The Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi debate continues to be one of the hottest topics in world sport. Both are fabulous footballers that are essential to the successes of powerhouse clubs Real Madrid and FC Barcelona respectively.
Indeed there have been many opinion pieces written by journalists and fans alike which aim to demonstrate why Ronaldo or Messi is the world’s best footballer.
As a Messi supporter myself, one of the key arguments that Ronaldo fans come up with surrounds the Real Madrid star’s so called ability to carry a team on his shoulders.
Ronaldo supporters however seem to believe that Messi’s brilliance is made possible only by the chemistry he shares with Barcelona team-mates Xavi and Andres Iniesta.
While there is no denying that Xavi and Iniesta play a vital role in Messi’s success as a footballer, there is also significant evidence to suggest that Ronaldo is just as reliant on his Madrid team-mates.
During the 2010-11 season, Ronaldo scored 53 goals in all competitions – a remarkable achievement from the Portuguese international.
However, a closer look at Ronaldo’s goals suggests that the Madrid superstar is not the most complete footballer as most Ronaldo supporters would argue.
Of Ronaldo’s 53 goals last season, 32 of those strikes were either simple tap-ins or the result of a direct assist from a Madrid team-mate.
Furthermore, Ronaldo also scored 14 goals from dead ball situations, with nine of those strikes coming from the penalty spot, and the remaining five coming from his famous free kicks.
And most importantly, out of Ronaldo’s 53 goals, only seven of those strikes showcased Ronaldo’s so-called individual brilliance (dribbling past opponents, overhead kicks, shots from outside the box etc). Those goals were scored against Deportivo La Coruna, Valencia, Villarreal, Real Soceidad, Athletic Bilbao, Tottenham and Almeria respectively.
While there is no denying that Ronaldo is a very influential footballer for Madrid, a closer examination of his goal scoring feats last season suggests that he is far from being the complete individual footballer many make him out to be.
Although Messi’s dependence on Xavi and Iniesta has been overstated as the strong point in the Barcelona forwards game, Ronaldo’s goal scoring success also owes a lot to the magnificent assists from Madrid stars such as Mesut Ozil, Angel di Maria, Gonzalo Higuain, Karim Benzema, Xabi Alonso and Sami Khedira.
Fast forward to the present season and Ronaldo’s reliance on the above players continues to be significant.
At present, Ronaldo has scored 16 goals this season for Madrid, with seven of those strikes again coming from easy tap-ins made possible by the wonderful service his Madrid team-mates provide.
Add the fact that Ronaldo has also scored six penalties this year and you can already see that 13 of his 16 goals so far this season have showcased nothing of the spectacular individual athleticism that supposedly makes the Madrid star a better player than Messi.
One could even argue that Ronaldo relies more on his team-mates than Messi does at FC Barcelona.
Let’s cast our minds back to last season’s Champions League semi-final clashes between Barcelona and Real Madrid. Messi’s performances over the two legs were vastly superior to Ronaldo’s performances.
At the Santiago Bernabeu, Ronaldo hardly presented himself as a threat to Barcelona’s defence. On the other hand, Messi scored two goals, the second of which saw the Argentine dribble past numerous Madrid defenders to slot home.
Messi’s second goal in particular showcased the Argentine’s capacity to produce individual brilliance without direct intervention from the likes of Xavi or Iniesta.
Ronaldo however has yet to score a goal of similiar stature, and this is largely because of his heavy, but very understated reliance on his Madrid team-mates.
If Ronaldo can somehow begin to replicate Messi’s individual brilliance when it counts, than the comparisons between these two supreme footballers should rightfully intensify.
Until then however, Ronaldo’s goal scoring feats for Madrid do little to suggest that he is a more complete footballer than his FC Barcelona counterpart.