Ronaldo vs Messi vs Neuer: Who Has ‘Ball Control’?

FIFA’s Golden Ball, or ‘Ballon d’Or’, is the ultimate recognition from football’s hierarchy, the winner being voted for by every international coach and captain from around the world, as well as football journalists.

The different voters will have varying methods of deciding who they think was the best player in world football in 2014. Here at Sports Matrix we prefer to use what comes easiest to us – match data compiled by our team of analysts – to compare three of football’s modern day legends.

Over the past 3 weeks we looked at Ronaldo, Messi and Neuer as individual cases, picking out the most interesting statistics from 12 months worth of football for clubs and country.

With 4 days remaining until the hotly anticipated Ballon d’Or ceremony in Zurich, Switzerland, we have put together an interactive infographic – which can be found beneath this blog – using the trio’s data across three competitions: their domestic league, the Champions League, and the 2014 World Cup. Have a look yourself, it makes for some interesting reading!

Ronaldo was considered by many to have had an average World Cup – his team Portugal failed to progress beyond the group stage, while Messi’s Argentina and Neuer’s Germany made it all the way to the final in Rio de Jainero.

But the data below – which compares his international appearances with games for Real Madrid – suggests he shouldn’t be ashamed of his individual performances. Ronaldo made an average of 7 chance creation attempts per game at Brazil 2014, similar to his averages in the Champions League (7.1) and La Liga (6.7). His chance creation success rate at the World Cup was over 52%, compared to a lower average in Champions League (48.3%) and La Liga (50.9%).

Similarly, he had an average of 6.3 shots per game in the World Cup, compared to 6.5 and 5.9 in the Champions League and La Liga respectively – regardless of the effectivity of the teammates around him, it is clear that Ronaldo was pulling his weight.

Magical Messi has many facets to his game, not least the ability to pick up the ball in deep areas and drive forward. The infographic below, however, reveals his other role as finisher at the fulcrum of Barcelona’s attacks is never more important than in the Champions League.

Messi accounts for 36.4% of his team’s shots in Europe’s premier club competition, compared to just 13.4% at the World Cup, and 25.8% in La Liga, taking an average of 4.7 shots per game.
His solo efforts forward in the Champions League, in which Barcelona reached the quarter-finals in 2014, are less likely to have a positive effect on the run of play – with 43% being classed as ‘good’, compared to the World Cup (50.4%) and La Liga (52.9%).

Bayern Munich goalkeeper Neuer was an important cog in the German World Cup machine, conceding only 4 goals in the 7 games he played in the competition. However, the data suggests he might have been offered less protection by the defence of his national team, compared that of Bayern. He had to deal with an average of 8 crosses per game during the World Cup – more than the Champions League (7.3) and La Liga (6), while the average of 1.7 1-on-1 situations per game in Brazil was more than the 0.7 and 1.2 he is used to in the Champions League and Bundesliga respectively.

We hope you have enjoyed our breakdown of the data for the 2014 Ballon d’Or. Each of the 3 players has earned their right to be nominated for the coveted gong, now it is up to the powers that be to decide.

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