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Why Messi Really Is Worth $104 Million More Than Ronaldo...Right Now

The CIES Football Observatory has released its semi-annual list of the top 100 most valuable soccer players in the world. Unsurprisingly, Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo are #1 and #2. 

The list is sure to cause debate among soccer fans - and, in fact, it has already caused much uproar in social media:

The controversy obviously relates to Messi bring ranked ahead of Ronaldo, despite the latter winning last year’s Ballon d’Or, and being the favorite to win this year’s as well. The real vitriol for supporters of Ronaldo, however, lies in the fact that CIES has valued Messi a full $104 million dollars higher than their main man. 

That’s right, Lionel Messi has been valued at $262 million, while Cristiano Ronaldo is at “only” $158 million. Many are rightly wondering how that is possible.

As mentioned before, Ronaldo is the current holder of the Ballon d’Or, and he will undoubtedly win the next one. He has led Real Madrid on an unprecedented 22 match wining streak. Not unbeaten, winning. He even claimed the record for most hat-tricks in La Liga this season.

Messi, great as he undoubtedly is, simply has not been able to match the individual production of Ronaldo this season. Neither has he led Barcelona to the highs that Real Madrid has reached. Surely those factors must make him less valuable than Ronaldo, but they do not. 

That is because the CIES list does not rank players purely according to their ability, or their production. No, the list is based on the somewhat ephemeral notion of value, on what price a team would sell a player for. Player ability and production do factor into the algorithm that CIES uses to calculate value, but they are not the be-all-end-all.

This is a matter of supply and demand. Barcelona need Lionel Messi more than Real Madrid needs Cristiano Ronaldo. That need creates a demand, and that demand drives up value of a solitary supply.

Yes, both clubs would see a substantial drop in the quality if they lost either player, but Barcelona’s would be an order of magnitude higher than Madrid’s. Right now, Madrid as a whole is simply a better team than Barcelona. 

Photo: @realmadridBRA | Twitter

The timing of this list cannot be ignored. Madrid have been firing on all cylinders under King Midus Carlo Ancelotti, while Barcelona have been misfiring by their standards. Barcelona’s front three of Messi, Neymar, and now Luis Suarez should be a destroyer of worlds, but right now the only thing lying in ruins is the team’s self-belief. 

The ramifications of this lack of self-belief are evident, if not obvious. Despite being second in La Liga and finishing in first place in their Champions League group, Barcelona’s loss to Real Sociedad over the weekend has been treated by the organization as a sign of crisis.  

Barcelona’s sporting director has been fired, and manager Luis Enrique is in the hot seat. A team in good standing simply does not take these actions after a mid-season loss. It is a sign of desperation, and desperate teams demand results. 

Therein lies the demand for Messi. As Barcelona goes through a mini crisis, Messi is the one player that the club can count on to produce.

Real Madrid, on the other hand, is in team-of-the-century form. It could realistically sit Cristiano Ronaldo until the Champions League semi-finals and no one would bat an eye, because they would probably keep on winning. Ronaldo is an amazing player, arguably the best in the world, but Real Madrid does not demand his services like Barcelona demands Messi’s. He is not as valuable to Real Madrid.

When this disparity in demand is combined with the fact that Lionel Messi is two years younger that Ronaldo, a four-time Ballon d’Or winner, coming off a summer in which he almost single-handedly led Argentina to the World Cup Final, it is completely logical that Lionel Messi has been found to be $104 million more valuable than Ronaldo. 

The timing of this valuation cannot be ignored, and as the global soccer landscape changes, Ronaldo and Messi’s relative values will change. One day they might swap places. When that happens, it will not necessarily mean that Ronaldo has become a better player than Messi, just like the current valuation does not mean that Messi is better than Ronaldo. 

It must not be forgotten that CIES’ list of the top 100 most valuable footballers is just another exercise in supply and demand. Who goes down in history will be determined in the manner it has always been: by who performs on the pitch. And that is really a great thing for everyone one, because that way, we all get to watch. 

Below is the list of the top 10 most valuable players according to CIES:

List Of World's 10 Most Valuable Footballers

Image: CIES Football Observatory

You can find the full list here.

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