suggest that Messi is indeed the more influential player on the pitch for Barcelona.
But the question that should be asked is, who are the shot takers at Real Madrid apart from Ronaldo?
Apart from Benzema (and now Bale), there is hardly another player at Real Madrid who likes to take shots on goal. Looking at the Barcelona squad, well, the list is endless with the likes of Pedro, Sanchez,Villa etc even we exclude Neymar and Suarez for the moment.
Even in the case of Karim Benzema, Real Madrid have a striker who isn’t really a striker. Benzema does have a reliable finishing right foot on him but when on the field, he is more attuned to setting up teammates rather than score himself.
Gareth Bale is also more of a winger and has just started to drift inside to take shots on goal. Otherwise, he either scores with individual skill or with his devastating free kicks.
So Ronaldo is left with very few opportunities to rack up key passes statistic compared with Barcelona’s Lionel Messi.
Who’s Better Between Ronaldo and Messi If We Take Out Goals Scored, Shots Taken and Assists Made
What that really means is, how effective are Ronaldo and Messi when they are not scoring goals (which doesn’t happen very often), taking shots, making assists or completing key passes.
Elite teams don’t allow players, no matter how exceptional, to score goals or take shots at their own whim. And it is in those situations where players like Ronaldo and Messi have to transform themselves from being destroyers on the field to ordinary folk who pass and move with their teammates.
Both are comparable in terms of accurate crosses made.One would think Ronaldo being a former winger for Manchester United and Sporting Lisbon, would have the edge over Messi on this one but that is certainly not the case.
Ronaldo has produced 111 accurate crosses since 2009 to Messi’s 110, for his teammates.
No surprises there. With Ronaldo being more comfortable on his wrong foot, he would probably have more chances of putting in those wicked crosses from both wings for the likes of Benzema and Bale to get a head onto.
Messi’s counter is a tad bit unexpected since Barcelona generally don’t play the cross game and even if they do, they don’t have the players who can take advantage of a good cross.
Now Suarez has come into the mix so may be Messi’s crosses would have some output afterall.
However, if one can just mouse over the inaccurate crosses section, it looks like Messi is far superior to Ronaldo in terms of accuracy percentage with his crosses.
Messi has made just 43 inaccurate crosses since 2009 to Ronaldo’s 530. That is some defeat for Ronaldo given his roots go back to being a wide player.
Messi’s massive lead for accurate corners is also understandable since Ronaldo doesn’t take corners for Real Madrid. But even then, Messi’s capacity to take corners with such constancy is truly amazing.
Messi has notched up 248 accurate corners (and 130 inaccurate ones) to Ronaldo’s 15 (and 4).
Real Madrid’s coach Benitez certainly wouldn’t mind Ronaldo being this poor in terms of taking corners since Ronaldo’s primary responsibility is to score from corners, not to actually take corners.
The numbers for Messi could be misleading in this case because since Guardiola’s era, Barcelona has developed the tendency of taking short corners rather than proper classic ones.
As in, usually, the player taking the corner passes to another teammate who is standing close by or in some rare cases on top of penalty area.
Whoscored.com didn’t really have the statistics for that so, it is difficult to judge Messi on corners, accurate or inaccurate.
The same goes for the massive difference between Ronaldo and Messi when it comes to accurate/inaccurate free kicks.
Bear in mind, these are not free kicks shots, which we have dealt with earlier. These are the passes completed from free kicks since 2009 for both players.
At Real Madrid, Ronaldo simply doesn’t engage in those situations because that’s Toni Kroos’s designated burden.
There can’t be any doubt about the fact that Messi has the greater numbers for passes made, accurate ones as well as the inaccurate ones.
Part of it could be down to Barcelona’s tiki-taka football philosophy. But let’s not ignore the fact that more short passes doesn’t automatically translates to a better player or more effective player. It is what you do with those passes that matter.
A study on Ronaldo’s (and Messi’s) passing numbers as a percentage of total passes completed by Real Madrid (and Barcelona respectively) would definitely help in understanding the enormous gap between both the players.
Moreover, Real Madrid’s more direct approach to scoring and creating goals puts Ronaldo is a massively disadvantageous position in this case.
Ronaldo’s transformation from a player who dribbled a lot with the ball to a striker who scores a lot without the inefficiencies such as useless dribbles on the wings, not dribbling when a pass would be a more effective action cannot be more evidently illustrated.
On the other hand, Messi’s mastery of the dribbling art is fully illuminated in this simple bar chart. But that mastery comes at a cost. Messi’s numbers in terms of unsuccessful dribbles are also way ahead of Ronaldo’s.
Both are equally accomplished in terms of their control on the ball as Messi’s unsuccessful touches have amounted to 343 compared to Ronaldo’s 438. That comes down to about 15 less unsuccessful touches for Messi than Ronaldo per season.
The numbers might be in Messi’s favor but when it comes to precision, Ronaldo and Messi are again at par with each other. Messi has 41 percent of his total dribbles counted as unsuccessful ones to Ronaldo’s 48 percent.
The one key statistic that the chart does throw up rather unpredictably is the amount of times Messi has been dispossessed compared to Ronaldo. Messi has been dispossessed 750 times since 2009 compared to Ronaldo who has suffered the fate 503 times in approximately six seasons.
The rest is pretty self explanatory but readers would do well to understand that wherever Messi is able to put more more numbers than Ronaldo, Ronaldo is able to compensate for that in other areas.
For example, Messi has less than twice the number of successful dribbles than Ronaldo but Ronaldo more than makes up for that by posting aerial balls won numbers which are six times greater than that of Lionel Messi’s.
Similarly, Ronaldo is more careful with the ball at his feet than Messi as Messi has lost the ball more times than Ronaldo.
An understanding of how the dribble counter is incremented is a must. A dribble is counted as successful when a player takes on an opponent and successfully makes it past that opponent while retaining the ball.
If you don’t take on players, you don’t get to have a dribble on the scorecard.
Ronaldo simply doesn’t take on as many players as he used to in his Manchester United days compared to Messi at Barcelona.
The quality of a dribble also remains unanswered. Because Ronaldo doesn’t drop as deep as Messi in a given football match and is still more of a wideman who drifts into the penalty area rather than a central player, the chances of Ronaldo facing an opponent who isn’t a defender (for example an attacker tracking back to help the midfield or defense) is far less than Messi who recently got a lot of media attention for nutmegging James Milner (who has even played as a striker for Manchester City) way inside his own half.
Ronaldo simply doesn’t find himself in those sort of situations and unfortunately, the statistics for dribbles vs trained defenders were not available with whoscored.com.
This obviously doesn’t mean that Messi isn’t a master of the dribbling art, what this does mean is that his numbers are inflated due to Barcelona’s formation on the field and his tendency to drop deep and dribble past strikers and midfielders.
Not that there is anything wrong with that but compared with Ronaldo who almost always comes up against right backs and centre backs when attacking, it is a bit unfair.
In a nutshell, Messi likes to dribble more than Ronaldo. But he also ends up losing the ball more frequently and add to that the fact that Ronaldo’s success percentage with his dribbles is almost as good as Messi’s.
Enough about Attack, what about defensive inputs from Messi and Ronaldo?
Not that it matters since the fundamental role Ronaldo and Messi play for their clubs is to score goals and if not that, then maybe contribute an assist in a goal but it never hurts to take comparisons between players beyond the mere essentials.
Apparently it does seem that it is Messi who is the more accomplished of the two when it comes to defensive work off the ball. Messi has made about double the amount of tackles Ronaldo has since 2009.
But attempting a tackle is rather useless if you don’t end up winning the ball. In terms of successful tackles percentage Ronaldo clearly has the edge over Messi. Ronaldo’s successful tackle percentage is 68 compared to Messi’s 64 percent.
The statistics here don’t really take into account the fact that Messi rarely defends for Barcelona behind the past the halfway line. It is safe to assume that a majority of his successful tackles were against defenders and wing backs trying to play the ball from the back.
Ronaldo on the other hand, defends in his own half either on the flanks or in front of the back eight on the rare occasions when he does decide to help out the defense.
And that automatically gives him, compared to Messi, a higher probability of facing attackers and attacking midfielders who are trained to go past players.
The charts show that Messi, when it comes to defending against oncoming attackers, is rather poor as he has been dribbled past by 109 times compared to Ronaldo who has been dribbled past 57 times.
Ronaldo’s numbers are particularly impressive since Real Madrid defend much deeper than Barcelona and that means Ronaldo is likely to face wingers and attacking midfielder when in defensive positions.
Barcelona on the other hand defend very high up the pitch which usually translates to Messi facing center backs and wing backs when defending for Barcelona. Therefore, regardless of the fact that Ronaldo has superior numbers to Messi, he should be given more credit given the quality of dribblers Ronaldo is likely to face compared with Messi.
Now, even though Ronaldo defends when Real Madrid is on the back foot while Messi defends when Barcelona are on the front foot, Ronaldo’s interception numbers carry more weight compared to Messi. Even without that, his numbers are almost equal to that of Messi’s. So far both players have shown equal amount of defensive prowess for their respective clubs.
Ronaldo has committed 227 fouls while Messi has fouled other players 188 times since 2009. There is little doubt that Messi has the cooler head of the two. Ronaldo has the tendency to commit fouls (and consequently get sent off) against sides that mark him tight for the whole ninety minutes. Anything less and Ronaldo is easily able to keep a lid on his temper.
Both players have been ‘fouled’ almost an equal amount of times since 2009. So even though Messi has been able to put up groundbreaking numbers in the amount of dribbles since 2009, it turn out Ronaldo is right up there in terms of getting hacked down by defenders.
This indicates that the fear factor Ronaldo and Messi carry with their names has an equal impact on hapless defenders who are unlucky enough to play against them.
If Ronaldo, at this moment in his career, can be criticized for one aspect of his game then that’s his competence in avoiding offside traps. Ronaldo has been caught offside 243 times compared to Messi who has been stopped by the flag 144 times since 2009.
With that said, if you take into account that Real Madrid play a counter attacking style of football while Barcelona usually play possession football, then Messi’s numbers should be considered woeful.
Coming back to their defensive contributions, Ronaldo has cleared the ball for Real Madrid 165 times compared to Messi who has done it only four times in seven seasons. This stat alone strengthens the case that Ronaldo has to come back much deeper than Messi to defend and hence has lower amount of successful tackles because he comes up against better players who are with the ball.
That further backs up the claim that Real Madrid defend with more men than Barcelona and play in a more defensive style than Barcelona.
Ronaldo also blocks more shots and crosses than Messi. If there was every a statistic that would demonstrate Ronaldo’s authority over Lionel Messi in terms of his physical attributes than, these defensive achievements certainly fit the bill.
Messi however takes the lead in obstructing opponent’s passing lanes with 46 blocked passes to Ronaldo’s 27.
Lionel Messi’s marginally better numbers on blocked passes have more to do with how Barcelona set themselves up on the field rather than Messi’s individual defensive talents.
- When it comes to the most valuable (and crucial) job that a forward has to perform for his team i.e scoring goals, Ronaldo has leverage over Lionel Messi.
- However, Messi returns the favor in equal amount by having higher numbers in assists made and key passes executed since 2009 for Barcelona.
- Due to Messi’s positioning on the pitch and Barcelona’s philosophy of furnishing Lionel Messi with every opportunity to flourish, Messi has superior numbers in terms of dribbling, passing and crossing.
- Ronaldo is a wrecking machine when it comes to taking shots and demoralizing goalkeepers compared to Lionel Messi.
- Ronaldo is more multidimensional than Messi in terms of the body parts he has used to score his goals since 2009
- Ronaldo is lightyears ahead of Lionel Messi in aerial contributions while Messi has a slight advantage on the ground over Ronaldo.
- Ronaldo’s defensive actions also are more regular than Messi’s for Barcelona.
- Both are equally effective in terms of scoring goals with their wrong foot. As for the quality of those goals, Ronaldo has the supremacy.
- Apart from accuracy from dead ball situations and number of dribbles, Ronaldo either outperforms Lionel Messi or is always mightily close to him. Ronaldo doesn’t really take indirect free kicks, corners and long free kicks for Real Madrid so inferior numbers in those categories don’t make him the less effective player on the pitch.
- Messi is not ‘impossible’ by any means. He may be the best player in the world and might have the better dribbling skills when up against Ronaldo, but apart from that, they are very close in terms of talents and performance.
- Ronaldo despite his evolution from a pure winger to a pure striker, is able to put up numbers that aren’t far behind compared to Messi’s which is truly remarkable especially given the fact that Barcelona rarely change the system in which they play or the ideology that the club prides itself upon.
- There is some truth to the media reports that Ronaldo takes a lot of penalties but as shown in this study, Messi takes almost as much a Ronaldo. The difference, however, is that Ronaldo is more ruthless with his opportunities than Lionel Messi from the spot kicks.
- There is a good chance that Ronaldo would be able to put up similar numbers had he played for Barcelona but the prospect of Messi emulating his achievements for Barcelona, at Real Madrid is a rather bleak one.
(all statistics from whoscored.com)