The two superstars are among the favourites to top the Goal 50 once again, but who performed better statistically during the 2017-18 season?
Forget city derbies, Clasicos and revenge games, Cristiano Ronaldo versus Lionel Messi is the greatest rivalry of modern football, and continues to divide opinion. This year saw a major change in the competition between the pair as Ronaldo traded Real Madrid and La Liga for Juventus and Serie A.
However, that has not stopped the debate over who is better and whether their recent performances are good enough to compete for major individual awards including the Goal 50.
A major part of the story can be told from the players’ individual statistics, but of equal importance is how the players helped their teams compete and win trophies. The 2017-18 season saw both Ronaldo and Messi continue to add medals to their trophy cabinets, while the duo also travelled to the World Cup to represent their countries.
With Ronaldo now in Italy, meetings between the two will now be less common. Fans will be hoping they get matched against each other in the Champions League or else at international level. They played each other three times last season, starting with the Supercopa de Espana where both players scored in the first leg, but Ronaldo lifted the trophy thanks to a 5-1 aggregate win.
Messi netted from the spot in Barcelona’s 3-0 win at Santiago Bernabeu early in the season, before cancelling out Ronaldo’s early goal in a 2-2 draw back at Camp Nou, helping Barcelona go on to win La Liga – his ninth league title.
Barcelona were not as impressive in Europe, going out at the quarter-final stage following a 4-4 away goal defeat to Roma. Real Madrid had no such problems, going all the way to the final, where a 3-1 victory over Liverpool saw Ronaldo become the first player to lift the Champions League trophy five times.
Ronaldo’s 2017-18 season saw him average exactly a goal a game in all competitions, netting 44 times in 44 appearances. He featured 27 times in La Liga, scoring 26 goals and provided five assists. He also scored two goals at the Club World Cup, where he added another winner’s medal. He played in the UEFA Super Cup victory over Manchester United, but did not find the target against his former club.
The Champions League was where Ronaldo excelled, scoring 15 times in 13 appearances. During the group stage, he became the first player ever to score in all six group games, but really showed his world-class ability in the knockout stage where he scored a brilliant bicycle kick goal against Juventus which earned him a standing ovation from Juve’s fans and then secured Real’s progress with a 98th minute penalty in the second leg. His 15 goals were enough to see him finish as the Champions League top scorer for the sixth consecutive season and seventh time overall.
However, his 26 La Liga goals were not enough to earn him the European Golden Shoe, finishing eighth as Messi led the pack on 34 goals, two clear of Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah. Messi became the first player to win the award five times. The Argentine also provided 12 assists in the league, and was involved in eight Copa del Rey goals in six appearances (four goals and four assists).
Despite Barcelona’s mixed season in Europe, Messi was also prolific in the Champions League, creating two goals and scoring six of his own in 10 matches. He also added one goal from two games in the Supercopa.
Messi’s discipline was worse than Ronaldo’s over the course of the season. Messi had seven yellow cards to Ronaldo’s three, but only the Portuguese forward was sent off in 2017-18.
At international level, both players finished 2017 strongly to help their countries qualify for the World Cup. Messi scored a hat-trick in Argentina’s must-win game against Ecuador, while Ronaldo provided goals and assists in three of the last four group games to ensure Portugal’s progress to Russia. Ahead of the tournament, Ronaldo played three friendlies and scored two goals, while Messi appeared twice and netted another hat-trick, this time against Haiti.
Neither side shone at the World Cup, reaching the last 16 before being knocked out. Ronaldo started the tournament strongly with a hat-trick against Spain and another goal in the win over Morocco, but failed to have an impact in the knockout stage game with Uruguay.
Messi also had a poor World Cup by his high standards, scoring just one goal against Nigeria. He provided two assists in the last 16 tie, but that was not enough as eventual winners France recorded a 4-3 victory.
Once again, the players were very close on an individual level, scoring and providing plenty of goals for their clubs and countries, while trophies were shared by the clubs as both Barcelona and Real Madrid added more silverware.