Tag Archives: Raul

Europe’s Best Goalscoring Partnerships

13 Mar

After writing about the Premier League’s best goal scoring partnerships a while back, I was inundated (one comment) with requests for something similar for other leagues. So, instead of signing up to do some accountancy exams that I’ve been putting off for 13 years, I decided the best way to spend some spare time would be to put together another list for absolutely no reward. I hope somebody somewhere enjoys reads this.

With the return to favour of partnerships such as Suarez and Sturridge, (#dare to) Zlatan and Cavani, and Negredo and Aguero, what better time to have a look back at some of the best partnerships before them. Having searched a whole two pages of Google without finding something exactly the same as this, I thought it was time to put together a combined list.

Rules and Workings

I’ve decided to go back 25 years to cover the 1988-89 to the 2012-13 seasons. Why 25 years? Well that just about covers my football watching memory and it’s a nice round number. I’ve decided to include just the Top four Leagues in Europe – the top divisions in England, Germany, Italy and Spain (based on European Trophies won).

A partnership is only considered so if both players (regardless of position)have scored at least 10 goals each. For this list, I’ve only combined those pairs with 30 goals or more, so sadly that would exclude van Wolfswinkel and Elmander’s herculean haul of 2 goals from this season. Tough break fellas.

A further blow to the Norwich duo’s chances are that this season’s partnerships are not included as they’ll instantly make this post out of date. Expect to see Suarez and Sturridge included in the next update in space year 2038.

Joking aside, as I type, Suarez and Sturridge have just hit their combined 44th, 45th, 46th and 47th goals of the season against Cardiff, so they definitely make it into the Top Partnerships list, but as the season hasn’t ended yet, their number is likely to change.

It’s worth noting that the German League has fewer games, and the other leagues have varied in number of teams.

And lastly, it’s league goals only.

The Stats

In all, there’s a whopping 221 instances of 30 goal partnerships in the Top Four European leagues over the last 25 completed seasons – actually a lot higher than I’d expected. Spain lead the way with 70, followed by England (61), Italy (49) and Germany (41). No real shock there as Germany has fewer games, as did Italy for a good chunk of the 25 seasons in question. In terms of clubs represented, there are a decent 61 (Spain 17, England 16, Italy 15 and Germany 13).

At the top end of the food chain are the mighty Real Madrid with a 30 goal partnership in 19 of the 25 seasons recorded. No wonder they win quite a lot. As you’d expect, anything they can do, Barcelona can almost do (that would make a catchy song), and the Catalans are second on the list with a healthy 17 partnerships represented. Aside from Spain, England have Man Utd and Liverpool in double figures (13 + 10), whilst somewhat surprisingly, it’s Bayer Leverkusen who lead the way in Germany with 10 partnerships making the 30 goal mark. For Italy, AC Milan are the team with the most deadly duos, featuring 8 times.

At the bottom end, there are 25 clubs with just one 30 goal partnership, sadly, my team don’t even have that. The likes of Coventry’s Dublin and Huckerby, are joined for their day in the sun by Villarreal’s Forlan and Riquelme (2004-05). And who could forget Bochum’s world famous Thomas Christiansen and Vahid Hashemian with their 31 goal haul in 2002-03. I know I certainly won’t.

The 50 goal club

As mentioned above, there’s a great deal of 30 goal partnerships, so many in fact, that I wonder why I used that number. So to get things going, here’s a list of those partnerships that scored at least 50 league goals in a season. Just to manage expectations – it’s a bit heavy with Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi.

Best Strike Partnerships (50 goals +)

In fact it’s basically La Liga’s greatest partnerships plus three others.

As its illegal not to mention both Ronaldo and Messi when speaking about the Spanish league, it’s worth having a quick look at their record in this list. Interestingly, both players have been part of a successful partnership as the second scorer – which is really what you’d have expected a few years back, with both players featuring out wide early on. Ronaldo’s first season in Madrid saw him form one of the most balanced partnerships on this list, with Gonzalo Higuain. The Argentine banging in a decent 27 goals to the shy Portuguese’s 26. A pretty good debut season before the championship manager stats started kicking in. Messi’s season as the second scorer was in the 2008-09 season that saw Samuel Eto’o hitting 30 to Messi’s 23.

Man City fans may be surprised to see Edin Dzeko in 6th place with the wall decorating Brazilian Grafite (I’m sorry) making up the pair – the highest Bundeliga entry with 54 goals. Didier Drogba and Frank Lampard have combined for 30+ goals on two occasions, with the 2009-10 season seeing a combined 51 league goals for the Chelsea legends – albeit not a typical strike partnership. However, in first place for England are Andy Cole and Peter Beardsley with a whopping 55 – all for a promoted club too. Impressive stuff. Must have been before Cole needed five chances to score (Glenn Hoddle’s words, not mine).

Fans of 90s football will be disappointed not to see any Italian partnerships breaking the 50 goal mark but heartened to see the Original Ronaldo and (possibly the original) Luis Enrique with 51 goals in the 1996-97 season. Ronaldo who started the season aged just 19 would score 47 goals (all tournaments) in his only season with the Catalan giants. Damn you Gods of injury.

What is also interesting (depending on your definition), is that 11 of the 50 goal partnerships have been in the last five years – at a time when 4-5-1’s have become the norm. Although a lot of them are rather dependent on Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo being involved.

The number one partnership sees Ronaldo paired up with Higuain for the 3rd time to make a 50 goal mark. The winning season being 2011-12 when Mourinho’s men managed to break Barca’s dominance of La Liga. A phenomenal 68 league goals from just two players is quite frankly bonkers. Both Ronaldo and Messi feature in four 50 goal partnerships – Messi with 4 different partners, the big flirt.

Top 20 Partnerships By Country

I planned to show a top ten by country, but La Liga’s are already on show, and it would also mean leaving out the likes of Batistuta and Oliveira who thrived on Rui Costa’s assists in 1997-98. And because we haven’t featured much from Serie A just yet, now seems as good a time as any. So without further ado:

Serie A Top Scoring Partnerships 1988-2013

Serie A Top Scoring Partnerships

Premier League/Division One Top Scoring Partnerships 1988-2013

Premier League Top Scoring Partnerships

La Liga Top Scoring Partnerships 1988-2013

La Liga Top Scoring Partnerships

Bundesliga Top Scoring Partnerships 1988-2013

Bundesliga Top Scoring Partnerships v2

I know what you’re thinking – where’s Vialli and Mancini? They were undoubtedly a great strike partnership, but they were also playing in the most defensive era of a league known for being defensive. They’re best season together came in 1990-91 when they combined to score 31 league goals (ranked 35th in the Serie A charts).

There’s three entries from before the Premier League began in England, with Barnes and Rush scoring a decent 39 combined goals in the triumphant 1989-90 season for Liverpool.

Spain’s list sees the crowd pleasing entry of Romario and Stoichkov, who notched 46 goals in 1993-94 whilst the Bundesliga entry reminds us of just how good Roy Makaay was. In fact the Dutchman is one of a number of players who feature across multiple leagues, with the likes of Ronaldo, Ronaldo (not a typo), Ibrahimovic, Eto’o, Raul and Berbatov (along with others).


Other Notes of Interest

Top 10 Teams are:

Real Madrid 19
Barcelona 17
Man Utd 13
Liverpool 10
Bayer Leverkusen 10
Arsenal 9
Bayern Munich 9
AC Milan 8
Valencia 7
Juventus 7

Most Featured Players:

Only 8 players have featured in five or more 30 goal partnerships and top spot doesn’t go to Messi or Ronaldo, but rather Raul who has been involved in 10 great partnerships. Across two countries, he scored goals with Morientes, Zamorano, van Nistelrooy (2), Ronaldo (2), Guti, Huntelaar, Higuain, and Suker. That’s impressive.

The other compatibles are Cristiano Ronaldo (7), Messi, Del Piero, Makaay, Eto’o, Berbatov, and Rooney (all five).


So there you have it, it’s not just the big man-little man partnership (Quinn-Phillips), or the classic goalpoaching number 9 and playmaking number 10 (Romario and Stoichkov) that make great partnerships. It can be wide men with false number 9s, a lone striker with an advanced midfielder (Torres and Gerrard/Drogba and Lampard) or if you’re lucky, it may even be Toni Polster and Bruno Labbadia (FC Koln 1994-95).

This season will see entries from Suarez and Sturridge, Ronaldo and Benzema, and Messi and Sanchez. Tevez and Llorente also stand a good chance of joining the elite club along with a few others

I’ll chuck the full list up in the coming days.




Notable ommissions – maybe other countries/world cups

Near miss


Bundesliga Round 32

25 Apr

Dortmund officially won the league at the weekend with a 2-0 win over 4th places Borussia Monchengladbach. Nothing remarkable there I hear you say. But it was. In the last three weeks, they’ve faced and beaten 2nd, 3rd and 4th. Absolutely no one can doubt who the big game team are in Germany then. They have taken 68 points from the last 78 available, and after a dodgy start with 3 defeats in 6, they’ve gone 26 unbeaten (average ranked opponent beaten is 8.91). Shinji Kagawa was once again amongst the scorers with his 13th goal of the league season (9.67). The Japanese midfielder has really thrived since moving to Germany. They’ve now reached the 75 points that they managed last season – but still have two games left. Worthy champions.

Bayern warmed up for their Champions League semi final with a 2-1 win away at 8th placed Werder Bremen. Ribery is just behind Kagawa in the goal scoring midfielders list after hitting the winner for the Bavarian Giants, whilst Naldo scored for and against them (average opposition zero?). Monchengladbach’s defeat to Dortmund paired with Schalke’s 1-1 draw against 15th placed Augsburg means that third is still up for grabs with two games remaining – but the Top 4 teams are all but secure after fifth placed Stuttgart could only draw to relegation threatened Cologne.

No surprise that Huntelaar scored against Augsburg – it’s what he does. His 25th goal of the season takes him level with Gomez and amazingly they have the exact same average ranked opponent per goal. That’s so surprising that I’m going to double check the database…….yep, it’s solid. Anyway the point was that he’s scored almost half of his goals against teams in the Bottom 6. And whilst I’m being honest about things, as the German league is only 18 teams, there’s no 19th or 20th position, meaning that it’s actually 12 goals against just the bottom 4 teams. If that’s not a flat track bully, then I don’t know what is. Saying that, he has scored 4 against the Top 6 teams, unlike Mario Gomez who’s got a big fat zero. Granted, in the Champions League, he scored in the big game environment of a Semi Final against Real Madrid. Impressive, if it wasn’t a mis hit off his nuts after he missed with his feet – and from 4 yards out. The Bundesliga updates will be split by Top 5/Mid 8/Bottom 5 next season.

Despite Huntelaar and Gomez being bullies, they’re not the worst culprits. That’s still Martin Harnik of Stuttgart with 13.47 and just the one goal against the Top 6. It looks pretty much guaranteed that Marco Reus is going to win the Big Game Player tag with his average of 6.44 and the 10 goals against the Top 6. The only real threat (from the average opposition perspective) is Hannover’s Abdellaoue, currently on 7.00. If he can grab a couple against 6th placed Leverkusen and Reus decides to continue his recent form against Bottom 6 teams (one goal, last week) then maybe. Also in the top scorers list is Raul, who surprised many with the announcement that he won’t be staying at Schalke next season. His move to Germany has been a big success with 27 league goals in 65 games for the veteran Spaniard.

Falling a couple goals short of the Top Scorers list is FC Nurenburg’s in form midfielder Daniel Didavi. The 22 year old is on loan from Stuttgart in order to get some first team experience, and it seems to be beneficial for all. He scored his 8th league goal of the season in the 1-1 draw with 14th placed Hamburg, giving him an averge of 9.875. He’s done this in just 21 games having never previously scored a Bundesliga goal. Two goals recently against 3rd placed Schalke means he doesn’t go missing against the big boys, and he currently has 5 goals in his last 4 games. So he is definitely one to watch for the future, following in the footsteps of recent talented German Youngsters.

That’s all for now on this quick Bundesliga round up, but with the League due to finish on 5th of May, we’ll soon have up an in depth look back at the season from the average opposition rankings at the time of playing, and also the final positions.



Bundesliga Round 31

15 Apr

In the Round 28 update, I wrote the following: “From the Bundesliga Round 24 update, I confidently predicted “The lead at the top is now a  surely uncatchable 7 points“. I’d like to take this opportunity to completely back track and suggest that there’s still life in the title race after all. I apologise to everyone involved, and it won’t happen again. Probably.”. I’d now like to retract that retraction, and state that I was completely confident in my belief that Dortmund would win the league, and withdraw my apology. I’m glad that’s all cleared up.

Soon to be repeated scenes

After Dortmund’s massive win last week against Bayern Munich, they faced a potential banana skin this week with a game away at local rivals Schalke 04 in the Revierderby – facing the league’s most deadly partnership, Raul and Huntelaar. With 38 goals between them, and with Bayern a nailed on home win against 11th placed Mainz, there was a chance that the gap could drop back to 3 points, meaning game on. That was the threory anyway. The reality was quite different. With three games left, Dortmund proved why they’re likely to retain their league title with a 2-1 win courtesy of goals from Piszczek (8.5) and Kehl (8.67). In what was an ill tempered game, Dortmund had to come from behind after Jefferson Farfan’s (8.3) 9th minute opener. In the space of 4 days, they’ve beaten 2nd place and 3rd place to leave no doubt they are the best team in the league. They’ll need just 2 points to confirm the league  as Bayern were held to a surprise 0-0 draw. Despite keeping their 17th clean sheet of the season (average opp: 10.47), they failed to bother the score sheet. Ribery, Kroos, Lahm and Flat Track Bully, Mario Gomez were all left out of the starting line up as Bayern had one eye on the Champions League semi final versus Real Madrid. A game that although is cross countries, does have a decent rivalry, as explained by Sid Lowe here.

Schalke’s dropped points has opened the door for Monchengladbach to fight for 3rd place. After going four games without a win, they walked to a 3-0 win over 16th placed Cologne, which left them just one point behind Schalke. Both are safe in the top 4, but 3rd place won’t have to qualify for the group stages of the Champions League. In what was the biggest surprise of the match, Marco Reus gave up his vow not to score against scrappers at the bottom, with the team’s final goal. That’s his 16th league goal of the season, and the worst opponent he’s scored against after he got his hands/feet dirty against 12th placed Hoffenheim in round 27. I’m sure he feels bad about it. Another noticeable scorer was Tony Jantschke, who scored his first goal of the season. The fact that it was him wasn’t really noticeable, the fact that it was his first goal was though. It’s just Monchengladbach’s 9th different scorer this season – the lowest in the whole league. It doesn’t seem to have harmed them too much though, FC Augsburg (15th) have the second most scorers with 15. Reus still holds the title of Big Game Player with 10 goals against the Top 6, but his average ranked opponent per goal has dropped from 5.80 to 6.44:

Elsewhere, in what appears to be a parallel universe or some kind of whacky body swap with Reus, Flat Track Bully Martin Harnik scored a couple of goals against half decent opposition. Stuttgart beat 7th place Werder Bremen (not quite Top 6 – unlucky), 4-1 to take their recent points tally to a mightily impressive 23 from the 27 available. They’re top of the form table, and will be cursing the first half of the season which saw them pick up just 22 points from 17 games, but it’s still a big improvement from last season’s 12th, as they’re close to Europa League qualification in 5th. Harnik now has a respectable 17 goals for the season, almost doubling last season’s tally of 9. The young Austrian will surely be courting interest from some bigger clubs in the near future. Unless they read this site – because he’s still the Flat Track Bully with an average of 13.47 (up from 14.33 to be fair).

That Huntelaar failed to score in Schalke’s biggest league game of the season is no surprise. His 24 goals have only contained 4 against the league’s top teams, and massive 11 against the dross at the bottom. His average of 12.04 meant that Dortmund were unlikely to be bothered by him, and 5 shots all off target would back that up.. You’d expect slightly better than one shot from Raul – a player with big game pedigree (two Champions League Final goals).

At the bottom, FC Augsburg moved 4 points clear of Cologne who fill the last relegation place, with a surprise 2-1 win away at Wolfsburg. It was surprising in that Wolfsburg were 9th and Augsburg had only won one previous away game all season. However, that’s now 3 defeats in a row for Wolfsburg. As it stands, with just three games to go, it looks as if Kaiserslautern, Hertha Berlin and Cologne will be the teams to go down.

Premier League and La Liga updates to come later this week once the fixtures have been completed. Sadly, there’ll be no Serie A update as the games were all cancelled due to the tragic death of Piermario Morosini.



Bundesliga Round 30

11 Apr

Only one place to start this week. Borussia Dortmund hosted Bayern Munich in a first versus second clash with just 4 games after. Going into the game there was just 3 points between the two teams, with Bayern enjoying a better goal difference. The gap was previously 7 points, but Bayern have been relentless in their pursuit, winning 5 games in a row, including round 29’s 2-1 against FC Augsburg – courtesy of league top scorer Mario Gomez (12.16). Dortmund kept their lead with an impressive 3-1 win away at in form Wolfsburg – with Poland striker Robert Lewandowski hitting his 18th and 19th league goals of the season (11.21). All eyes were on the Signal Iduna Park for the clash of the big two. The Winner would surely go on to win the title. As it was a big game – the biggest of the season, we could rely on Mario Gomez to misfire, and this was once again the case. The German bully has not scored one goal against the Top 6 teams this season. With their main source of goals out of the picture, it was Dortmund’s Lewandowski that took centre stage to score the winning goal in the 77th minute, before later hitting the wood work. That’s now 20 league goals for the season, and coming into the European Championships as the joint host’s main striker, things are looking good for him.

In round 29, Schalke duo Raul and Huntelaar combined to score all the goals in a 3-0 win at home to 8th placed Hannover to secure 3rd place. Their combined total for the season as partnership is now an impressive 38 league goals, with Hunterlaar scoring 24 (12.04) and Raul scoring 14 (10.64), despite being around since time began. Not so clever was Schalke’s performance in Round 30. Away at 12th Place Nurenburg, they took a bit of a hammering, going down 4-1 with Divadi scoring a brace to take his recent form to 5 goals in 6 games. That left space for Monchengladbach to take advantage which of course they didn’t because they’re in rotten form. Four games without a win have left them 4 points off third, though they’re still in a Champions League position, thanks to stealing Italy’s last place. Golden boy Marco Reus’s goals have dried up of late, though he did provide his 7th assist of the season in a 2-2 draw away at 7th placed Werder Bremen. They have a 7 point lead over 5th, so should be in the Champions League qualifiers at least next season, but will do so without Reus, who’s moving to Champions elect, Dortmund.

Reus is still the big game player on both fronts. He has the most goals against Top 6 teams with 10, and also the best average ranked opponent per goal with 5.80. Lewandowski’s title deciding goal has brought his goals against the Top 6 to a decent three. His 20 league goals have only been worth 7 points to Dortmund, but the last 2 points that he’s been responsible for (along with the defence of course) should be enough to win the league title for a second year running. It’s a big deal in Germany, as Munich never go more than one season without the title since the mid 90s when Dortmund won back to back titles before winning the Champions League. Lukas Podolski has an impressive 9.53 and 9 goals vs Top 6 opponents, but it’s especially impressive given Cologne currently sit in the bottom 3 after their latest defeat – 4-0 to FSV Mainz.

The big game bullies continue to be Mario Gomez – 25 goals, none versus the Top 6, and Stuttgart’s Martin Harnik. The Austrian striker has an average ranked opponent per goal of 14.33, and he was at it again this week, scoring against 15th placed FC Augsburg. Four of his goals have been against a previously struggling Freiburg. After picking up just 18 points from their first 69 available, the team have now picked up 17 points from the last 21 available, including games against 3rd placed Schalke, 4th placed Monchengladbach and 5th placed Leverkusen. It’s truly been a remarkable turn around in form for the team from the South West. With just 4 games left, they’re in the relative comfort of 13th postion.

So with the season almost over, and the Top 4 places pretty much guaranteed, all eyes will turn to the battle at the bottom. Kaiserslautern lost to 6th placed Leverkusen on Wednesday night to leave them 10 points adrift at the bottom, with just 19 goals and 20 points. Aside from them, it’s a four way fight to avoid the last two places  between Hamburg, Augsberg, Cologne and Hertha Berlin. All to play for.



Bundesliga Round 17

11 Jan

Halfway point in the German top division has left the table looking very familiar – Bayern Munich are 3 points clear at the top, ahead of 2011 Champions Borussia Dortmund. However, the teams in 3rd (Schalke 04) and 4th (Borussia Mönchengladbach), finished last season in 14th and 16th respectively.

Schalke is less of a surprise after finishing 2nd in the 2009-10 season and a good run to the Champions League Semi-Final’s last season. Despite losing Manuel Neuer to Bayern Munich, they’ve performed well this season – with Huntelaar and the ever young Raul scoring 24 goals between them. Mönchengladbach on the other hand only stayed up in the relegation play off last season with a late goal in the second leg away at Bochum.

But what of the top scorers and their performances against decent/poor opposition? Read on….

2011’s remake of Twins wasn’t the same without Arnie and De Vito

Top Scorers:

Continuing his 28 goal top scoring season last year (and remember it’s a 34 game season), Mario Gomez (pictured above with evil Gary Neville Lookalike Frank Ribery) is leading the race for goals once again this season. However, there is a twist. His average opponent per goal is not only a lowly 12.5 – a whole 2 places lower than the expected average, he has also failed to notch against any team ranked in the Top 6 at the start of each round.

At the start of the season, some commentators were suggesting that this Bayern Munich side was one of the best in the club’s history. This seemed to be a pretty bold claim given the history of the 4 time European Cup winners. After a surprise defeat in the opening round against Monchengladbach, they then went on to win 7 of the next 8, drawing the other game – whilst also embarrasing Manchester City in the Champions League. However, since then, they’ve lost a further 3 games in the league, and hold only a 3 point lead in the Bundesliga. Maybe not their best ever team….

Some familiar names on the above list for those not upto speed with the German top division will be former Real Madrid and Ajax forward, Klaas Jan Huntelaar. His 15 goals actually have a worse average rating than Gomez’ at 13.2, though he does at least have some form against Top 6 teams with a goal against Werder Bremen in round 17 and one against an early season high flying Mainz. His former Real Madrid team mate Raul has also followed up his promising first season outside of Spain with 9 goals this time around. He has less goals than his partner but has done it against better opponents – with 4 against other Top 6 teams and an average of 9.67 per opponent per goal. Not unexpected for someone who’s scored in Champions League finals and has 44 goals for Spain.

For the fans of the Premier League, many (Chelsea fans) may be surprised to see how many goals Claudio Pizarro has. This isn’t a one off season either – his record in Germany is very good. Arsenal target Lukas Podolski is also enjoying a fruitful season in front of goal. After his big move to Bayern Munich didn’t work out, he moved back to his hometown club – and this season has the best record against Top 6 opponents, with 8 goals registered against then Top 6 opposition.

But the big game player average leader is Norway and Hannover’s Mohammed Abdellaoue (of Moroccan parentage for those wondering). He scored 10 in 26 last season, but looks set to top that this season with 9 goals in 14 games so far. And it’s not just his ability to perform against big teams that makes him stand out this season…….

Points per Player:

He’s also leading the way in both points gained and the importance to his team. If you remove his goals from the final score, Hannover would be 12 points worse off – 52% down.

Gomez and Huntelaar lead the way in goals only, but players like Mandzukic at Wolfsburg (40%), Raffael (35% of Hertha Berlin’s points) and the aforementioned Pizarro are proving to be more important to their teams. It’s a slightly unfair statistic – players that are in better teams will look worse because their teams win by bigger margins, therefore making individual goals less important. There’s no measurement at the moment on the order of the goal – for example, your team’s first goal is always important, even in a 6-0 win.

Clean Sheets:

And just to show that this site isn’t just about the glory boys putting the ball in the onion bag, he’s the Bundesliga Average Opposition Index clean sheet stats. Bayern once again are leading the way here with 10 clean sheets. After their opening day defeat, they only conceded in one match of the next 10 – including 8 straight shut outs. Since then though, they’ve let in a sloppy 7 goals in 6 games. Okay, not really that sloppy, but normal.

Aside from the actual number of clean sheets, they also have a decent Average Opponent for each one. With 3 clean sheets against fellow Top 6ers. Equalling that achievement, and also bettering the Average is Hoffenheim (Demba Ba’s club before he moved moved to England). Although only ranked 9th in an 18 team league, they’ve managed 6 clean sheets in their first 17 games, and have done so against decent opposition – Monchengladbach, Munich and Dortmund have all failed to find a way through, resulting in a well deserved place at the top of the averages.

It’s just the French League left of the the big 5 European Leagues. I’m hoping to get that one up in the next week, along with the second in the Player Comparison series – Lampard vs Gerrard. They’re both big name players, but are they big game players? And who comes out on top in the Average Opposition Index?



Player Comparison: Lionel Messi v Cristiano Ronaldo 2009-11

16 Dec

Inspired by the recent el Clasico, I thought now would be a good time to have the first Average Opposition Index player comparison. And who better to start with than the undoubted best players in the world. I’ll leave out Carlton Cole for the time being as he’s not playing in the same league (yet).


Barcelona and Argentina’s Leo Messi, the current World Player of the year vs former World Player of the Year Cristiano Ronaldo of Real Madrid and Portugal. Both play as Forwards – whether that be down the middle or from wide, both are generally part of a front 3.


As usual, I won’t be including European Champions League Average Opposition as these are not ranked in the same competition, instead I’ll include La Liga games only from the last two completed seasons – 2009-10 and 2010-11. I’ll also compare their international goal record from an Average Opposition Index perspective.

La Liga:

From when Cristiano Ronaldo finally made his long anticipated move to Real Madrid in 2009, all eyes were on the show down between him and the existing king of La Liga – Leo Messi. By way of comparison, in the two seasons in question, Messi made 68 appearances in the league compared to Ronaldo’s 63. In those appearances, Messi scored a mind boggling 65 league goals compared to the even more impressive 66 by Ronaldo.  In terms of scoring alone, Ronaldo has a strike rate of 1.05 goals per game, compared to Messi’s 0.96.

La Liga 2009-2010:

Surprisingly, Ronaldo wasn’t even Real Madrid’s top league scorer in the 2009-10 season, with Gonzalo Higuain scoring 27 to his 26 goals. However, due to an injury ravaged season last year, Higuain’s record doesn’t stand up to comparison. And so on to the Stats:

The 2009-10 season was Ronaldo’s first in a new league. With that in mind, his record of 26 goals from 29 appearances is phenomenal. Unfortunately for him, this is a comparison against Leo Messi. Messi’s 34 goals in just 35 appearances is even more impressive. Based on the Average Opponent per Goal at the time, Messi’s 10.50 is exactly where you’d expect a player to be and shows his high performance against all opposition. This is emphasised by the ranges of opposition he has scored against. 10 goals against the other 5 teams in the Top 6 excluding his own is a great achievement and inline with the other stats above. This includes a hat trick against 3rd placed Valencia and a double vs Sevilla (5th).

Ronaldo by comparison had an Average Opponent per Goal of 12.38 based on their position at the start of each round. Looking at his ranges, again, there is a good split between Top/Bottom 6 and also the majority in the Middle 8 is where we’d expect to see this. Where Ronaldo falls behind is that he’s 3 goals behind Messi vs Top 6 opposition, and 4 of his 26 goals were from the spot, compared to just one of Messi’s. Both scored in a similar number of games where comparing the Average Opposition Index for the final league positions, although Ronaldo’s increases to 11.85, Messi’s is still better despite it decreasing to 11.18. At the time of play and at the end of the season Messi did it against harder opposition, and more often.

Winner: Leo Messi

Unsurprisingly, Messi who had been playing in La Liga for 5 previous seasons won this fight on all fronts.

La Liga 2010-2011:

So with a season of La Liga experience behind him, Ronaldo and his team mates targeted Messi and the Barca boys, and this time they had Jose Mourinho calling the shots. Despite his reputation for defensive football, Mourinho’s teams have often been record breakers in goals scored and points collected. Ronaldo especially thrived under his stewardship, along with two important other factors – he was now the main man at the Bernebeu after Raul’s exit, and he was also being supplied by Di Maria and Ozil. For Messi, he also had a change in his forward partners with Ibrahimovic and Henry leaving, replaced by Villa and youth product Pedro. And so onto the stats once more:

First and foremost, in a similar number of appearances, Ronaldo outscored Messi by a whopping 9 goals – take out each players penalties and there’s still 5 goals in it. In terms of the Average Opposition both were close enough to the expected 10.5 mark. However, where Ronaldo really shines is in the Top 6 goals. Of his 40 league goals (41 if you read Marca – the Madrid based and in no way biased sports paper), a massive 16 were against other members of the Top 6 including a four away at Sevilla, and a hat trick at home against Villarreal – one of 6 hat tricks scored in the season. It was against other members of the Top 6 that splits the two players – although Messi does come out on top in the number of games scored in.

However, what the stats don’t tell is that 3rd-6th were a long way behind the big two. Valencia, who finished in 3rd were 21 points behind 2nd placed Madrid, whilst 4th placed Villarreal were 30 points behind. Towards the end of the season when it was clear that Barca were going to win the league, the Madrid players were going out of their way to provide for Ronaldo – he scored 11 in his last 4 games. In that same period, Barcelona had one eye on the Champions League final and Messi didn’t score one goal. Upto that point in the season, Messi was actually ahead of Ronaldo in the scoring charts.

Though we should give credit where it’s due – 11 goals in 4 games in itself is an incredible achievement. Boosted by his late flourish, Ronaldo beats Messi in all but the number of games scored in.

Winner: Cristiano Ronaldo

La Liga 2009-2011:

So looking at their league performances in the two full seasons they’ve played in the same competition:

There’s one goal in it in Ronaldo’s favour, though he has scored 7 penalties more than his rival. Messi is ahead in games scored in and has an Average Opposition per goal of 10.63 compared to Ronaldo’s 11.38. Ronaldo is ahead on goals against the Top 6 whereas Messi trumps him in the other ranges. With the closeness in the goal scoring stakes, when looking for a winner and without wanting to sit on the fence it’s worth looking at some further factors.

With the rest of the opposition so far behind Real Madrid and Barcelona, a better indicator than just looking at the Top 6 goals is the goals in the head to head games. In the four league games played, Messi has two goals compared to Ronaldo’s one. Something that continues to be levelled at Ronaldo is that he rarely performs well in the el Clasico’s. Even in last week’s game, he missed two good chances, and also neglected to pass to team mates in better positions. In the games last season, both scored a penalty in a 1-1 draw in Madrid, whilst in the first game in Barcelona, Messi was outstanding, laying on rather than scoring goals for his team mates in a 5-0 win. And it’s Messi’s ability to create that gives him the edge. Last season saw Messi top the assist league table with 18 compared to Ronaldo’s 10. Going back to 2009-10 season and it was a similar story – Messi leading Ronaldo.

So with that in mind, the Winner is Leo Messi.


For their countries, it’s a similar story – albeit the gaps are wider. Whilst Ronaldo has scored 32 goals in 87 appearances for Portugal (0.37 goals per game), Messi has scored 19 in 66 (0.29 goals per game). However, when comparing the Average Opposition per goal there’s little room for debate. Messi has scored on two occasions against #1 Spain, and also against Argentina’s fierce rivals Brazil. The worst opposition he’s scored against as per the FIFA Rankings at the time of play is Algeria #67. Interestingly, when the two nations faced each other in February of this year, both scored in a 2-1 win for Argentina but crucially, Messi also got an assist.

Both failed to impose themselves on the 2010 World Cup – one of the few criticisms that can be levelled at them. Messi’s solitary World Cup goal being in the 6-0 win over Serbia & Montenegro in a game famous for Cambiasso’s team goal back in 2006. Ronaldo scored in 2010, but it was against North Korea – ranked 105th in the World. This was in addition to his 2006 World Cup goal against Iran. For Ronaldo’s 2 goals in the European Championships (2004) see Messi’s 2 goals for Argentina in the 2007 Copa America.

In Conclusion:

Looking at just the stats, it’s difficult to separate the two players in the comparisons available. What can be agreed is that both players still need to do more at International level – especially in a World Cup, but as both are in their Mid-20s and with a World Cup less than 3 years away, they should both have the chance to do so.

Taking into account the goals against each other and the assists that Messi provides, the argument up until now falls in Messi’s favour. Both are outstanding players, but you can use the recent Real Madrid v Barcelona game as a microcosm of their rivalry. Take away Ronaldo’s goals and there’s not much else on offer, whereas Messi created the first goal after picking up the ball from his Centre Back, beating 4 men, and playing a perfect pass through for Sanchez to score. It was a similar story in the 5-0 win last season – Messi didn’t score but was man of the match.

Ronaldo is a modern great – a former World Player of the year, a scorer in a Champions League final, and the winner of the Golden boot in two strong leagues and in the Champions League.

But he’s not Messi.

Both have 17 league goals this season, as this intriguing head to head continues. Both can count themselves unlucky that they’re playing at the same time as another 50+ goal a season forward (in all competitions), but it’s great for the neutral. Messi is ahead due to his all round game, but it’s far from over.

I’ll revisit this at the end of the season. I came into this expecting a clear win for Messi, but the fact that it was assists that separates them says a lot for the rivalry.