Last night, Cristiano Ronaldo won his fifth Ballon d’Or, drawing level with old rival, Lionel Messi, with a surreal five awards each. As is the case every year, instead of doing the logical thing and enjoying both individuals as the incredible players they are, statistics are scrutinised and arguments fly as to who really deserved this year’s Ballon d’or and the eternal debate of ‘who is better’ rages on.
Cristiano – The Case for the Defence
Without doubt, Ronaldo had yet another trophy-laden year in 2017. As a player, not much more can be asked than winning La Liga and defending the Champions League trophy as the key player in one of the best Madrid sides in history. In fact, at their peak towards the end of last season, Madrid were playing a level of football which rivalled Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona team several years ago, perhaps the best team this side of the millennium.
Individually, Ronaldo didn’t fail to disappoint either, as he rarely does. He reached 600 goals for Madrid by scoring in the Champions League final twice, taking his tally to 12 goals in the 2016/17 Champions League campaign. Just this week, in the 3-2 win over Borussia Dortmund, he became the first player to score in all six group stage games of the Champions League.
He scored 25 goals in 29 games in La Liga, finishing as Madrid’s top goalscorer as they won the title for the first time in five years. By the end of May, he had become the all-time leading goalscorer in Europe’s top-five leagues, overtaking Jimmy Greaves with 366 goals.
Ronaldo has also pipped Messi to different awards in the run up to this year’s Ballon d’Or, winning FIFA Best Men’s Player in October. Impressively, Ronaldo has kept up his incredible goal-scoring tally well into his thirties, adapting his training regime and shifting slightly more central, instead of the left-wing he has marauded down most of his career.
Internationally, he has scored 11 goals in 11 games, helping Portugal reach the World Cup following on from their triumph at Euro 2016.
Messi – Back to His Best
Without question, Messi has started this year’s La Liga campaign far stronger – 13 goals and 4 assists in 14 matches compared to Ronaldo’s two goals and two assists, respectively. Barcelona also remain unbeaten and eight points ahead of Madrid in the table.
Messi also been more clinical than Ronaldo this year, and has a better goals-per-minute ratio, with a goal every 97.1 minutes compared to 103.3 minutes. The Argentine’s conversion rate is also superior, converting 23.4% of his chances compared to 18.7%.
Most importantly when it comes to individual goalscoring awards, Messi won the Pichichi award last season with 37 goals, contributing to his 48 goals in 54 matches this calendar year. For his team, he assisted 19 times last season in all competitions, compared to Ronaldo’s 12.
When the pressure was on for his home country, Messi made sure he was the one to step-up. After a difficult qualifying campaign, he single-handedly dragged his team to the World Cup, scoring a hattrick against Ecuador and securing qualification for next year’s competition.
Crucially though, for all his individual efforts, the only silverware Messi and co. picked up was the Copa del Rey.
The Collective Over the Individual
As is the unfortunate case last year for Messi, his club and country were arguably the biggest obstacles in the way of the Ballon d’Or. What swayed the decision in Ronaldo’s direction is the result of his individual efforts – silverware. It is hard to argue with a La Liga and Champions League double as the Portuguese spear-headed an incredible Madrid team. Good news for fans of Messi, however, as this season has started much brighter domestically for the Argentine, with a La Liga title looking very likely in his quest for his sixth Ballon d’Or.