By Josh Powell | El Clasico
Real Madrid v Barcelona, Copa Del Rey, semi-final first leg,
8.00pm, Sky Sports 3
Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo are the two greatest footballers on the planet today, regardless of what Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Nani or Mario Balotelli would have you believe. But what would happen if you replaced either man with someone else, for example, one Emile William Ivanhoe Heskey.
With 54 goals between them this season the dynamic duo of Messi and Ronaldo have scored more than 89 of the 92 English league teams, with just Port Vale (58), Manchester United (57) and Watford (56) scoring more.
Since swapping Manchester for Madrid in 2009 Ronaldo has scored 133 goals in 121 league games, picked up a La Liga title, a Copa Del Rey medal and increased hair gel imports to Spain by 38 per cent year-on-year.
In the same three-and-a-bit seasons Barcelona’s Messi has notched up 148 goals in 130 league games and built an additional mantlepiece for his two La Ligas, one Copa Del Rey, Champions League medal and truckload of other awards including a few Ballon D’Ors.
Since the start of 2009 if you took away Messi’s goals Barcelona would be 71 points worse off in La Liga. The titles they won in 2009/10 and 2010/11 would be wiped out and last year they would have finished a whopping 32 points behind their closest rivals as Messi’s goals gave them an extra 23 points.
Ronaldo’s goals have given Real Madrid 52 league points since the start of 2009 and the 15 league points he helped Madrid too last season were pivotal in winning the league. Without him Los Blancos would have finished six points behind the Catalan giants.
Now there’s nothing to say that Heskey wouldn’t step up and replicate that form. This is a man with nine goals in 92 league games when he was at Villa don’t forget. It could have been him beating Gerd Mulleur’s record and collecting his fourth Ballon D’Or on the spin this year if fate had dealt him a different hand. Or a more clinical right foot.
Incredibly if you took away Emile Heskey’s goals from the Newcastle Jets, they’d be 13 points worse off and rock bottom of the Australian League. Either that or someone better than Heskey could have stepped up and put them in the top two, but that’s just widely unrealistic.
Ahead of another mouth-watering El Clasico, the point is that both Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo are two unbelievably good players who have been fundamental in their respective teams recent success. Without them there is a significant chance the last four years would have been very different in the footballing world.
In last season’s league game between the two sides both Ronaldo and Messi scored two each in a 2-2 thriller. Both men are in unstoppable form and Paddy Power is offering an enhanced Power Play on both Ronaldo and Messi to score two or more goals each at 16/1.
Who will steal the show in tonight’s semi-final first leg? Unfortunately it won’t be Heskey, but it should still be a thrilling encounter.