Messi peso, Ronaldo euro
You’re probably thinking: not another debate about Ronaldo and Messi. Believe me, we’re as bored as you. But we do think there’s a lesson in their international goalscoring records that clubs can use in their player recruitment.
Ronaldo has 20 more goals than Messi for his country – 25 if you exclude penalties – and even after adjusting for minutes played Ronaldo’s goal scoring rate is 25% better. But we also know that Ronaldo has probably faced easier opponents. Portugal have always been seeded in qualifying since his debut, thereby often pitting him against teams who struggle to qualify for major tournaments, while Messi must face strong South American teams who sometimes possess disproportionate home advantages. The data bears this out (below).
This disparity in opponent quality is why we created our Football Exchange Rate, to help us better understand how goalscoring rates in different contexts. When we apply our exchange rate, converting Ronaldo and Messi’s international goals into a new ‘currency’ of La Liga, we see that the difference between their goal rates is virtually eliminated.
Applying the exchange rate to Ronaldo and Messi’s goals provides a picture that feels more intuitively correct than raw goal rates; that there is little to separate the two greats of this generation when it comes to goalscoring.
The Football Exchange Rate model can also be applied across leagues. It predicts, for example, that an Eredivisie player would expect his goals and assists rate to halve in the Premier League. Or that a move from Serie A to Serie B should see a player’s output increase by around 60%.
The exchange rate provides a starting point when predicting the portability of performance across leagues. Each player will have different contexts – age, style, experience and so on – but this approach reduces the need for educated guessing, and therefore the risk associated with any deal.
It can even help provide a new perspective to long-standing debates.