Ronaldo vs Salah: Who has the best stats this season?

As the domestic season take a breath before entering its final furlong, Cristiano Ronaldo’s resurgence in form sees him sitting at the top of the tree when it comes to goalscorers in Europe’s top five leagues.

Despite only netting four league goals in the first half of the season, the Portuguese can now boast a record of 37 goals from just 35 games across all competitions this term.

As is the norm, Lionel Messi is pushing him all the way, with the Barcelona forward having scored 35 goals himself. But there is another who is currently splitting the difference between the iconic duo. That man is Mohamed Salah.

Previously seen as a winger who could chip in his fair share of goals, Salah has developed into one of the most feared forwards on the planet at Anfield, scoring 36 goals in all competitions, including 28 in the Premier League to move clear in the Golden Boot race.

Such form has seen the Egypt international linked with a move to Real Madrid, but how does Salah stack up against his potential future team-mate Ronaldo when taking a deeper dive into their performances in 2017-18?

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While Ronaldo’s record of a goal every 80 minutes outstrips Salah’s average of 90 minutes to find the net, the statistics surrounding the number of shots required tell a different story.

According to Opta, Salah has required an average of 4.41 shots to score a goal this season. On the other hand, Ronaldo needs 6.35 shots before eventually being able to unveil his signature celebration.

That apparent profligacy is backed up when looking at the variation when it comes to expected goals. Opta’s Expected Goals (xG) model measures how likely a particular shot is to be scored based on distance to the goal, angle to the goal, assist type, whether or not it was headed and a variety of other factors. This assigns an xG value between 0 and 1 that reflects how likely the shot is to be scored. So, for example, 0.3 xG means a shot will typically be scored 30% of the time.

Using that model, Salah would have been expected to score 27.45 goals this season in comparison to Ronaldo’s total of 35.75. From this it is clear to see that while the Madrid man is keeping pace with the number of goals he would have been expected to score, Salah is putting away far more difficult opportunities and requiring fewer attempts in the process.

Ronaldo vs Salah GFX

Where Salah’s game falls down, if you can call it that, is that he is slightly predictable when it comes to his goalscoring.

Of his 36 goals, 30 have been with his left foot. While that has seen him break a Premier League record for southpaws, it does open him up to eventually being found out, though keeping the ball away from his stronger foot has proven far more difficult than it appears on paper. 

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Ronaldo, meanwhile, has 21 goals with his right foot, 10 with his left and six with his head. In comparison, Salah has just one header on his tally, and if he is sustain his performances in front of goal past the end of this season then he may need to further adapt his game to become more of a complete forward.

Away from their goalscoring exploits, it is Salah that leads the way when it comes to assists provided by the pair with 10 to Ronaldo’s seven. That is not overly surprising since the latter’s switch to a more central role in recent times, but much like Messi — who himself has 16 assists — Salah is becoming an attacking player who, whether he is scoring goals or laying them on for others, is approaching the “unstoppable” bracket.

Whether that will be enough to see him topple Ronaldo and finish as the top goalscorer on the continent this season, however, remains to be seen.

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