Lionel Messi Has Been in a League All His Own

The most annoying thing that I hear on a daily basis is people debating whether or not Lionel Messi is better than Cristiano Ronaldo. I mean, c’mon, is the sun hot? Can’t we just spend more time on actual substantive debates, like who’s the second-best footballer in the world? The Messi-Ronaldo debate shouldn’t even be one, and the numbers back me up.

Maybe the fact that CR7 scores a lot leads people to believe that he’s on the same tier as Messi. It’s kind of like people who think that Kobe is on LeBron’s tier. All Kobe was really ever good at was scoring, and he still was never as good at it as LeBron. And scoring is only a small part of LeBron’s game. It’s the same thing with Messi and Ronaldo. Messi is so far ahead of any other player in the world that it’s borderline absurd, and even questioning his status as the world’s best should probably be a crime at this point.

Don’t believe me? Let’s take a look at the numbers:

For this first scattergram, goals are going to be on the x-axis, and dribbles won will be on the y. These stats capture the attacking aspect of a player. It shows how well he can take on defenders, and how well he can finish off attacks. I chose the world’s best attackers– Ronaldo, Agüero, Griezmann, Kane, Lewandowski, Neymar, and Suárez– for comparison.

All stats are since the beginning 2014-15′ season and from domestic league and Champions League (or Europa League) fixtures.

NOTE: all stats taken from Squawka

So not only does Messi have the most goals out of anyone, he also has the most dribbles. Only Neymar comes close to his dribbling tally and only CR7 comes close to his scoring tally.

As if this wasn’t enough evidence, Leo separates himself even further when it comes to playmaking. Take a look at a chances created vs key passes scattergram with these same attackers.

Messi, Neymar, and Hazard are all absurdly good playmakers, and their playmaking prowess stacks up nicely to world’s premier maestros, namely Mesut Özil and Kevin de Bruyne:

But my favorite Lionel Messi stat is a more cumulative one. Squawka has a metric that measures everything that happens in matches. It’s called the ‘total score’. So while Neymar looks to have a similar dribbling ability to Messi on paper, what the dribbling stats don’t show is where those dribbles take place. The majority of Messi’s dribbles come in the final third, which is much more likely to lead to a goalscoring chance than if it were to take place in the defensive half, where many of Neymar’s dribbles take place.

And while Eden Hazard looks to have similar playmaking abilities to Messi, what chances created and key passes don’t show is how many times the player gives the ball away while trying to create those chances. The ‘total score’ captures everything, and Messi is the king of everything. Here’s the average total score per season since 2014-15′ for each attacking player:

The tragedy is, that in this three-year reign of terror for Messi, he’s only going to win 1 of 3 available Ballon D’Ors. That’s partially why I can’t stand that damn award.



Leave a Comment