Is Ibrahimovic better than Messi and Ronaldo?

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger claimed on Friday that Paris Saint-Germain striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic is ‘better’ than Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi.

'Right now, he's better than Messi and Ronaldo,' said the Arsenal boss, as quoted by ESPN. 'At 32, he knows how best to exploit his talent.'

The Swedish striker has scored 14 goals in 16 appearances for both club and country so far this term – netting six goals in three Champions League appearances and five goals and four assists in 11 Ligue 1 appearances as well as a hat-trick for Sweden.

In the Champions League, Ibrahimovic is averaging a goal every 45 minutes – on a par with Lionel Messi but behind Ronaldo who is averaging a goal every 39 minutes.

But, crucially, is Wenger right in his claim that the man they call Zlatan is better than the two best players in the world – at the moment? This is a real puzzle because Ibrahimovic is an out-and-out centre-forward, which neither of the other two players are technically.

Messi and Ronaldo are attacking midfielders or trequartistas – more nine and a half types or number ten’s than traditional number nine centre forwards. But, nonetheless, the statistics still dictate and they would, at present, suggest Ibrahimovic is performing better for PSG than Messi and Ronaldo for Barcelona and Real Madrid, respectively.

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In all competitions including at international level, Ibrahimovic is averaging a goal every 96 minutes and an assist every 270 minutes. Messi averages a goal every 73 minutes and an assist every 292 minutes. Ronaldo averages a goal every 79 minutes and an assist every 315 minutes.

Straight off the bat, it’s clear to see Ronaldo and Messi are both scoring more regularly but, what’s actually most intriguing is that Ibrahimovic is actually creating goals with more frequency than either of the other two.

Overall, the stats are not the only thing to judge players on and they only tell one side of the story – in terms of how successful within a the structure and framework of a team these players are, I think Messi and Ronaldo are probably more influential overall on their team’s results and performances but, at his best as he is now, Zlatan Ibrahimovic is very much at the same level of influence, competitiveness and consistency as his Argentine and Portuguese counterparts. That, however, does not mean he’s better. Even momentarily.

image: © prettyfriendship

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