standard: Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo is the debate which has raged in football for almost two decades.
From even the most casual follower of the sport to deep inside Football Twitter and online communities such as Reddit, there has never been a definitive answer.
And there never will. But that hasn’t stopped scientists in Belgium to give it a go.
Research and education institution KU Leuven have assessed league performances by both Messi and Ronaldo over five years, before the latter left La Liga for Juventus.
Professor Jesse Davis said: “The value of a football player is often determined by goals and assists. A goal is a rare event, however, because an average of 1,600 actions are estimated to occur in a match.
“Our model views every action – shots, passes, dribbles, tackles and calculates its value.”
A Valuing Actions by Estimating Probabilities (VAEP) score is calculated for every game to determine how much said player has had an impact on each event to “get a more complete picture of a player and his value for the team.”
The results showed that not only is Messi better than his long-time rival, he is twice as good.
Messi boasts VAEP score of 1.21 per game compared to Ronaldo’s 0.61.
“In the first seasons, Messi and Ronaldo’s scores were very close to each other,” PhD student Tom Decroos added.
“From the 2015/16 season, Messi stepped away from his eternal rival.
“We see a trade-off with most football players: either they make a lot of actions with a less high value – that’s the case with Paul Pogba, for example,” he added.
“Or you have players who are less likely to hit the ball, but who have a big impact. That is typical of strikers like Harry Kane, Mohamed Salah and Ronaldo.
“Messi is exceptional in this area: the Argentinian has a very high number of actions and they also have a high value.”
Source: Published by standard