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La Liga Statistical Review: Barcelona v Ronaldo

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Barcelona’s relentless quest for world domination leaves Real Madrid and the rest far behind.

Simply put, Barcelona are just too good for Madrid, or any other team in Spain. We knew that in November when in this season’s first El Clasico, Madrid were beaten 5-0, a scoreline that flattered their beleagured team and coach. Still, their players are so far ahead in terms of statistical performances that Cristiano Ronaldo, the much-heralded saviour of Spain, looks ‘just very good’.

Let’s look at the numbers across the Spanish league for best performers.

Messi (and Pedro and Villa) v Ronaldo

Lionel Messi has been in electric form so far this season, netting 21 goals in just 18 league appearances. Though his Real Madrid rival Cristiano Ronaldo has netted one more (22), Messi has been much more present in his team´s build-up play, setting up an impressive 14 goals, compared to just six for the Portuguese. By comparison, no player managed more than 14 assists in La Liga in the whole of 2009/10.

Amongst the other possibilities for Spain´s forward of the season is Messi´s team-mate Pedro Rodríguez who has come of age in dramatic fashion this season. Only three players have netted more goals (12), while his goals-to-shots ratio, at 34.3% exceeds that of Messi´s, at 29.2%.

With 12 goals and five assists in the league this season, David Villa has settled well at the Camp Nou, while rumoured Tottenham target and Villarreal front man Giuseppe Rossi is the top-performing striker outside of Spain´s “big two”. No player outside Barcelona and Real Madrid has netted more goals than the Italian (12), who can also boast five assists, while only five players have completed more dribbles (45).

Player L Messi C Ronaldo P Rodríguez D Villa G Rossi
Team Barcelona Real Madrid Barcelona Barcelona Villarreal
Appearances 18 21 21 20 20
Minutes On Pitch 1,619 1,890 1,520 1,693 1,730
Goal Attempts
Goals 21 22 12 14 12
Mins per goal 77 86 127 121 144
Shots On Target 51 59 27 40 37
Shots Off Target 21 49 8 35 29
Shooting Accuracy 71% 55% 77% 53% 56%
Chance Conversion 29% 20% 34% 19% 18%
Passing
Goal Assists 14 6 7 5 5
Chances created 41 45 30 21 37
Mins per chance created 39 42 51 81 47
Total Passes 1,203 838 896 529 571
Pass Completion % 86% 75% 90% 80% 80%
Dribbling
Dribbles 167 121 51 58 121
Dribble Completion % 50% 39% 47% 38% 37%

Xavi & Iniesta vs the World

In midfield, it is Spain´s superstars and Balon d´Or runners-up Xavi Hernández and Andrés Iniesta who lead the running for the honour of being La Liga´s most important players.

Xavi has been the focus of much of Barcelona´s play this season. Not only is his passing accuracy the highest in Europe´s top five leagues (94%), he has also attempted an astounding 117 of these per 90 minutes, at least 29 more than any other player in Europe´s top five leagues.

Andrés Iniesta is not far behind with a passing accuracy of 90% and 82 passes per 90 minutes, though he has been much more prolific in front of goal, with seven strikes compared to three for Xavi, while only Messi and Ronaldo have completed more dribbles (46). Iniesta’s shooting accuracy, at 85%, is phenomenal.

However outside of these two players, Santiago Cazorla of Villarreal is staking a serious claim to being considered for the title of best midfielder this season. Only three players, Messi, Dani Alves and Xabi Prieto have assisted more La Liga goals than him (seven), on top of his five goals, while he has completed over half of his dribbles (53%), while only one midfielder has won a higher proportion of his tackles (87.2%).

Player Xavi Andrés Iniesta Santiago Cazorla
Team Barcelona Barcelona Villarreal
Appearances 18 21 20
Minutes played 1,365 1,789 1,650
Goal Attempts
Goals 3 7 5
Total shots 18 20 35
Shooting accuracy 39% 85% 57%
Goals-to-shots ratio 17% 35% 14%
Passing
Goal assists 5 3 7
Chances created 47 37 45
Passes 1,780 1,623 1,165
Pass completion % 94% 90% 84%
Crossing
Crosses 65 39 44
Cross completion % 28% 18% 27%
Dribbling
Dribbles 24 82 69
Dribble completion % 88% 56% 54%
Defending
Tackles 16 33 39
Tackles won % 81% 73% 87%

MORE RANKINGS

It would unfair to say that Ronaldo hasn’t done well – he has been exceptionally good for Real Madrid and leads the pack in terms of goals scored – he has had to fight a lone battle, especially after Higuain’s injury.

Ronaldo and Messi are by some distance the top scorers in La Liga this season:

Player Surname Team Goals
Ronaldo Real Madrid 22
Messi Barcelona 21
Villa Barcelona 14
Llorente Athletic de Bilbao 12
Rodríguez Barcelona 12
Rossi Villarreal 12
Nilmar Villarreal 10
Trezeguet Hércules 9

However, Ronaldo´s chance conversion rate of 20% is much lower than his Barcelona counterparts:

Player Surname Team Goals to Shots Ratio
Caicedo Levante 40.00%
Iniesta Barcelona 35.00%
Rodríguez Barcelona 34.29%
Messi Barcelona 29.17%
Kanouté Sevilla 28.57%
Nilmar Villarreal 27.78%
Castro Sporting Gijón 27.59%
Trezeguet Hércules 24.32%

Messi has been far and away the most creative player in La Liga this season:

Player Surname Team Assists
Messi Barcelona 14
Dani Alves Barcelona 9
Xabi Prieto Real Sociedad 8
Cazorla Villarreal 7
Mata Valencia 7
Rodríguez Barcelona 7
Valero Villarreal 7
Özil Real Madrid 7
Iraola Athletic de Bilbao 6
Llorente Real Sociedad 6
Ronaldo Real Madrid 6

Xavi´s passing record has been outstanding this season compared to other players in Europe´s top five leagues:

Player Team Passes per 90 mins
Xavi Barcelona 117
Sergio Busquets Barcelona 88
Andrés Iniesta Barcelona 82
Dani Alves Barcelona 80
Andrea Pirlo Milan 78
Cesc Fabregas Arsenal 78
Mark van Bommel Bayern Munich 74
John Obi Mikel Chelsea 73

Numbers don’t tell the whole story, but they can tell you a very convincing one – in this case, just how much better Barcelona have performed compared to Real Madrid (and relatively, Messi compared to Ronaldo) this season.

Comments (4)

  1. Brilliant article, some real interesting stats there. Xavi’s passing prowess is undisputed in the world of football.

  2. I totally agreed messi is above everyone this season.

  3. I think when people make such comparisons they forget that football is a team sport. If your teammates don’t put the ball in the net then you don’t get the assist and if you create most of the play but yours isn’t the last pass again you’re out of luck, no assist. I’m not saying Ronaldo is better than Messi, but here is some food for thought. Who is better: Xavi Hernandez or Xavi Alonso; Iniesta or Ozil; Busquets or Khedira; David Villa or Benzema; Pedro or Di Maria; Albidal or Marcello; Alves or Ramos? The others I haven’t mentioned, because I see them as fairly equal.

  4. It w/b interesting to see how Chicharito fares against other strikers, especially minutes per goal. I’d be surprised if his goals scored to minutes played isn’t better than Messi’s.