Even though we know that Lionel Messi is the best player in the world (and of all time), for some reason there is still a daily debate held on the internet as to whether Cristiano Ronaldo actually deserves this title.
The Economist may well have provided definitive statistical evidence to support the claim that Messi is the greater player goalscorer, by devising a points system that proves that Messi’s goals are of more worth than Ronaldo’s. Not financially, just… more…
By applying weight/worth to more important matches like World Cup games and Champions League knockout stages, and the context in which a goal is scored, a relative value can be deduced.
The Economist says:
The statistic that weights goals according to their context is called Expected Points Added(EPA), an application of the Win Probability Added framework originally developed for baseball. By extrapolating from over 4,000 English Premier League matches played from 2001-13, the analytical website SoccerStatistically.com offers an applet that lists the odds of a team’s win, draw or loss at any point in a match given the venue, time remaining and goal margin. Comparing these probabilities immediately before and after a goal shows how much each score changes the expected outcome.
What this means, in essence, is that a last minute winner against Iran in the World Cup is more valuable to a team than the sixth goal in a 6-1 victory over Levante.
A number of Ronaldo‘s goals have come during Madrid routs over opposition teams whereas Messi scored the tie breaking goal in the last 20 minutes of a match five times between 2013 and 14.
Messi’s goals have also been heavily weighted against competition rivals as opposed to cannon fodder. This is not to say that Ronaldo’s astounding goalscoring accomplishments aren’t exactly that, just that the goals aren’t as valuable in the greater context:
The pride of Portugal’s 105 goals contributed 41.6 EP to Real Madrid and his national squad, an average of 0.40 EPA per goal. Although he assured himself a second straight Ballon d’Or with three goals in the semi-final and final of last year’s Champions League, all of them were mere pile-ons. In contrast, the supposedly slumping Mr Messi squeezed 40.3 EPA from his 86 goals, an average of 0.47 each.
While goalscoring isn’t the only statistic on which a footballer’s talent should be measured, Messi’s record appears to suggest that he is a step above his arch nemesis. These conclusive statistics also appear to suggest that someone at The Economist was really, really, really bored and probably wants to go outside at some point soon.
by JJ Bull
@jj_bull Published in The Economist Magazine