Would Messi be as dangerous in the Premier League?

Messi in Barcelona away shirt

Barcelona’s Lionel Messi has won the European Golden Shoe for the third time after scoring more goals than any other player across the continent.

The Argentine netted 46 goals for the Catalans in La Liga and is once again nominated for the Ballon d’Or award which he has won for the last three years consecutively but would Messi achieve the same tally in the Premier League.

His greatest rivalry is, of course, with Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo who is also nominated for the Ballon d’Or this year after losing out to Messi for the last three years in a row but, when it comes to Ronaldo, we have seen the evidence of how dangerous he was in England during his six year spell at Manchester United.

Ronaldo won the title three seasons in a row with the Red Devils under Sir Alex Ferguson as well as the Champions League in 2007/08 and came runners up in 2008/09. The Portuguese international was named PFA Player of the Year two years in a row and FWA Footballer of the Year two years in a row but, crucially, we won the Premier League Golden Boot just once.

Ronaldo scored 31 goals in 34 appearances in the Premier League in 2007/08 – a tally he had not gotten anywhere near before and didn’t again after. His second best league tally was 18 in 2008/09 and 17 in 2006/07. With Real Madrid the next season he scored 26 goals in 29 La Liga appearances. Last season he scored 34 goals in 34 games.

Cristiano Ronaldo is the closest player to the level of Lionel Messi who is undoubtedly the best footballer on the planet and has been for quite some time but even he could not achieve in the Premier League on the same consistent level what he can in La Liga – in 2011/12 he scored 46 goals in 38 La Liga appearances for Real Madrid. That’s unreal. Messi scored 50 in 37 appearances for Barca in 2011/12.

If Messi played for Manchester United, for example, the English champions instead of the Spanish champions would he score 46 Premier League goals? Has any player ever scored 46 goals in England? Dixie Dean scored 60 goals in 39 matches for Everton in 1927/28 but, as for the Premier League, Andy Cole holds the record for the most goals scored in a season with 34 in 1993/94, closely followed by Ronaldo tied with Alan Shearer (1995/96) on 31.

The only players from the Premier League to win the European Golden Shoe are Ronaldo, Thierry Henry, Kevin Phillips, and Ian Rush but not one of them scored more than 32 goals. In La Liga there are only two teams fighting for the championship in Real Madrid and Barcelona, which makes it substantially easier. In England this season Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea, Arsenal or Liverpool could probably fight for it until the closing weeks.

The quality of all the Premier League opposition tends to be higher also – even the Premier League relegation candidate Sunderland managed to beat last term’s runners up Manchester City this season. It’s a much more level playing field and the teams at the bottom and even in the mid-table tend to play much less open and much more negatively than the bottom teams in La Liga which impacts on the number of goals a player can score.

I believe Lionel Messi I the best player in the world and a better player than Cristiano Ronaldo – he scored 12 more goals than Ronaldo last season – which, even if you translated that to the Premier League (via 2007/08 which was Ronaldo’s best tally in England) he would still fall short of 46 – he would hypothetically score 43.

Messi scored 20 more goals than the Premier League’s Golden Boot winner Robin van Persie last season. I believe if you switched the two players’ clubs for a season the results would be relatively quite similar. If Van Persie were at Barcelona I would imagine he would score a fair few more than 26 goals a season and Messi would, in all likelihood, score a lot less than 46 goals for Manchester United.

image: © Carlos RM

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