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A Supercomputer With Pinpoint Analysis Gives Convincing Outcome on the Messi vs Ronaldo Debate


Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi
Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi

While every football fan knows both Juventus hitman Cristiano Ronaldo and FC Barcelona legend Lionel Messi have etched their names in football history as the greatest players ever.

However, fans still continue to argue who is better between the two. As it has been seen in the past, there have been programs and codes and algorithms written to compare these two legends. But now, a supercomputer has brought in a whole new angle to this age-old debate.

Sporza revealed last year that professors at KU Leuven university and data experts at SciSports came up with a formula to decide who is the best player. Professor Jesse Davis explained how their system works, saying, “The value of a soccer player is often determined by goals and assists. A goal is a rare event, however, because an average of 1,600 actions are estimated to occur in a match.”

He added, “Our model looks at each action – shots, passes, dribbles, tackles – and calculates its value.”

Using data from the two players from the beginning of the 2013/14 season until Ronaldo left La Liga to join Juventus at the end of the 2017/18 season, the computer decided the Barca man was the better player.

Messi ended with Valuing Actions by Estimating Probabilities, aka VAEP score of 1.21 per game with Ronaldo scoring just 0.61 per game.

Tom Decroos, a PhD student who was involved in the research, explained, “In the first seasons, Messi and Ronaldo’s scores are very close to each other.”

He concluded, “From the 2015/16 season, Messi has stepped away from his eternal rival. We see a trade-off with most football players: either they make a lot of actions with a less high value – that’s the case with Paul Pogba, for example. Or you have players who are less likely to hit the ball, but who have a big impact. That is typical of strikers like Harry Kane, Mohamed Salah and Ronaldo. Messi is exceptional in this area: the Argentinian has a very high number of actions and they also have a high value.”

A point to note here is also that Ronaldo’s score for Real, during the same period he was compared with Messi, was similar to Eden Hazard’s score for Chelsea during that time-frame before the start of the current season.

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