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Why Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo may not hit the 40-goal mark this season

6.86K   //    31 Aug 2015, 17:36 IST
An unusual start for Ronaldo and Messi in La Liga as they both are yet to register their names on the scoresheet 

Something hitherto unknown has occurred this season in the Spanish top flight. Since both Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo have plied their trade in La Liga, one or the other has always scored on the opening weekend or two of the season. 

Not this time! 

In fact, we have to circle all the way back to October 2013 to even find the last weekend where one didn’t put their name on the scoresheet. So when we ponder just how great these two exponents were in years to come, just think about that. Every weekend for almost two years, the names Messi or Ronaldo were writ large in the news bulletins. A quite incredible statistic and one that evidences their continued excellence in front of goal.

For the last six years, no one has come anywhere close to usurping either as the “Pichichi” or top scorer in the league. Messi’s 50 in 2011/12 remains the benchmark though Ronaldo ran him close with 48 during the last campaign. But all that could be about to change. 

This is the first season that Barcelona have had Luis Suarez start from the very beginning and he has already shown that he will be the main man in terms of goals scored. His pre-season was probably the best at the club, and although he has only registered one goal in the league so far, he has come close on a number of occasions. 

Clearly the ex-Liverpool man will take the lions share this time and with Neymar expected to contribute heavily in the goals scored column again, Messi’s role will be one of provider rather than scorer.

Ronaldo can become Real’s all-time top scorer this season

Gareth Bale Cristiano Ronaldo Real Madrid
Gareth Bale could take over the goal-scoring mantle playing in the no.10 role

Not that it would bother the Argentine one jot. Many times before now Messi has come out publicly to say that he isn’t interested in individual accolades, that he derives much more pleasure from the team dynamic.

Ronaldo on the other hand...

The Portuguese has a change of role to contend with under Rafa Benitez. Karim Benzema has very definitely become the main striker and we have already seen a “shrug of the shoulders” attitude for Ronaldo as chances have come and gone. 

A feeling of desperation for adulation is still very much evident in his play and when he doesn’t get what he wants, his insouciance shows itself by staying on the periphery.

In fact, if we loop back to the latter half of last season, despite scoring at a rate of knots, he did little else. Now that he has been asked to provide as well as to score, there is a much bigger likelihood to be a drop off in goalscoring performance. Whilst it won’t please Ronaldo himself, perhaps Benitez is tapping into something here.

Far too many times in the past, Ronaldo’s colleagues have deigned to him only to see chances go begging. Chances that quite conceivably may have ended in a goal were it not for the insistence of the player to be fed time and again.

With Gareth Bale installed in the number 10 role, pace down both wide channels will be a thing of the past for Real. However, the creativity that James Rodriguez or Isco can bring can more than compensate for a loss of speed.

This is very likely to be Ronaldo’s final season at Real Madrid. It was a stated aim of his to become the top scorer for the club before an expected return to Manchester United to see out the rest of his career.

He needs less than a dozen goals to sit proudly atop the club’s all-time goalscoring charts, but there is no real need to score them all in the first few weeks of the season. A little more concentration on team dynamic won’t go amiss. In fact, it might allow him to leave the Santiago Bernabeu with his head held high.

The locals are becoming a little irritated by his selfish attitude and booed him incessantly towards the back end of the last campaign. That’s unlikely to be a scenario that will ever happen at Camp Nou. Messi has simply done too much for the club over a sustained period for him to be wished anything but the best when Newell’s Old Boys come calling at the end of his career.

Both players will need to find a solution to their problems

Neymar Messi Barcelona
Messi has spoken about shifting to a deeper role in midfield

There’s still plenty of time left before that particular story plays itself out, and more time for Messi to further his legend as top scorer and assister of all-time in La Liga, top scorer in the Champions League etc. Even a 30-goal season would be a success. 

It’s rare that even “the best league in the world,” the English Premier League, has players whom can hit that magic milestone. Suarez was the last for Liverpool in the year that he shared the Golden Shoe with Ronaldo.

It’s only been since Messi and Ronaldo came onto the scene that such astronomical numbers have even been talked about. 

Both players aren’t getting any younger either and let’s also pay tribute to the defenders who are up against them week in and week out. To shut out either for a full 90 minutes has been beyond most opposition for some while now. But maybe the status quo is finally beginning to change.

Although their own output becomes moribund as a result of more and more defenders getting wise to the passages of play, both players will need to find solutions to the problems presented to them.

As such, we can expect a fascinating chess game each week in the season ahead. Checkmate.

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Freelance sports journalist. Member of the Sports Journalist's Association, Football Writers' Association and International Sports Press Association.
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