The debate about who is better, Cristiano Ronaldo or Lionel Messi has been raging for years now and is not a particularly interesting one anymore. Every newspaper in the world has run an article promoting one view or another about who they deem to be the king of world football. That being said, this is often emotive and driven by observations, rather than based on pure statistics. Ronaldo is clearly a world class player and an unbelievable athlete, Messi, nobody can deny is a wonderful technician and manipulator of a football. No player scored more goals than Ronaldo last season other than his nemesis Lionel Messi, but is Ronaldo’s brilliant goal scoring record actually a bit misleading?
Statistical Analysis- The top five goal scorers in Europe
|Chance conversion||Shot accuracy||Shots per game||Goals Scored|
Ronaldo is obviously a great goal scorer as shown by the 34 league goals he managed to score last season, which equated to an average of a goal a game, a record that any striker would be truly proud of. In fact, most strikers are pleased if they can record an average of a goal every other game, let alone to boast the sort of statistics that we associate with Ronaldo.
The above table, though, charts the top five goal scorers in Europe in order of chance conversion and in this regard we can see something quite interesting. Of the top five goal scorers in Europe, Cristiano Ronaldo is the most wasteful finisher. Taking 6.9 shots per game on average, Ronaldo, as anyone who has seen him play can attest to, will regularly let rip with a speculative long shot. Yet, despite this,, only five of his goals actually came from outside of the box with 29 coming from inside the area, perhaps demonstrating that he’d be better off toning down the long shots.
Messi, on the other hand, is almost twice as efficient in front of goal with a far superior chance conversion of 35.4%, taking slightly fewer shots at 5.1 per game. Messi was the most efficient finisher out of the players listed, with Falcao in second place. Interestingly though, Ronaldo has the second best shot accuracy despite having the lowest chance conversion of the forwards examined.
Of course, it’s difficult to pick holes in the goal scoring record of such a brilliant player, whose statistics really do demonstrate what a prolific player he is. One could argue that if you don’t shoot, you don’t score, which is true to a degree, but Ronaldo arguably needs to be more intelligent with how he takes his chances. The fact that he only scored five long shots, despite taking a plethora of shots from distance implies that this isn’t the most effective style of play for Ronaldo.
Observations of Ronaldo’s game can be quite frustrating. He may charge past a player and get into a position where he has a team-mate square and opt for a shot, rather than for the simple ball. Having managed 10 assists, it’s difficult to imply that he is greedy, but perhaps he could find another gear in his game if he took fewer long shots and trusted his team-mates a bit more.
The latter point is key as Ronaldo clearly takes on a lot of responsibility for the team and thus tries to influence games on his own. If Real Madrid land Gareth Bale this might actually change somewhat. Speculation suggests that Carlo Ancelotti might use Ronaldo as a lone striker and he’d thus be playing more in the six yard box anyway and might by de-facto cut down on the long shots as he’d be doing less of his work from deep. Gareth Bale might then play in a similar role to Ronaldo’s current one but from the right. He’d provide the support which could change the emphasis on Ronaldo and allow him to increase his efficiency in front of goal. Ronaldo is, though, a brilliant player and this is not so much a criticism of him as it is an observation of his style of play and the statistics that this produces.