GOAL 50 ANALYSIS
Cristiano Ronaldo against Lionel Messi remains the foremost rivalry in world football. Not only do the two superstars have contrasting personalities, they play for two of the biggest teams in the game - Real Madrid and Barcelona, respectively.
It is a compelling spectacle as they go blow for blow against each other, with first one apparently taking the upper hand and then the other responding. So over the course of 2016, how have the duo fared statistically?
Before analysing their individual numbers, it is worth looking at team achievements. While Messi fired Barcelona to La Liga, Copa del Rey and Spanish Supercopa glory, he missed a crucial penalty for Argentina as they suffered another Copa America defeat by Chile in the summer. He was also eliminated prematurely in the Champions League in the quarter-finals.
By contrast, Ronaldo was decisive from 12 yards as Real Madrid won the Champions League via a penalty shootout, while he was a key member of the Portugal squad as they won Euro 2016 – their first major title.
As one might expect, the individual numbers for both players are eye-watering.
Ronaldo, meanwhile, turned out 37 times for Madrid and had a slightly lower production rate than the Argentine, netting 33 goals and 13 assists. Hat-tricks have come against Wolfsburg and Espanyol, while he struck four against Celta. While Ronaldo had eight multi-goal games, Messi had 11.
So the Argentine has the edge – statistically, at least – when it comes to overall club form but what about on the international stage?
Messi played nine matches for the Albiceleste during 2016, scoring seven goals and laying on four more. Impressively, he peaked during the Copa America, when he struck five times and produced all of his assists. However, he failed to shine in the final, missing a crucial penalty in the shootout.
By contrast, Ronaldo played 12 times for Portugal. During this time he scored 11 times and added three decisive passes, although it should be pointed out that four of his goals came against the minnows of Andorra. Moreover, his numbers in major tournament play were eclipsed by Messi: the Portuguese scored three times in seven starts and assisted three more. However, his goals at the Euros were decisive as his double versus Hungary in the final group game prevented Portugal being eliminated, while his strike in the semi-final against Wales helped his side into the final.
On a purely statistical basis, Messi therefore has an edge. His 54 appearances have given him 51 goals and 29 assists: Cristiano has played 49 matches, scoring 44 goals and creating 16 more.
However, personal stats only tell a very small part of football and, with Ronaldo having won the two biggest tournaments of the year, it is impossible to write off the Portuguese superstar in the 2016 Goal 50.