Messi v. Ronaldo, part 2

The Ballon d’Or ceremony approaching, and the arguments about who deserves it are getting intense. However, there also seem to be some major misconceptions about what exactly goes into deciding the award, so I thought I’d clear things up for anyone who is confused.

The Award

The Ballon d’Or is awarded for a calendar year, not a season. Only performances from January 1, 2012 to December 31, 2012 are taken into account. If it happened last year – even if it was last December – it doesn’t count. It mattered in last year’s Ballon d’Or.

Each national team captain, national team coach, and media representative votes for three people. The first person gets 5 points, the second gets 3 points, and the third gets 1 point. National team captains cannot vote for themselves, but they can vote for players on either their national team or their club team. National team coaches and media representatives have no restrictions on who they can vote for. Those nine votes from each country comprise all the votes for the award, and full records of who voted how are published after the fact.

FIFA officials do not sit in a room and conspire about who to give the award to. There are flaws in how the award is handed out – exposure counts for a lot – but that isn’t one of them. The award goes to whoever got the most votes from the captains, coaches, and media representatives from each country.

Lionel Messi

What counts
Trophies: Copa del Rey 11-12, top scorer Champions League 11-12, top scorer Spanish league 11-12

Club: Barcelona won the Copa del Rey last year, finished second in the Spanish League, and made it to the semi-finals of the Champions League. This season, they currently enjoy an 11-point lead over Real Madrid in the league and are still alive in the Copa del Rey and the Champions League. Messi has scored five goals and has two assists thus far in the current Champions League season, as well as 21 goals and five assists in the Spanish league.

Country: Argentina have not played in any major competitions this year, but they have played five World Cup qualifiers. Messi has scored five goals in five games and assisted another. Argentina currently sit at the top of the CONMEBOL table, where the top four teams automatically qualify.

Other notable achievements: Last season, he tied for first in assists in the Champions League and came in second in assists in the Spanish league. He also set a new record for goals scored in a league season, and is a goal away from equalling Gerd Müller’s record from the 70s for goals scored in a calendar year.

What doesn’t count
2011’s Spanish Super Cup, European Super Cup, or FIFA Club World Cup. Neither does the fact that he’s had more games to break the record for goals in a calendar year. The fact that he has very talented teammates is also unlikely to make a difference in how people vote.

Nitpicky statistics
This year, in the Spanish league, Messi has scored 54 goals, including 10 penalties, and has assisted his teammates 11 times. His goals and assists have been decisive in 45 of the points Barcelona have earned this year.

17 of those goals, including 3 penalties, were against the best teams in the league (defined as the top 6 last season, as well as Real Madrid and Levante this season, since they both look on track to finish in the top 6). His goals were decisive in 12 of the points Barcelona earned against these teams.

This year, Messi has scored 13 goals in the Champions League, including 2 penalties, and he has assisted his teammates 3 times. 8 of those goals, including the 2 penalties, as well as one of the assists, came against a team in the top four leagues.

Cristiano Ronaldo

What counts
Trophies: La Liga 11-12, Spanish Super Cup 2012

Club: Real Madrid won the Spanish League last year and made it to the semi-finals of the Champions League. They were knocked out of the Copa del Rey in the quarter-finals by Barcelona. This year, they are still alive in the Copa del Rey and the Champions League, but sit 11 points behind their rivals Barcelona in the league table. Ronaldo has scored 6 goals and has one assist thus far in the current Champions League season, as well as 13 goals and two assists in the Spanish league.

Country: Portugal played in the Euros and made it to the semi-finals, where they were knocked out by eventual winners Spain. In the competition, Ronaldo was tied with five other players on three goals, but missed out on the golden boot because he lacked the assists that Fernando Torres (Spain) and Mario Gomez (Germany) had. Portugal has also played in four World Cup qualifiers. Ronaldo has one goal and one assist from those four games, and Portugal currently sit third in their UEFA table, where only the top two can qualify.

Other notable achievements: He was named in Euro 2012’s team of the tournament. He also helped Madrid to their record-breaking 100 points in last year’s league season. He came in second in the Spanish league and third in the Champions League in goals scored, and tied for fourth in assists in the Spanish league.

What doesn’t count
Euro qualifiers, which took place in a different year. His position as a winger vs. a false nine in terms of his goal-scoring prowess is also unlikely to be taken into account. Given the number of people who have voted for him in the past, including to a first place finish, his personality is also unlikely to have an effect.

Nitpicky statistics
This year, in the Spanish league, Ronaldo has scored 39 goals, including 9 penalties, and has assisted his teammates 7 times. His goals and assists have been decisive in 25 of the points Real Madrid have earned this year.

11 of those goals, including 2 penalties, were against the best teams in the league (defined as the top 6 last season, as well as Barcelona, Atlético Madrid, and Levante this season, since they all look on track to finish in the top 6). His goals were decisive in 13 of the points Real Madrid earned against these teams.

This year, Ronaldo has scored 13 goals in the Champions League, including 1 penalty, and he has assisted his teammates 2 times. 4 of those goals, including the penalty, came against a team in the top four leagues.

Real Madrid v. Barcelona

Copa del Rey 11-12
Leg One: January 18, Bernabeu. Result: Madrid 1-2 Barcelona
Leg Two: January 25, Camp Nou. Result: Madrid 2-2 Barcelona

Spanish League 11-12
Game Two: April 21, Camp Nou. Result: Barcelona 1-2 Real Madrid

Spanish Super Cup 12
Leg One: August 23, Camp Nou. Result: Barcelona 3-2 Real Madrid
Leg Two: August 29, Bernabeu. Result: Real Madrid 2-1 Barcelona

Spanish League 12-13
Game One: October 7, Camp Nou. Result: Barcelona 2-2 Real Madrid

That’s two wins for Real Madrid, two wins for Barcelona, and two draws. All wins were by one goal margins. Barcelona knocked Real Madrid out of the Copa del Rey, which they went on to win. Real Madrid beat Barcelona in the Spanish Super Cup. Real Madrid’s league win effectively ended Barcelona’s chance at the title last season, and their failure to win this season may have had the same effect on them.

Both Messi and Ronaldo played all six of these games. Messi scored 4 goals and had 2 assists. Ronaldo scored 7 goals and had no assists.

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12 responses to “Messi v. Ronaldo, part 2

    • Some idiot would just change it back, anyway, convinced that they had inside knowledge. 😛

      It might be close, but I suspect Messi will take it again. He’s just accomplished too much individually. Iniesta is certainly worthy of it too, though.

      • What do you make of Messi’s calendar year record? Should be taken with a grain of salt, no?

      • I’m not quite sure what you mean by “a grain of salt,” to be honest. He’s accomplished what he’s accomplished. There aren’t really any qualifiers to that.

      • I mean that he had more appearances (nine total, I think) than Gerd Muller to reach the record, and when worked out his average for last year is 1.3 per game whereas Muller’s was 1.4. I’m not trying to denigrate his accomplishment by any means, just can’t decide if the comparison is quite accurate. The definition of the record being what it is, he certainly beat it. He’s got plenty of other records to stand tall on too.
        The other side of the argument is that Muller’s ’72 year featured friendly matches against teams in lower leagues, so it may have been easier for him to score goals than for Messi in La Liga. Which is probably true.

        Aw nuts. Atletico just took the lead. 😛

      • Ah, I see.

        I’m honestly inclined to feel like Messi’s greater number of games and Muller’s goals in that friendly competition they had in Germany because of the Olympics probably about even out.

        Of course, the side of it that hasn’t gotten much attention is the toll nine more appearances takes on a person’s body. The extra appearances seem to be getting used largely as a black mark against Messi, but I think that there’s an argument to be made that those extra appearances actually make his record more impressive, not less, because most athletes in his position wouldn’t be able to keep going that consistently under that much physical strain.

      • Very good point about his stability/endurance. I hadn’t thought of that aspect. I can always use more ammo for battle against all the Messi-haters out there.

        How do you feel about Villa not being utilized?

      • Yeah, I think a lot of people haven’t – they use the nine extra games as a knock under the assumption that if he’d played nine extra games, Muller would have scored more. I’m not convinced that that’s the case. Nine more appearances are an extra 810 minutes, assuming that Messi played the full game, which he almost always does. I’m not sure how often Muller was substituted, but if he was substituted occasionally (as most players are), Messi could easily be pushing an extra 900 minutes over the course of the season. Could most players keep going at the level he does, given that strain? Personally, I don’t think so.

        I’m a bit annoyed about Villa not being used, especially since it seems to have hurt his good form from earlier in the season, but I can deal with it better when it’s Pedro and Iniesta on the wings because I think it can reasonably be argued that they’re more effective. When Sanchez gets more time than Villa, however, it really annoys me, because his form has dipped and he’s diving way too much. How about you?

      • I tend to agree. I thought he was in great form early season. My respect for Villa was limited going into the season primarily because he can often have a bad attitude and he can rightly be accused of diving (still not as bad as Sanchez). However, on each appearance he made after returning from injury his attitude, to me, seemed very different. He has been more team-oriented and more desirous, like most of his teammates, to break through rather than fall down. He’s come back from injury faster than most players and shown incredible form in spite of that. If he had more pitch time, I think he’d only be better. His lack of pitch time in the face of his good form may very well start to affect his attitude, and rightly so. When he was subbed in late yesterday he appeared to be frustrated. He wants to shine when he’s on the pitch, and if he was given more time he would probably be more relaxed. I really wish we had some kind of statement from the club. It’s a big deal when the all-time top-scorer for Spain isn’t playing and I think the fans deserve an explanation.

  1. Is Ballon D’or really based on calendar year? I thought it was previous season. Don’t the votes come in before the end of the calendar year?

    • Yes, the Ballon d’Or is really based on the calendar year, not the previous season. That’s why they talk about the player of the year, not of the season. Voting does occur before the end of the calendar year, but presumably it’s done under the assumption that the last couple games of the year are unlikely to change anyone’s vote.

      • They should really change the name to the Messi Award and exclude him from competing for it.

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