Messi vs CR7: Who is better at free kicks?
The perennial debate in the current footballing era. Who is better, the mercurial "Messiah" Lionel Messi or the Portuguese goal machine Cristiano Ronaldo? The footballing world is divided right down the middle when it comes to this. With Messi yet again capturing the headlines, coming from the bench for Barcelona to secure a 4-4 comeback draw against Villarreal with a sensational free kick, let us look at what the stats say about the two great rivals and their record when it comes to free kicks.
Messi was adjudged the Man of the Match in the last La Liga match day, securing Barcelona's lead at the top of the table with a 4-4 draw at Villarreal. Ronaldo, on the other hand, did not play in Juventus' 2-0 Seria A victory over Cagliari on Wednesday as he is still recovering from a thigh injury sustained on international duty with Portugal. He is expected to return in time for the UEFA Champions League.￼
Ronaldo leads in the sheer number of freekick goals
The Portuguese superstar has 53 freekick goals compared to Lionel Messi's 47, for both club and country. CR7, however, is yet to score from a freekick since he moved to Juventus, with dead ball responsibilities usually given to Miralem Pjanic by the club.
The season-wise freekick goals table below clearly illustrates that Messi has become better over time, dominating the numbers in recent seasons. CR7 in the meantime has reduced in his number of freekick goals, with the fact that he had to share freekick responsibilities in Real Madrid with Gareth Bale and now in Juventus with Miralem Pjanic also factoring into the equation.
While Messi scored his third consecutive freekick goal in as many matches against Villarreal yesterday, the Portuguese icon is yet to score from the dead ball situation this season.
His last memorable freekick came during the 2018 FIFA World Cup, where he capped a sensational comeback draw for Portugal against Spain with a delightful effort past David de Gea.
Conversion Rate-Messi clearly dominant
While stats relating to freekick conversion rates were very hard to find, the last reliable stats published by ESPN's Alexis (AKA 'MisterChip' on Twitter), Messi is clearly superior over CR7 when it comes to freekick conversions, averaging 8.5% compared to Ronaldo's 6.1% (As of March 18, 2019)
In a December 2018 list of Most Clinical Freekick takers, ranking footballers in terms of freekick to goal conversion ratios, Ronaldo did not even make the top 18 whereas Messi finished 15th.
Messi has more range when it comes to freekicks
While CR7 relies predominantly on his trademark knuckle-ball freekicks that can be unstoppable at times, Messi has a wide repertoire of styles he can unleash on opposition teams when it comes to free kicks.
From the piledriver he unleashed against Villarreal yesterday, he can pivot to the delicate panenka chip freekick he executed last week against Espanyol, which can completely hoodwink even the best goalkeepers. He can accurately hit each corner, constantly keeping the opposition keeper guessing and can also execute the under the wall cheeky freekick with aplomb.
Watch Messi's sensational 'Panenka' chip freekick goal vs Espanyol here:
Thus, with these reasons and the stats on his side, Messi is clearly the superior threat when compared to CR7 when it comes to free kicks. At least in this arena, there in no real scope for any more debate.