Still pegged to the “weak La Liga defense” angle? Then what of their dominance in Europe? The last time Messi and Ronaldo didn’t finish atop of the Champions League goal scoring charts was in 2007, when Kaka led the way. Since then they’ve either been the top scorer in the tournament or tied for first place each season, with both Messi and Ronaldo at one point breaking the single-season record.
Essentially a side effect of the first point, the departure of the two will also have reverberating effect on the league table. This is largely tied to their goal scoring as well, but more so it’s a product of their consistency.
No modern day superstars have ever exhibited the level of reliability of Messi and Ronaldo. Carlo Ancelotti summed it up best when commenting on Ronaldo: “It’s like starting with one goal already.”
Stars of years gone by were certainly able to occasionally hit the heights that Messi and Ronaldo, but these two reach those these levels week in, week out. Their relentless assault on the league has forced open a previously non-existent chasm. Excellence on the pitch leads to wins and eventually trophies. Brilliance week in week out without fail leads to 100-point totals and record breaking feats.
Remove Messi and Ronaldo from the equation and suddenly some 4-1 victories become 1-1 draws, three points turn into one and, suddenly, Diego Simeone is giggling in the corner as Atletico are sitting within striking distance.
Consider last week’s showdown at the Vicente Calderon between Atletico and Barcelona. Fernando Torres’ breakaway strike gave Los Indios the lead, yet despite the apparent importance of the goa,l Simeone didn’t celebrate at all. He would later reveal why, in an interview with a reporter: “I saw Messi warming up”
And Simeone was right, Neymar knotted up the game with a free kick soon after, yet it was Messi’s introduction that completely turned the gmae. Ghosting just outside the penalty box with a ghoulish grin, Messi drew so much attention that Atletico’s defenders suddenly found themselves under duress. Soon after, a quick-thinking touch by Luis Suarez would free up the Argentinian, and he would bury Atletico. Barcelona do not win that game without Messi.
Ronaldo’s had his moments, too, like last year with a vital hat trick away to Sevilla in game where no other Madrid player looked capable of scoring, keeping them in the title race. It would be safe to assume that Messi and Ronaldo likely win between 10-12 points on their own per season. Take that away and all of a sudden things are a lot tighter.