When people talk about or ask that perennial question, ‘Who’s the best footballer in the world?’, only two names tend to spring up: Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi. People are usually in one camp or the other; very rarely does anyone else get a look in really.
It’s actually frightening to think about just what Lionel Messi has achieved in such a short career and people often fail to remember that he is only 27, Ronaldo is only three years older at 30. The records and numbers really do speak for themselves:
- Only person to win four consecutive: Balon d’Or (2009-2012)
- Top scorer in one official season of football: 73 goals in 2012/13 for Barcelona (50 in La Liga, 14 in Champions League, 3 in cup, 3 in Spanish Supercup, 1 in European Supercup and 2 in World Clubs Cup)
- Top scorer in a calendar year: 96 goals in 2012; 84 for Barcelona (59 in La Liga, 13 in Champions League, 5 in the Spanish Cup, 2 in the Spanish Supercup and 5 in friendly matches) plus 12 for Argentina
- Longest scoring run in La Liga (33 goals in 21 consecutive games (2012/13))
Another way to put it is…
Now looking at records is all good and well, it provides those snippets of conversation that get passed between friends, but it doesn’t really tell you how a person is performing in the present, right at this moment. With Messi, well, he’s not playing too shabbily at all in the La Liga 2014/15 season up to press.
Up until 4th April, Lionel Messi had scored 32 goals (avg 1.16 goals per typical 90 minutes from 2,475 minutes play) from 135 shots (23.70% goals from shots conversion rate), a testament that high-volume shooting pays dividends with a high goal return despite a seemingly low conversion rate. Now, obviously, in a team such as Barcelona that dominates both possession, in particular, and the opposition, as a whole, a player like Lionel Messi is going to get that high volume of shots, a number which currently works out at 4.9 shots per typical 90 minutes game time. However, not only does Messi have a high volume of shots in total, he also has a high volume of these shots on target. Of the 135 shots he has taken in the current La Liga campaign, Messi has had 67 of these shots hit the target, a shot accuracy of 49.63%; this is high accuracy to maintain even across a series of games nevermind across the span of a season.
If you take into consideration only the on-target shots (67) then Messi’s goals (32) give him a goals to shots on target conversion rate of 46.76%, a ridiculously high figure to carry through a season. If this set of figures was Messi’s typical output, and consistent over a full season, then Messi’s 4.9 shots per typical 90 at 49.63% accuracy would give him 2.43 on-target shots per typical 90 minutes. Of these 2.43 on-target shots, Messi’s conversion rate is 46.76% and this means that over the course of a typical season Messi would score 1.13 goals per 90 minutes or around 43 to 44 for a full 38 game La Liga season. As there are 10 games left that he could very well play in, Messi is likely to score another 13 goals and end up with 45 for the season.
Not only is Lionel Messi a ‘goal machine’ but he is someone that teams shouldn’t look forward to meting in the second half. Of Lionel Messi’s 32 goals, nine goals have been scored in the first half and 23 in the second half. Whilst Messi is particularly quiet over the opening 30 minutes of a game (only three goals), he seems to come consistently alive from the 30 minute mark onwards, scoring six goals between 30-45 minutes of the game. In the second half he is consistently lethal with each third of the half producing the following number of goals: 45-60 minutes (six goals), 60-75 minutes (nine goals) and 75-90 minutes (eight goals).
As I said at the opening of this short look at Lionel Messi, you can’t get away from one thing, the headline number of goals that he scores per season and across seasons. As I hope I have tried to show in the above sections, the successes that Messi has in front of goal is only a partial writing of the story, the rest of the narrative is filled in with the fact he is a high-volume shot taker with unerring accuracy that he maintains across a whole season, seemingly suffering very few troughs where this output drops drastically.