Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Ronaldo or Messi! The Argument for Ronaldo

So who is the best Ronaldo or Messi?

First I think we need to clarify what best means and I will start by answering four questions that do not pertain to who is the best.

1. Who is more entertaining? Leo Messi
2. Which player has more natural ability? Leo Messi
3. Which player is more "complete"? Leo Messi
4. Which player is more involved in the whole game? Leo Messi

The best soccer player is not about any of the above, it is the player who most increases your probability of winning given the remaining players on your team.

(A brief aside) This notion of best soccer player means that:
  1. It is possible to be objectively better on team A then team B and this is almost always the case
  2. There is no absolute best player for every team, unless that player is so significantly better than everyone else that they would provide the greatest utility on every team possible. 
  3. When acquiring new players on you're team there is a trade off between fit and objectively quality, and that means different positions should have different market values! 
  4. The quality of your other players in the same position determines the importance for that position, i.e. replacing a winger who runs a 100 meter dash in 16 seconds, is more important than finding an upgrade on your amazing striker.
So you might be wondering if you believe that best player can only defined by assessing the needs for a current team then how can you state anything about whether Messi or Ronaldo is best for their team So first I will give examples of teams in which Messi is better than Ronaldo and teams for which Ronaldo is better than Messi. Messi is better than Ronaldo on Man City with Pep, Barcelona, and Arsenal with Arsene Wenger and possibly a few more teams that are dominant. Ronaldo is better than Messi on any Mourinho team, Probably Klopp's liverpool, and any team in the bottom half of the premier league. Having Ronaldo on a team that is in the bottom half of a league, is a much more wise pick then messi, as Messi does well when his team does well, and has control of the ball up field. Ronaldo just needs his team to be able to cross the ball into the box or play it behind the defence. Messi needs to already start from a decent position to create an attack. On average in my opinion Ronaldo is more useful (has a larger effect on their win probability) to most soccer teams, and Messi is a better player for when your team is already better than the opposition. Take Ronaldo in the Champions league in recent years, Real Madrid was far worse than its opposition in it's later stage games yet Ronaldo came in the clutch with huge goals.

Unfortunately, this post has to come with a disclaimer that says I have no idea whether Ronaldo is actually better than Messi, as I can't simulate outcomes of various teams with replacing Ronaldo and Messi in them. I hope this post gives people a different lens to which to view the debate between Ronaldo and Messi. 

If you find this interesting send me a message!

Chris Haack

P.S. I am thankful for everything Ronaldo and Messi have done for the game and for society at large! 

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