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Imagine European football without Messi and Ronaldo

Who would be top scorer? UEFA.com imagines European football without its two biggest stars.

Imagine European football without Messi and Ronaldo
Imagine European football without Messi and Ronaldo ©UEFA.com

A decade of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo dominating both the UEFA Champions League scoring charts and Europe's individual accolades got UEFA.com thinking; who might have been the main beneficiaries had the pair never graced European football with their presence?

All-time Champions League top scorers (including qualifying)

As it is: Ronaldo (129)
Would be: Raúl González (71)

Benzema has scored 64 Champions League goals
Benzema has scored 64 Champions League goals©AFP/Getty Images

Karim Benzema and Robert Lewandowski – currently joint fifth on the all-time list with 64 goals – would be the leading current players. Would Ronaldo's absence from our alternative football universe have meant more goals for his former Real Madrid team-mate, though? Might Benzema already have surpassed Raúl (71) by now? Mind blown, but we go on.

All-time UEFA club competition top scorers

As it is: Ronaldo (131)
Would be: Raúl González (77)

Lewandowski – fourth on the all-time list with 71 – would be the leading active player were it not for our deadly duo.

Most Twitter followers

As it is: Ronaldo (84.6 million)
Would be: Neymar (47 million)

Messi is second to Ronaldo alone on Instagram (218 million followers versus 150 million followers), but the Barcelona man has never had much of a Twitter presence.

Champions League top scorer by season

Messi and Ronaldo have finished as sole or joint-top scorer in each of the last 12 seasons (Neymar is the only player to have muscled in, as he, Ronaldo and Messi ended level on ten goals in 2014/15). Ronaldo has topped the charts (solely or jointly) on a record seven occasions. Here's who would have headed the rankings without the duo:

Six great Neymar goals
Six great Neymar goals

2007/08: Torres, Drogba, Gerrard (6 goals)
2008/09: Gerrard, Klose (7)
2009/10: Olić (7)
2010/11: Gomez, Eto'o (8)
2011/12: Gomez (12)
2012/13: Lewandowski (10)
2013/14: Ibrahimović (10)
2014/15: Neymar (10)
2015/16: Lewandowski (9)
2016/17: Cavani, Lewandowski (8)
2017/18: Firmino, Mané, Salah (10)
2018/19: Lewandowski (8)

Champions League top scorer on most occasions

As it is: Ronaldo (7)
Would be: Lewandowski (4)

Most goals in a single Champions League campaign

As it is: Ronaldo – 2013/14 (17)
Would be: Van Nistelrooy – 2002/03 (12), Gomez – 2011/12 (12)

Most all-time UEFA Men's Player of the Year awards

UEFA Men's Player of the Year: Virgil van Dijk
UEFA Men's Player of the Year: Virgil van Dijk

As it is: Ronaldo (3)
Would be: Buffon, Griezmann, Iniesta, Modrić, Neuer, Ribéry, Suárez, Van Dijk, Xavi (1)

All-time Ballons d'Or

As it is: Messi (6)
Would be: Platini, Cruyff, Van Basten (3)

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 and Virgil van Dijk – in the pair's absence over the past 11 years, meaning no player would have challenged Michel Platini, Johan Cruyff and Marco van Basten's respective hat-tricks.

Most Champions League group stage goals

As it is: Messi (68)
Would be: Benzema (47)

Most Champions League hat-tricks

Watch all of Lewandowski's round of 16 goals
Watch all of Lewandowski's round of 16 goals

As it is: Messi, Ronaldo (8)
Would be: Inzaghi, Gomez, Luiz Adriano, Lewandowski (3)

Most UEFA.com Team of the Year appearances

As it is: Ronaldo (14)
Would be: Ramos (7)

Of course, there's no telling who would have been picked in place of Messi and Ronaldo – we examined our Team of the Year stats trove but the voting figures were inconclusive – so that compels us to presume that Real Madrid defender Sergio Ramos would be king.

Europe's all-time top international scorers

As it is: Ronaldo (99)
Would be: Puskás (84)

Ronaldo took Ferenc Puskás's record at the 2018 FIFA World Cup. Lewandowski is the next leading active player but some way adrift on 61 goals. Messi has scored 70 for Argentina, which – of course – is not a European nation.

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