How huge were Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi this season for Real Madrid and Barcelona? It’s not just about the 96 combined league goals the two provided their teams with. It’s not just the 27 additional assists. Above the statistics, it’s about what they meant in wins and points.
It might be a bit crude to decide the outcome of matches without Messi’s and Ronaldo’s goals this season, because it’s not like their place would be left empty. Someone else would take their spot. No one will do as well as they did, but the player instead of them would be able to produce decently enough. If you’re buying the whole – Barcelona is a system and any player would thrive instead of Messi, then Barca wouldn’t be taking much of a hit.
For Real Madrid, it would mean 25 points less. But Real had both Benzema (21 goals) and Gonzalo Higuain (22 goals). They did score a record 121 goals this season, but there’s more firepower than just Ronaldo, who’s accounted for 38% of Real Madrid’s goals.
Barcelona scored 114 goals this season, which would have been the new record unless for Real Madrid’s all conquering ways. Messi is responsible for 43.8% of Barcelona’s goals, but it’s also the fact that there was no reliable scorer for Guardiola this season besides his Argentinian phenom – David Villa missed most of the season and finished with 5 goals. So did Pedro, who scored 13 and 12 in the previous couple of season. Injuries, again.
Alexis Sanchez was the next best scorer with 12 goals. Sanchez is not a natural striker, and struggled with injury issues as well during the season. Xavi was forced to take up the scoring mantle, finishing with a career high of 10 league goals. Cesc Fabregas, who had a terrible finish to the season, scored nine times. A disappointing first campaign for the returning son.
Would Barcelona be that bad without Messi? Sixth?! With 33 points less than before? Messi was the difference between winning or drawing 11 times, if you subtract his goals from the team totals. Would someone else have stepped up? Maybe, but it was clear as sunlight that Barcelona’s reliance on him was greater than ever this season. Too great, without any real scoring options to play alongside him for many matches this season.
The story with Real Madrid is different. A team that thrives on counter attacks, playing without the high press of Barcelona, without the patient passing game. With a lot more aggressiveness up front; More long range efforts and with one player, Cristiano Ronaldo, who can score at will even if the team’s playing bad. The Atletico Madrid win on April 11 was probably the finest example.
Atletico were just as good as Real Madrid, but there are few players who can create goals out of nothing like Cristiano Ronaldo. None do it as good as he does, ending up with the hat trick in what of the biggest wins for Real this season, en route to their first league title since 2008.
Is it another one of those who’s better conclusions? Not this time. Because each team is different, and the roles of Ronaldo and Messi within Barcelona and Real Madrid are different. You might suggest that Messi was more vital for Barcelona this year than ever before. More vital than Ronaldo for Madrid. But not everything goes down on the stat sheets, especially in this sport. Two exceptional players on two exceptional teams, who can’t be replaced by anyone else, not even each other.