Messi/Ronaldo's dominance in la liga, product of weak defensive era, or..?

Discussion in 'Statistics and Analysis' started by Sexy Beast, Aug 23, 2017.

  1. Sexy Beast

    Sexy Beast Member

    Dinamo Zagreb
    Aug 11, 2016
    Nat'l Team:
    For a while now, i've been struggling to comprehend how could Messi and Ronaldo be so much more impressive at scoring goals then their predecessors like Raul, R9, etc. How come they regularly reach 40 goals in a la liga season, while before, they struggled to get even to 30?
    My first guess was that in last 10 years all teams in la liga adapted to more attacking minded style of play resulting in more goals in general in their games, plus with Barca/Real's dominance, and Messi/Ronaldo being their main players, that could explain their dominance at pichichi. To prove that hypothesis i ran through some numbers:

    LIST 1. (This is a list that shows all goals scored in la liga since season 1997/98 and the top scorer for each season (numbers of goals are in brackets) with percantage that shows how much the top scorer scored compared to all goals scored that season. I choosed that season because at that point la liga got back to format with 20 teams, rather tan 22 teams as seasons before that.):
    1996/97 (22 teams league) - 1271 goals - Ronaldo (34), 2,67%
    97/98 - 1009 - Vieri (24) - 2,38%
    98/99 - 1003 - Raul (25) - 2,49%
    99/00 - 999 - Salva (27) - 2,70%
    00/01 - 1095 - Raul (24) - 2,19%
    01/02 - 961 - Tristan (21) - 2,19%
    02/03 - 1016 - Makaay (29) - 2,85%
    03/04 - 1015 - Ronaldo (24) - 2,36%
    04/05 - 980 - Forlan (25) - 2,55%
    05/06 - 936 - Eto'o (26) - 2,78%
    06/07 - 942 - Van Nisterlooy (25) - 2,65%
    07/08 - 1021 - Guiza (27) - 2,64%
    08/09 - 1101 - Forlan (32) - 2,91%
    09/10 - 1031 - Messi (34) - 3,30%
    10/11 - 1042 - Ronaldo (40) - 3,84%
    11/12 - 1050 - Messi (50) - 4,76%
    12/13 - 1091 - Messi (46) - 4,22%
    13/14 - 1045 - Ronaldo (31) - 2,97%
    14/15 - 1009 - Ronaldo (48) - 4,76%
    15/16 - 1043 - Suarez (40) - 3,84%
    16/17 - 1118 - Messi (37) - 3,31%

    (07/08 season seems as a season when some weird things started to happening so i separated seasons into two parts: From 97/98 to 06/07 and from 07/08 to 16/17)
    At first look the difference is clearly visible. In first 10 seasons there are 5 seasons at which la liga teams scored less than 1000 goals and 5 seasons with more than 1000 goals, while in next 10 years, they didn't go under 1000 goals even once. Interesting fact but not enough for me because that difference could be due to Barcelona and Real being better in last 10 years then 10 years before that hence why they are so many more goals now. That's why i ran through numbers again, and from each season's goal tally, I took away all goals Barcelona and Real have scored, plus i took away all goals they conceded. That way we will see how did the rest of la liga evolve over the years and get clearer picture on what the heck is going on here.

    LIST 2. (Due to goals in el clasico's the number i got, by subtracting goals scored by all teams with goals scored and conceded by Barca/Real, is not completely accurate, but the difference is negligible imo.):
    97/98 - 767
    98/99 - 734
    99/00 - 763
    00/01 - 837
    01/02 - 746
    02/03 - 778
    03/04 - 809
    04/05 - 751
    05/06 - 711
    06/07 - 725
    07/08 - 782
    08/09 - 826
    09/10 - 772
    10/11 - 791
    11/12 - 772
    12/13 - 783
    13/14 - 770
    14/15 - 722
    15/16 - 758
    16/17 - 816

    Things have just got a bit more complicated, haven't they? There is no a visible pattern that we could see at first glance over numbers so we will have to take averages into account.

    The average amount of goals scored by all la liga teams in first 10 seasons:
    in second 10 seasons:
    The average (and approximate) amount of goals scored by la liga teams excluding Barca and Real in first 10 seasons:
    in second 10 seasons:

    Although the difference between overal amount of goals scored by la liga teams is relatively high, we can see that big chunck of that is due to Barcelona and Real Madrid being two superteams in last 10 seasons. If we ignore them, it turns out that rest of la liga is scoring approximately 17 goals more per season in last 10 years than 10 years before that, aaaaaand that is an interesting fact. What do you think what's the reason to that? Change of rules? More attacking minded era? I want to hear your takeaways of those lists.
    ... in conclusion, i don't think difference in era has much to do with Messi/Ronaldo's dominance at pichichi, although the fact that they played in two superteams has slightly to do with those numbers, but however i believe they would get, in some seasons, 35+ goals even at the begining of the century. Those two really are frek of nature.

    Ultimately, my goal is to reach Maradona's era in Barcelona and drew some conclusions from numbers, and after that get to Epl, Serie A and, if possible, find out how much the game itself has changed over the last few decades and is football really entering the weakest defensive era of all time or is it just a myth?. I am open for discussion about those leagues as well.
    Nicola1975 repped this.
  2. Nicola1975

    Nicola1975 Member

    Oct 15, 2014
    Vicenza Calcio
    Nat'l Team:
    I think that a lot of credit should go to Rijkaard and Guardiola, who created an offensive style of play that many teams tried to apply on their own, with alternate success.
    It could be interesting to check Dutch Eredivisie before and after Rinus Michels' Ajax (especially from 1966-67), and Italian Serie A before and after Arrigo Sacchi's Milan (from 1997-98).

    I also think that the single players don't count very much towards the increment of the general scoring average: on one side, Ajax had Cruijff and Milan had Van Basten, but they were the right players in the right team at the right time; on the other side, Messi and Ronaldo could have scored tons of goals in any team they would had played, but of course playing in two dominant teams helped them to reach astonishing numbers.

    Ajax, Milan and Barcelona have been, in different decades, models for many other teams in the same country but also abroad; the "problem" is that those teams were overall very good (with a peak in Guardiola's Barcelona), while many others just thought that playing "like" them was enough to win; actually all those 3 teams had great players in every part of the field, so they were able to keep the ball most of the time and also managed to concede few goals. Other teams, less talented, just applied (or tried to) the same kind of football without taking into account the traits of the players, so they just scored more and conceded more.

    A famous example in Italy is Zdenek Zeman, a trainer who always gives great advantages to the offensive players because of his unscrupulous style of play, but neglecting the defensive phase, so his teams often make a great show for the spectators, either losing or winning by many goals, but at the end of the campaign the results are not very good (with few exceptions).

    It is interesting to see that Rijkaard, sometimes underestimated, is like a fil rouge between the different generations, since he was born in Netherlands in 1962, played in Ajax just after Cruijff, became a star in Sacchi's Milan and started the winning cycle of Barcelona as a trainer.
    Sexy Beast repped this.
  3. Sexy Beast

    Sexy Beast Member

    Dinamo Zagreb
    Aug 11, 2016
    Nat'l Team:
    That is interesting and plausible explanation.

    I am planning to cover all major leagues in relatively modern era because i really am interesting in the evolution of football because, as far as i am concerned, it is not just spanish league that underwent changes, you can also see things like Higuain scoring 36 goals in Serie A, which is the most since 30s if am not mistaken, Ibrahimović scoring 38 in French league, etc. There is some weird pattern going on in todays football. All strikers generally score more, and i wonder why,.. maybe is coincedence, maybe not. That's what i am looking for.

    Any statistical evidence on the topic is welcome, of course.
  4. Sexy Beast

    Sexy Beast Member

    Dinamo Zagreb
    Aug 11, 2016
    Nat'l Team:
    #4 Sexy Beast, Aug 31, 2017
    Last edited: Aug 31, 2017
    I ran through some numbers again. This time i wanted to see how have top scorers, not called Messi or Ronaldo, changed over the years. With that i wanted to further build up on the observation that i have made last time and that is that with time, football started to be more beneficial towards attacking football (at least in Spain). If we can observe that regular strikers managed to score more than they did before it would mean that Messi and Ronaldo did manage to score that much due to the difference in era, rather than just being so much more superior goalscorers.

    LIST 2. (In black font are shown pichichi winners (amount of goals in brackets). In orange are shown top scorers ignoring all Barcelona's and Real's players.)
    97/98 - 1009 - Vieri (24) - Vieri (24)
    98/99 - 1003 - Raul (25) - Lopez (21)
    99/00 - 999 - Salva (27) - Salva (27)
    00/01 - 1095 - Raul (24) - Javi Moreno (22)
    01/02 - 961 - Tristan (21) - Tristan (21)
    02/03 - 1016 - Makaay (29) - Makaay (29)
    03/04 - 1015 - Ronaldo (24) - Julio Baptista (20)
    04/05 - 980 - Forlan (25) - Forlan (25)
    05/06 - 936 - Eto'o (26) - Villa (25)
    06/07 - 942 - Van Nisterlooy (25) - Milito (23)
    07/08 - 1021 - Guiza (27) - Guiza (27)
    08/09 - 1101 - Forlan (32) - Forlan (32)
    09/10 - 1031 - Messi (34) - Villa (21)
    10/11 - 1042 - Ronaldo (40) - Aguero (20)
    11/12 - 1050 - Messi (50) - Falcao (24)
    12/13 - 1091 - Messi (46) - Falcao (28)
    13/14 - 1045 - Ronaldo (31) - Costa (27)
    14/15 - 1009 - Ronaldo (48) - Griezmann (22)
    15/16 - 1043 - Suarez (40) - Griezmann (22)
    16/17 - 1118 - Messi (37) - Iago Aspas (19)

    Average amount of goals a top scorer outside Barcelona/Real scored in first 10 seasons: 23,7
    in second 10 seasons: 24,2

    Unfortunetly this complicates things a little bit. I honestly expected the bigger difference between those two numbers in favor of second 10 seasons, but as for now, it seems as if no major changes happened in la liga as a whole and that Messi's and Ronaldo's goalscoring tallies are due to superior teams they had, plus their talent. Because as we can see, Forlan is only player in last 20 years (and perhapse more) who reached 30 goals tally in la liga season not playing for one of the big two.
    In last 10 years top scorers outside Barcelona and Real averaged only half goal more per seasons than top scorers in 10 years before them. There is a slight change in la liga over the past 20 years, but argument that teams nowadays are defensively inferior to the ones 20 years ago so that's the reason why Messi and Ronaldo bangs so much goals, is invalid. This Barca and Real with Messi and Ronaldo would be as dominant 20 years ago as they are now (in la liga). That's my conclusion for now.
    If somebody thinks that i am missing something, please speak up.. i think i will turn to 90s in la liga now.
    Nicola1975 repped this.
  5. Nicola1975

    Nicola1975 Member

    Oct 15, 2014
    Vicenza Calcio
    Nat'l Team:
    Nice research.
    However, I would stick to teams/league's numbers, because I think that single players' statistics are not so important in this case: a more offensive (or worse defense) era can be related only to teams (or the league as a whole), and not to single players, especially when you have two exceptions like Messi and Ronaldo.
    But it's just my opinion.
  6. Sexy Beast

    Sexy Beast Member

    Dinamo Zagreb
    Aug 11, 2016
    Nat'l Team:
    I will look from all possible angles just to collect as much data and draw out of it as precise conclusion as possible.. but I am out of time atm..
  7. You should start with the time Happel coaching Eredivisie clubs, when surveying the Eredivisie. Unlike common believe it was Happel, who developed the Dutch way of 4-3-3, not Michels and it was Johan Cruijff, who forced him to adopt the Feyenoord system of Happel. Cruijff was the genius who instantly recognized the brilliance of Happel's system, when Ajax was overpowered by the 4-3-3 of Feyenoord with the midfielders van Hanegem, Wim Jansen and Frans Hasil.
    Nicola1975 and Sexy Beast repped this.
  8. Nicola1975

    Nicola1975 Member

    Oct 15, 2014
    Vicenza Calcio
    Nat'l Team:
    I didn't know about Happel's Feyenoord.
    Also Sacchi had made Parma play in the same way as the future Milan, but no one actually cared about that team; everybody in Italy wanted to copy Sacchi's Milan, not Sacchi's Parma, even if the playing system was the same.
    I don't know if the same thing can be said in Netherlands about Feyenoord and Ajax.
  9. carlito86

    carlito86 Member+

    Jan 11, 2016
    Real Madrid
    #9 carlito86, Jun 28, 2020
    Last edited: Jun 28, 2020
    It is not just a myth but actually the most oft repeated myth on football forums,YouTube comment sections etc

    The top 15 highest European cup seasons in history were between the 1950s to 1970s Screenshot_20200628-105026-1.jpg

    The top 30 highest scoring seasons in the history of la liga were during the 1920s to 1980s

    Only 3 of the top 30 highest scoring serie A seasons took place in the 21st century

    19 of the top 20 highest scoring seasons in the history of the Bundesliga took place during the 1960s to 1980s

    13 of the top 15 highest scoring seasons in the history of the eredivisie took place during the 1950s to 1990s

    The top 50 highest scoring seasons in English top flight history were between the 1890s and 1960s

    Most represented are
    9 seasons from the 1890s
    7 seasons from the 1960s
    5 seasons from the 1920s

    And ultimately
    0 seasons from the 21st century

    One of those myths about how the UEFA cup used to be much stronger before, fielding many strong teams etc
    Only 2 of the highest scoring UEFA cup seasons took place in the 21st century

    The breakdown:

    9 in the 1960s
    7 in the 1970s
    5 in the 1980s
    3 in the 1990s

    It is probably the most ingrained myth that football has declined

    Declined from what.... 3-4 gpg averages?

    Defensively no way
    The facts demonstrate football has progressively gotten better
    Just review any classic world cup match from the 1970s and 1980s and count(if you can)how many inept defensive errors are commited

    All this stuff about how Serie A was for a brief time the single most difficult league in history
    1986-1992 (give or take)

    Who can name me a single striker who played in this ultra defensive league who scored 40 or more goals for their country?
    25+ career goals in the European cup?

    Just one/any

    Careca/Serena/aldo even van basten(although if im being fair we could say he played his last game at 27 years old)

    But anyone else
    Voller,rush,pruzzo,virdis,vialli,carnevale,altobelli,zola etc

    I think klinnsman is literally the only CF with real international pedigree besides van basten.
    Besides those 2 the rest are probably not even greater than vieri in his prime(or even Micheal owen 98-01)

    The strikers were so poor they were being outscored by midfielders
    This is literally unprecedented in any top European league

    Please bear in mind @babaorum has often claimed Platini did not improve in Italy
    He was already at that level for saint ettiene in france

    How does he reconcile then with the fact platini didn't top score even once in ligue 1
    But then proceeded to top score 3 consecutive times in italy?

    Between 1982-1987 there were completely mediocre strikers in Italy

    He had no competition

    In france there was Carlos bianchi
    A proven goalscorer
    Was 3 times top goalscorer in the Argentine division
    5 times ligue 1 top scorer
    And also delio onnis

    Serie A had no goalscorer of that level or even a normal world clasa level until Van basten arrived in 1987

    prime versions of lewandowski, Suarez and henry who would record a minimum 20 league goals per season in serie A in whichever era you care to mention

    Didier drogba scored 20 open play premier league goals in 2006/07 when the league averaged only 2.45 goals
    2006/07 is statistically the 3rd most defensive season in the history of English top flight football

    Transport him to serie A 1984/85 when the league averaged something like 2.05 gpg and lets give him Maradonas 4 penalties
    Or platinis 4 penalties and i bet you hed still end up with 15-20 league goals

    Drogba is a favourite of mine but truth be told he isn't even the 10th best striker of the 21st century
    Above him id have ibrahimovic,suarez,lewandowski,Henry,van persie,Rooney,etoo,Shevchenco,
    Others like kun aguero and Salah are arguable too

    So if drogba can do that Imagine what they could do
    And not all that but imagine how many times they could do it
    Drogba however great he was in cup finals was a very inconsistent league performer

    Pre modern era football is overhyped by romanticists

    Nothing wrong with that actually as we all have fond memories of our childhood but when it us done at the expense criticising todays game then things have to be put in the correct perspective

    No way on earth is todays game defensively worse
    Its really just fictional
  10. Sexy Beast

    Sexy Beast Member

    Dinamo Zagreb
    Aug 11, 2016
    Nat'l Team:
    I agree with the conclusion but not quite with the way you got there. I don't think goals per game is indicative of quality of defense, but rather mentality of clubs.

    You can have the case of great defenses but with even better attacks and gpg would fall somewhere around 3 or you can have okay defenses but with extremely poor attacks in which case gpg would be around 2,5.

    The point is you can't really conclude anything from gpg statistic alone because it holds information about the quality of attackers, the quality of defenders and general mentality in league.

    But the idea that football is better than ever is really easy to claim even without any statistics. Quality in any area of life is produced by competition. It is the universal truth we observe in all domains of life. So the question is how competitive is modern era compared to others.

    I don't have any data, but i am confident saying that football is, objectively, more popular than ever, would you agree? That there is more money poured into football than ever before and that footballing career is accessible to more kids than ever before.

    I mean just look at recent trends in Europe. Every other young prospect seems to be black and that is because scouting has reached completely new level. It openned up a new source of talent, which resulted in better players on average.

    As it usually is, extremes don't change much, so there were handful of players that were exceptional and would be able to play in any era like Van Basten, Maradona, Platini, Zico, Cruyff, Pele,.. but the 500th best player in the world today is incomprehensively better than the 500th best player in 1980 or even 1990.

    There is also a tactical side of the story that exhibits the same exponential growth and adds up to the todays quality.
  11. Tropeiro

    Tropeiro Member

    Jun 1, 2018
    It is the wrong question.

    Actually the Ronaldo-Messi dominance is more fruit of Barcelona-Real Madrid dominance... I talking about the permission of more foreign (not euro foreign, but country foreign) players in the teams (more world class players in fewer teams), the increasing difference in financial power and the advancement of technology (which allows you to always hire the best players and other profissionals), thus football has become increasingly unequal.

    Now, it is true that the football has fewer fouls and tackles than before (you can search for stats about it), that is, and you can say that it is much less violent than before, although this is balanced by the tactical and physical evolution. But it is an interesting point to analyse too. Physical contact is much more protected now.

    About the football sensation in Brazil (the biggest football country in the world), this is not my experience. Before the kids here played a lot more football than nowadays (street football etc), I speak from experience. The Internet, video games, even the flight of the Brazilian stars has made football much less followed than before. In Europe it can be different (with black people using it more than whites because of social mobility), however like I said... Brazil is past his peak imo.
  12. Sexy Beast

    Sexy Beast Member

    Dinamo Zagreb
    Aug 11, 2016
    Nat'l Team:
    It is an anecdotal evidence. You can't see the world past your own filters. It might simply be that football was more important to you back in the day so you've noticed it more. It can also be that popularity indeed went down in Brazil, but nothing that other areas wouldn't cover.

    This can be checked. Were goals back in the day as disproportionally scored by top teams as they are today?

    But Barcelona and Real from the peak of their dominance (2009-2015) must not be included.

Share This Page