Messi or Ronaldo? World’s best footballer, according to science

The long-standing debate among football fans over who is the best player, Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo, may have been settled by a top Premiership data expert.

Dr Ian Graham, who until recently led Liverpool Football Club’s data analysis team, has spent his career determining the best players from every statistical angle.

Speaking at the Cheltenham Science Festival, Dr Graham said, “They’re approximately the same for goal-scoring. Ronaldo is slightly ahead. But if you take penalties out, Messi is slightly ahead.” He explained that there is a 75% chance of scoring from a penalty, which is far higher than from a ball in play. “Ronaldo is cheating by having those 0.75 expected goals,” he added.

Dr Graham highlighted the key difference between the two players: “The chances Messi creates for his teammates are an order of magnitude greater than Ronaldo. Messi does two jobs brilliantly. Ronaldo does one job brilliantly. That’s the difference.”

Argentinian Messi is the only other footballer to have scored more than 100 goals in UEFA club competitions, and he won the World Cup in December. Messi is set to join Inter Miami from Paris St-Germain, despite being offered a deal to become the world’s highest-paid footballer in March by Saudi club Al Hilal.


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