La Liga Statistical Review: Barcelona v Ronaldo

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).

PlayerL MessiC RonaldoP RodríguezD VillaG Rossi
TeamBarcelonaReal MadridBarcelonaBarcelonaVillarreal
Minutes On Pitch1,6191,8901,5201,6931,730
Goal Attempts
Mins per goal7786127121144
Shots On Target5159274037
Shots Off Target214983529
Shooting Accuracy71%55%77%53%56%
Chance Conversion29%20%34%19%18%
Goal Assists146755
Chances created4145302137
Mins per chance created3942518147
Total Passes1,203838896529571
Pass Completion %86%75%90%80%80%
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%).

PlayerXaviAndrés IniestaSantiago Cazorla
Minutes played1,3651,7891,650
Goal Attempts
Total shots182035
Shooting accuracy39%85%57%
Goals-to-shots ratio17%35%14%
Goal assists537
Chances created473745
Pass completion %94%90%84%
Cross completion %28%18%27%
Dribble completion %88%56%54%
Tackles won %81%73%87%


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 SurnameTeamGoals
RonaldoReal Madrid22
LlorenteAthletic de Bilbao12

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

Player SurnameTeamGoals to Shots Ratio
CastroSporting Gijón27.59%

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

Player SurnameTeamAssists
Dani AlvesBarcelona9
Xabi PrietoReal Sociedad8
ÖzilReal Madrid7
IraolaAthletic de Bilbao6
LlorenteReal Sociedad6
RonaldoReal Madrid6

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

PlayerTeamPasses per 90 mins
Sergio BusquetsBarcelona88
Andrés IniestaBarcelona82
Dani AlvesBarcelona80
Andrea PirloMilan78
Cesc FabregasArsenal78
Mark van BommelBayern Munich74
John Obi MikelChelsea73

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.

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  1. Ross Mackiewicz3 February, 2011
  2. Lekan3 February, 2011
  3. Canuck3 February, 2011
  4. Ed L.3 February, 2011