The current era of soccer is dominated by two giants: Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo and Barcelona’s Lionel Messi. The two nemeses have scooped every individual award over the past decade, and despite their advanced ages (33 and 30, respectively), they show no signs of slowing down. As there can be only one, which of them is it? The phenomenal Portuguese Ronaldo or the one-team man Lionel Messi?
Here are three arguments for each side:
Advanced statistics proves Messi is better
Both Ronaldo and Messi have impressive stats, but a closer look at them proves Messi make decisions better and, more importantly, brings greater value to his team. Using a framework that was originally developed for baseball, The Economist rated Messi and Ronaldo goals based on their context and importance. These stats, called Expected Points Added (EPA), rate goals by their added win probability. Meaning, a winning goal in the last minute of the game is rated higher than the fourth goal scored in a 4-0 win. Messi’s EPA stands at 59.5 while Ronaldo’s is 50.4.
Moreover, Messi makes better decisions. Using a complex algorithm, a company called GoodCall values a player’s decision-making and Efficiency Per Match (EPM). This entails valuing each pass, shot, chance created or a dribble made by players, and then rating the player’s decision-making and efficiency. Messi’s EPM is 238, and he makes good decisions 0.63% of the time. Ronaldo’s EPM is 118 and his decision making rate stands only on 0.43%.
Messi is a better team player
Messi is not only an incredible scorer and gifted playmaker, he also makes everyone around him a better player. A true leader, he brings his team together. Not only does he have more assists and key passes than Ronaldo, he is always using his phenomenal vision to keep his teammates involved. He has great tactical intelligence, finding free spaces to move into, receiving the ball and then laying it off to a team-mate, to build attacks.
While Ronaldo is a more of an executor, who plays high up the pitch and scores great goals when given the chance, Messi, who can do that just as well, but is also comfortable dropping deep and keeping possession of the ball with his team. From these positions, he can send his colleagues on dangerous runs with pin-point passes. This versatility makes him that much better than Ronaldo.
Messi and Ronaldo differ mostly in their style. Ronaldo is a machine. He is an explosive player, with abnormal physical abilities and a huge amount of talent. Tall and strong and certainly one of the greatest players, Ronaldo doesn’t possess Messi’s magic.
The Argentine is a greater natural talent. He is a virtuoso, a magician. His dribbling is considered to be the best the game has ever seen, and he passes and shoots the ball with theprecision of a brain surgeon. He makes eye-popping moves that leave people speechless and overwhelmed. Seeing him weave his way through a team’s defense and then put the ball past the keeper is just something special.