Imagine European football without Messi and Ronaldo

Who would be top scorer? UEFA.com imagines a decade of European football without Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.

©UEFA.com

A decade of Messi and 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?

PICK YOUR TEAM OF THE YEAR

All-time Champions League top scorers (including qualifying)

As it is: Ronaldo (122)
Would be: Raúl González (71)

Benzema has scored 59 Champions League goals
Benzema has scored 59 Champions League goals©AFP/Getty Images

Karim Benzema – currently fifth on the all-time list with 59 goals – would be the leading current player. Would Ronaldo's absence from our alternative football universe have meant more goals for the Frenchman, though? Might he already have surpassed Ruud van Nistelrooy (60) and Raúl (71)? Mind blown, but we go on.

All-time UEFA club competition top scorers

As it is: Ronaldo (124)
Would be: Raúl González (77)

Benzema and Robert Lewandowski – joint-eighth on the list with 60 each – would be the leading active players were it not for our deadly duo.

Neymar is a hit on social media
Neymar is a hit on social media©AFP/Getty Images

Most Instagram followers

As it is: Ronaldo (150 million)
Would be: Neymar (109 million)

Most Twitter followers

As it is: Ronaldo (75.8 million)
Would be: Neymar (41.8 million)

Neymar outranks Messi on Instagram already (the Argentinian has 'only' 105 million followers), and 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 11 seasons (Neymar is the only player to have muscled in, in 2014/15), with the Juventus forward having topped the charts on a record six occasions. Here's who would have headed the rankings without them:

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)

Lewandowski might have been top scorer three times
Lewandowski might have been top scorer three times©AFP/Getty Images

Champions League top scorer on most occasions

As it is: Ronaldo (6)
Would be: Van Nistelrooy, Lewandowski (3)

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

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

Watch: Ronaldo's group stage highlights
Watch: Ronaldo's group stage highlights

All-time Ballons d'Or

As it is: Messi and Ronaldo (5)
Would be: Michel Platini, Johan Cruyff, Marco van Basten (3)

Xavi Hernández, Andrés Iniesta and Neymar would all have won two awards apiece – as well as one each for Fernando Torres, Franck Ribéry, Manuel Neuer and Antoine Griezmann – in the pair's absence over the past decade, meaning no player would have challenged Platini, Cruyff and Van Basten's respective hat-tricks.

Most Champions League group stage goals

As it is: Messi (66)
Would be: Benzema (43)

Most Champions League hat-tricks

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

Most UEFA.com Team of the Year appearances

Who will be in your Team of the Year?
Who will be in your Team of the Year?

As it is: Ronaldo (12)
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 (85)
Would be: Ferenc Puskás (84)

Ronaldo took Puskás's record at the 2018 FIFA World Cup finals. David Villa, still not retired from international duty but without a Spain cap since 2017, is the next leading active player but some way adrift on 59 goals. Edin Džeko and Robert Lewandowski are hot on his heels with 55 goals apiece for Bosnia and Herzegovina and Poland respectively. Messi has scored 65 for Argentina, which – of course – is not a European nation.

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