Imagine European football without Messi and Ronaldo
Friday, December 30, 2022
Who would be top scorer? UEFA.com imagines European football without its two biggest stars.
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Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo have dominated the UEFA Champions League scoring charts and Europe's individual accolades for much of the 2000s, but who would have been the main beneficiaries had the pair never graced European football?
All-time Champions League top scorers (including qualifying)
As it is: Ronaldo (140)
Would be: Robert Lewandowski (91)
Currently third in the rankings, Robert Lewandowski would have been the greatest of his age but for Messi and Ronaldo, although fourth-ranked Karim Benzema might have got a few more than his current tally of 86 had he not been competing for chances with Ronaldo during their time together at Real Madrid.
All-time UEFA club competition top scorers
As it is: Ronaldo (145)
Would be: Robert Lewandowski (98)
Lewandowski needs just two more goals to become the third player to have scored 100 in UEFA's club competitions. In a Messi-and-Ronaldo-free world, he could have been the first.
Champions League top scorer by season
Messi and Ronaldo finished as sole or joint-top scorer in 12 successive seasons (though Neymar muscled in, as he, Ronaldo and Messi ended level on ten goals in 2014/15). Ronaldo topped the charts (solely or jointly) on a record seven occasions. Here's who would have headed those rankings without 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)
Champions League top scorer on most occasions
As it is: Cristiano Ronaldo (7)
Would be: Robert Lewandowski (5)
Lewandowski was top scorer for the first time in the 2019/20 campaign with 15 goals; but for Messi and Ronaldo, that would have been his fifth success.
Most goals in a single Champions League campaign
As it is: Cristiano Ronaldo – 2013/14 (17)
Would be: Robert Lewandowski – 2019/20 (15), Karim Benzema – 2021/22 (15)
All-time Ballons d'Or
As it is: Lionel Messi (7)
Would be: Michel Platini, Johan Cruyff, Marco van Basten (3)
From 2008 to 2017, either Messi or Ronaldo won the Ballon d'Or (five editions each), with Messi taking a lead in the all-time rankings when he received the award again in 2019 and 2021.
Had the deadly duo not been involved, Xavi Hernández, Andrés Iniesta and Neymar would have won two awards apiece – as well as one each for Fernando Torres, Franck Ribéry, Manuel Neuer, Antoine Griezmann, Virgil van Dijk and Lewandowski – meaning no player would have challenged Michel Platini, Johan Cruyff and Marco van Basten's hat-tricks.
Most Champions League group stage goals
As it is: Lionel Messi (78)
Would be: Robert Lewandowski (61)
Most Champions League hat-tricks
As it is: Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo (8)
Would be: Robert Lewandowski (6)
Europe's all-time top international scorers
As it is: Cristiano Ronaldo (118)
Would be: Ferenc Puskás (84)
Ronaldo took Ferenc Puskás's record at the 2018 FIFA World Cup. Lewandowski is the next leading active player on 78 goals. Messi has scored 96 for Argentina, which – of course – is not a European nation.
Stats correct as at 14 December 2022.