For the past few years most of the individual football awards, especially in Europe, have been “duopolized” by Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, however, we could possibly see a new name on the Ballon d'Or this year. Luis Suarez has dominated La Liga this season and with one match remaining before the title is decided, he has the highest number of goals and joint highest number of assists in the league.
In fact, his closest competitor is not his teammate Lionel Messi, but Cristiano Ronaldo. If all the results go their way, Real Madrid could yet manage an unlikely double—although the best they can hope for currently is to win their 11th Champions League title in the final against Atletico Madrid. Ronaldo has been at the center of their mini revival with his hattrick against Wolfsburg helping them comeback from a two goal loss in the first leg. His winner against Barcelona in the El Clasico, followed by stunning performances against Eibar and Getafe saw his team close down the gap at the top, and now have opened up a mathematical possibility of snatching away the league title from Barcelona on the final day of the season.
It will be a close call, as we look at the numbers to try and decipher who has been the more dominant between Suarez and Ronaldo this season.
Cristiano Ronaldo has been in stunning form in the Champions League this season and is the top-scorer in the tournament by a huge margin. The Portuguese international has scored 16 goals in 11 appearances in Europe's premier competition—which has translated to the incredible statistic of scoring a goal every 61 minutes. It must be pointed that Ronaldo's incredible Champions League stats have been hiked up by the fact that seven of those 16 goals have arrived in two matches against Shakhtar Donetsk and Malmo FF.
Suarez's numbers are more consistent across the tournaments, but it is Ronaldo who takes the cake when it comes to goals scored per minute, although not by much.
Ronaldo's willingness to shoot at every given opportunity has been highlighted throughout his career, however, that also means that he needs more chances to score his goals. The 31-year-old has taken 309 shots to score his 49 goals in Champions League and La Liga, highest among the top-12 goalscorers in Europe. Suarez, on the other hand, has been the most clinical, and even his teammates Lionel Messi and Neymar are way behind the Uruguayan in this aspect of the game currently. The former Liverpool star has scored a goal every 3.64 shots! One would almost expect a sentence like that to be part of the “Ripley's Believe it or not” show.
No, we are not talking about the dark side of the Uruguayan, which has seen him land in trouble in the past. We are talking about his incredible work ethic as a footballer. His willingness to run himself to the ground for his team, do the dirty work of hustling opponents when they have possession, tracking runners and tackling them. This is one aspect of the game where Suarez is head and shoulders above most of the strikers in the world, leave along Lionel Messi and Ronaldo.
In a team like Barcelona, who rely on winning back the possession as soon as they lose it, Suarez is a perfect fit.
Ronaldo does not have the likes of Messi and Neymar to support him in attack—a commonly used fact to subvert the contributions of Suarez in this Barcelona side. One would expect the statistics to support this argument as well. But the numbers tell a very different story.
Real Madrid have scored 135 goals in La Liga and Champions League this season, and Ronaldo has been directly involved in 64 of them through assists or goals. However, Suarez has a slightly bigger share of contribution to his team's goals than the Portuguese international does—which might come across as a surprise to many.
The likes of Barcelona and Real Madrid do not come across too many formidable opponents in the La Liga, hence we have considered the matches against the top four clubs this season. In the group stage of the Champions League, Real Madrid's biggest hurdle were PSG, while they nearly stumbled against the un-fancied Wolfsburg team in the quarterfinals. Barcelona, on the other hand, had a much easier group stage outing, before they were, eventually, knocked out by Atletico Madrid in the quarters.
In all these ‘big’ games, Luis Suarez has been a prominent figure for the Catalan side, being involved in 10 goals in these 10 games. Ronaldo though, has often gone missing in these matches. He has scored four goals in the 11 'big' matches he has played in, three of which came against Wolfsburg.
Barcelona and Real Madrid have been a part of a lot of one-sided games through this season, where they have absolutely demolished their opponents. However, the real test of a goalscorer comes when his team is in need of a goal, be it while trailing or drawing an opponent. Incredibly, Suarez has won 20 matches for Barca this season, and has helped them salvage a point on three occasions.
Both these players have incredible numbers to their names, and we are lucky to witness them competing against each other at their primes. However, football badly is in need of someone who could breakthrough the stronghold of Messi and Ronaldo, and in Suarez we have someone who has been able to do so. There will be very few more deserving candidates than the 29-year-old in the Ballon d'Or ceremony this year, but the past has taught us that these award ceremonies are not always driven by logic. But, it is fair to say, Suarez has been the best player in Europe, and probably the world, this season.
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