Despite the fact that Real Madrid won the La Liga title, it hasn’t helped Cristiano Ronaldo’s bid to be considered as the world’s best player. For now, it seems, no matter what happens on the pitch, Lionel Messi will have the edge in matters of public opinion.

Well, it’s not all about opinion. Numbers have a big say in the matter as well. Lionel Messi did score more goals than Ronaldo – In the league (50-46), in the Champions League (14-10), in all competition (73-60). Jose Mourinho is backing Ronaldo to win the Ballon d’Or, but the general feeling was that he needed a great Euro to eclipse Messi’s season. It hasn’t happened so far.

Even in media mentions, there’s a battle, and Messi was winning it this season. A university in Spain did some research and analysis on the appearance of footballers in media coverage, social media, marketing and merchandising. The list included only players that took part in the Champions League, but that’s most of the sport’s big stars.

Messi, for a fourth straight season, finished ahead of everyone else. Cristiano Ronaldo came in second for the third straight year by a wide margin from the rest. The rest of the top 10 was either from the La Liga or the Premier League, with Zlatan Ibrahimovic as the only represntative from the Serie A. No one from Bayern Munich, Champions League finalists, was in the top 10.

It teaches about the appeal of the Premier League and the La Liga in a global sense when compared with the rest of the European leagues. It shows that Messi and Ronaldo’s rivalry, direct or indirect, real or not, has become the center of the football universe for many. That may be a bad thing of how people percieve the sport, but there’s no doubt that the two are the biggest box office star soccer players in the world today.

It’s really in the way that the two seem to be competing with each other in a team sport, while playing for different teams, who both are going for the same titles. Both Messi and Ronaldo just seem to be topping each other’s records, while Ronaldo usually loses the popularity contest. If he minds? He probably does, at least partially.

Numbers