Cristiano Ronaldo vs Lionel Messi off the Bench- Who Is the More Effective Substitute?

Published 09/14/2021, 12:46 PM EDT


The Cristiano Ronaldo vs Lionel Messi debate is football’s iteration of the “who came first? egg or the chicken” question. These debates are endless and are hotly contested amongst a lot of people. While people’s opinions are subjective and there is no clear conclusion, stats can help decide the answer in specific areas.

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BARCELONA, SPAIN – DECEMBER 08: Cristiano Ronaldo of Juventus F.C. is put under pressure by Lionel Messi of Barcelona during the UEFA Champions League Group G stage match between FC Barcelona and Juventus at Camp Nou on December 08, 2020 in Barcelona, Spain. Sporting stadiums around Spain remain under strict restrictions due to the Coronavirus Pandemic as Government social distancing laws prohibit fans inside venues resulting in games being played behind closed doors. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)

Messi has scored double the goals Ronaldo has scored off the bench

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While Messi and Ronaldo are neck to neck when they start for their teams, off the bench, the Argentine captain reigns supreme. For starters, Messi has scored 48 goals and 7 assists in his 98 appearances as a substitute. At the same time, Ronaldo has a comparatively meager 20 goals and 8 assists in his 95 appearances as a substitute.

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Comparing matches to goals can be misleading and that’s where minutes to goal or goals per ninety are handy guides. Even in that metric, Messi reigns supreme. Messi has a goal every 57.8 minutes, which is astonishing.

Ronaldo’s minutes per goal ratio is a lowly 127 minutes per goal. It means that he manages to find the net in every 127 minutes off the bench; double the time which Messi takes. Another impressive fact is that Messi also has a hattrick as a substitute.

ZURICH, SWITZERLAND – JANUARY 12: FIFA Ballon d’Or nominees Lionel Messi of Argentina and FC Barcelona (L) and Cristiano Ronaldo of Portugal and Real Madrid smile during the FIFA Ballon d’Or Gala 2014 at the Kongresshaus on January 12, 2015 in Zurich, Switzerland. (Photo by Philipp Schmidli/Getty Images)

Based on stats, Lionel Messi is head and shoulder above Cristiano Ronaldo as a goalscoring option off the bench. Despite stats not painting Ronaldo in bright light, Ronaldo’s ability to come clutch in big games is well documented. Ronaldo also has scored more goals in his career than Messi, albeit also having played many more games. But off the bench, it is not even a competition with all due respect to CR7.

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Suresh Menon

66 articles

Suresh Menon is a Football and NFL writer at Essentially Sports. He is currently pursuing BMM from St Xaviers College with his specialization in Advertising. Juventus is his favorite football club and he one day plans to go to Italy and watch a Juve match live.

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