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Messi v Ronaldo: Part XCCCLVIII

Yet another article comparing Messi to Ronaldo, but this one takes a slightly alternative view.

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Q: Just how many times have writers, bloggers, video creators or whoever compared Messi to Ronaldo?

A: Google says.....

messi v ronaldo27 million. Despite concerns about how much junk Google is including in these search results, that is a lot of search results.

You know what else is interesting? Searches of each players name of a period of time.

Google Trends   Web Search interest  Lionel Messi  Cristiano Ronaldo   Worldwide  2004   presentRonaldo was always likely to be more popular in terms of search traffic; he plays the villain, he is highly marketable all over the world and he poses in pictures like this, which I am sure many women, and men, search for on occasion.

Style: "RONALDO_AS_SHOT" Kids, this is what exercise and a healthy diet can do.

Back to the search traffic. We can visualize those search trends over time and find out which parts of the world were hot spots for that traffic.

Messi's Global Search Traffic Over Time

Ronaldo's Global Search Traffic Over Time

Both players see their global search trends increase as the years roll by. Notice the increase in search traffic in North America for both players.

So, both of these guys are pretty popular, millions of people search for them and those searches are increasing in number as the years roll on. Not much of this is surprising, really. Interest in football/soccer is growing all the time and it is only natural that two of its leading stars would attract some of that interest.

Now we have the fluff out of the way we can look at actual performance.


I could simply list each players goal totals and have done with it:

Messi 243 goals in 277 league games.

Ronaldo 261 goals in 361 league games.

Good, that's that settled then. Well, not really. What I want to do is look at the importance of each player to his team, specifically how many of his teams goals were these players involved in when on the field of play.

It's pretty easy to figure this out: we add up each players goals and assists and divide it by the number of goals that players team scored only when he was on the field. This tells us a little about just how important each player was for his team in terms of scoring goals and creating goals. I call this method Goal Contribution%.

Not satisfied with using the basic career numbers I am going to look at each season for these two players and use a 38 game rolling average which will show if either player has become more or less influential in scoring and creating goals for his team (Goal Contribution%.)


messi goal% age

Age=age on 1st of January of the specific season.

Messi was involved in over 33% of Barcelona league goals in his 20 to 22 yo seasons then at 23 he went into orbit. He created over 50% of Barcelona league goals from ages 23 to 26, including one season, age 25, when he was involved in over 60% of Barcelona league goals. But, there's a but.

Messi's 26 yo season, whilst still incredible, saw a downturn in the percentage of goals he was involved in. A "bad" year by his standards or something else?

% team Player Minutes
S 04/05 Age 17 25.00 4 1 82
S 05/06 Age 18 29.63 27 8 909
S 06/07 Age 19 36.36 44 16 1995
S 07/08 Age 20 40.74 54 22 1998
S 08/09 Age 21 37.36 91 34 2513
S 09/10 Age 22 47.31 93 44 2841
S 10/11 Age 23 61.25 80 49 2862
S 11/12 Age 24 60.75 107 65 3270
S 12/13 Age 25 61.70 94 58 2692
S 13/14 Age 26 53.42 73 39 2498

The above table contains info on season, age during that season, the percentage of goals involved in, the number of team goals and the number of player goals. I included minutes played so we get an idea of the size of the samples we are talking about. Messi's 23, 24, and 25 yo seasons are some of the best we are ever likely to see.


ronaldo career Ages 18 to 23 were spent at Manchester United, ages 24 onward at Real Madrid.

Ronaldo's development at Manchester United was gradual but by ages 21 to 23 Ronaldo was posting an excellent goal contribution%. The second half of Ronaldo's last season at Manchester United (age 23) shows a dip in his involvement in Manchester United's goals. That dip lasted into his first year at Real Madrid before we saw a return the ~50% goal contribution player we saw at age 22/23.

Team Season Age 18 Goal% team Player Minutes
Man United S 03/04 Age 18 27.6 29 8 2559
Man United S 04/05 Age 19 28.1 32 9 2424
Man United S 05/06 Age 20 35.3 51 18 2285
Man United S 06/07 Age 21 44.3 70 31 2779
Man United S 07/08 Age 22 55.9 68 38 2746
Man United S 08/09 Age 23 41.4 58 24 2742
Real Madrid S 09/10 Age 24 42.3 78 33 2462
Real Madrid S 10/11 Age 25 57.5 87 50 2914
Real Madrid S 11/12 Age 26 47.9 121 58 3353
Real Madrid S 12/13 Age 27 49.4 89 44 2716
Real Madrid S 13/14 Age 28 51.9 77 40 2537

Ronaldo has cracked the 50% barrier on 3 occasions and posted 5 seasons above 40%. Ronaldo is an incredible player who, in a very different way to Messi, is heavily involved in the goals Madrid score.

As amazing as both of these players are, it is Messi who holds the greater influence over his team. Messi is contributing to a higher percentage of his teams league goals than Ronaldo is. Does this make Messi the better player? Maybe. Does this make Messi the more important player for his team? Probably.

An awful lot of the play is geared around maximizing the incredible talents of these two players and putting them into the very best positions for them to create scoring opportunities. They are very different players who play in different tactical setups and occupy different spots on the field yet both of these players manage to influence their respective teams' goal scoring to an incredible, and likely an unparalleled, degree.