Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi: Imagining European football without superstar duo
- A look at how European competitions would be affected in the absence of Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi.
- Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo have 11 Ballon d'Or and a staggering 242 goals between them in UCL history.
Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi are two of the greatest footballers of this generation and have played a pivotal role in shaping the modern era of the game. The duo have 11 Ballon d'Or awards, nine UEFA Champions League crowns and a staggering 242 goals between them in Europe's premier club competition.
While Lionel Messi is still plying his trade for Barcelona, Cristiano Ronaldo has moved to Juventus after nine fruitful seasons with Real Madrid. The pair are banging in the goals despite being in their 30s and have shown no signs of slowing down.
Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi - Europe's transformers
Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo have dominated European football since bursting onto the scene in the 2000s, but what would it be like if the superstar duo never graced Europe with their presence?
With 129 goals to his name, including qualifiers, Cristiano Ronaldo is the highest goal scorer in UCL history currently. However, former Real Madrid teammate Raul Gonzalez would be the leader of the goalscorers chart with 71 goals to his name.
Raul (77) would be the beneficiary once again, as he'd top the goalscorers chart in all European competitions if Ronaldo (131) never graced Europe.
Neymar would be the most followed player on Instagram (47m as opposed to Ronaldo's 84.6m), Robert Lewandowski would have 4 UCL top-scorer awards to his name (Ronaldo has 7), and Ruud van Nistelrooy and Mario Gomez (both 12) would hold the joint-record for most goals scored in a single season in Cristiano Ronaldo's (17 goals in 2013-14) absence.
Additionally, Sergio Ramos' 7 Team of the Season appearances will top that particular start and Ferenc Puskas (84) will still be the record goalscorer amongst European countries (Ronaldo has 99).
Pipo Inzaghi, Luiz Adriano, Gomez and Lewandowksi (3) would hold the joint-record for most trebles in the competition (Messi has 8), and Karim Benzema (47) would lead the all-time group stage goalscorers chart if Lionel Messi (68) did not grace Europe with his presence.
The Ballon d'Or charts would also make for interesting reading in the absence of Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi. While Michel Platini, Johan Cruyff and Marco van Basten would lead the chart with three apiece, the likes of Xavi Hernandez, Andres Iniesta and Neymar would all have won the award twice.
Franck Ribery, Fernando Torres, Manuel Neuer, Antoine Griezmann and Virgil van Dijk would have also got their hands on the prized accolade if Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo did not dominate Europe for over a decade.
Finally, the list of top-scorers by season would also have a different look to it in the absence of the duo.
- 2007/08: Fernando Torres, Didier Drogba, Steven Gerrard (6 goals)
- 2008/09: Steven Gerrard, Miroslav Klose (7)
- 2009/10: Ivica Olić (7)
- 2010/11: Mario Gomez, Samuel Eto'o (8)
- 2011/12: Mario Gomez (12)
- 2012/13: Robert Lewandowski (10)
- 2013/14: Zlatan Ibrahimović (10)
- 2014/15: Neymar (10)
- 2015/16: Robert Lewandowski (9)
- 2016/17: Edinson Cavani, Robert Lewandowski (8)
- 2017/18: Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mané, Mohamed Salah (10)
- 2018/19: Robert Lewandowski (8)
While it's hard to imagine football without Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, it could be argued that several players were unfortunate to be born in the same era as the two.
Source: Stats were gathered from UEFA.com and correct at the time of writing.