The two leading players in the world are the hot favourites to top the Goal 50 once again, but who has performed better in the previous 12 months?
Cristiano Ronaldo vs Lionel Messi. It's a story that continues year after year, and will continue long after both players hang up their boots and call time on their playing careers. The duo are not only two of the greatest players in the world today, but are rightly considered among the best ever footballers to play the game. Ronaldo and Messi are among the favourites to top the Goal 50 list again this year, but which of the superstar duo has had the best 2017?
The individual statistics can tell a lot about their performances as players over the past 12 months, but just as much can be learned from the achievements of their teams in the past year. Clearly, at club level, Ronaldo has had the edge in 2017, with the 32-year-old helping Real Madrid to become the first team to win back-to-back Champions League titles with two goals in the final victory over Juventus. Los Blancos also lifted La Liga, and the Supercopa de Espana, leaving Barcelona and Messi with just the Copa del Rey to their name in 2016-17.
On an international level, both players helped their countries qualify for the 2018 World Cup, despite some minor setbacks along the way. With Argentina's qualification hopes in the balance, 30-year-old Messi pulled out one of his best ever performances for his country, with a hat-trick against Ecuador, becoming the joint top scorer in CONMEBOL qualifying in the process.
In Europe, Ronaldo was also setting records with Portugal. His hat-trick against the Faroe Islands helped him become the highest scorer in UEFA qualifying with 29 goals during his career. In addition, the former Manchester United attacker also overtook Pele on the list of all-time international goalscorers, taking his tally to 79 international goals.
On a team level, Ronaldo is clearly the world's standout performer, adding many more trophies to his collection thanks to Real Madrid's dominance domestically and in Europe. However, individually, Messi continues to impress, particularly in La Liga with Barcelona.
Overall, the Argentine fared better in the goals scored tally for the year, with 51 goals in 56 total appearances in comparison to Ronaldo's return of 45 in 51 games for club and country. However, the Portuguese attacker's strikes were better spread through club and country as well as in continental and domestic competition. Messi's stats are helped by his fantastic scoring rate of 37 goals in 32 La Liga appearances, eclipsing Ronaldo's 16 in 25.
Messi also provided more La Liga assists, setting up nine goals for team-mates, three more than Ronaldo did with Real Madrid. Both players scored a goal each in the Supercopa, with Messi bettering Ronaldo again in the Copa del Rey, but it is in Europe where the Madeira-born superstar really stood out.
As well as his two goals in the Champions League final, Ronaldo netted 14 other times in the competition during 2017, and ended the 2016-17 Champions League as the tournament's top scorer - the fifth time in a row he has achieved this feat.
Internationally, Ronaldo played more games in 2017 for his country than Messi did, and also had a better return in those games. Messi's hat-trick against Ecuador helped Argentina reach the World Cup, but he failed to score in the other four qualifiers he played and also drew a blank in a friendly appearance against Brazil. His rival had an excellent return in qualifying matches during the year, with eight goals in six games, as well as two goals at the Confederations Cup and a solitary strike in the friendly game with Sweden.
Although Messi's individual stats are probably more impressive for 2017, it is difficult to look past the success that Ronaldo has had with Real Madrid. Both players have again had incredible years to continue their unprecedented careers and once again are difficult to separate as the best in the world.
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