It's Messi v Ronaldo in the race to smash Raul's Champions League goal record
When Raul Gonzalez Blanco scored his 71st Champions League goal two years ago he was 33-years-old. It took the former Spain and Real Madrid captain 144 games to reach his record haul.
This season a 26-year-old Leo Messi or a 28-year-old Cristiano Ronaldo could well smash his competition record, and in around 50 fewer games.
Forget the race for the Golden Ball this is a battle where goals not votes count and where football’s biggest rivalry will be played out in the greatest club competition in the world.
On target: Cristiano Ronaldo scored in his 100th appearance in the competition to make it 59 goals
Double up: Lionel Messi (right) struck twice against AC Milan in midweek to keep his chances up
Leading the way: The brilliant Raul is still top of the all-time Champions League top scorers list
Ronaldo is on 59 goals in 96 games Messi is on 65 in 82.
If Ronaldo maintains his goal-a-game record for Real Madrid and plays in every match to the final he will finish with nine more goals. But he already has eight in four games, a two-per-game ratio would give him 18 more goals leaving him on 77. It sounds ridiculous but then so does 222 goals in 215 appearances – his Real Madrid career stats in all competitions.
To pass Raul’s record first he will need Leo Messi to stall. Barça’s number 10 is also scoring two goals at game in the Champions League with six in three appearances this season; so by scoring at the same pace and, like Ronaldo playing until the final, he would end up with 83.
Both players would go past Raul who netted his last Champions League goal in the quarter-finals two years ago for Schalke with Messi and Ronaldo already closing in.
Whoever gets there first it’s clear that European football is currently graced by two of the greatest players ever. There is an argument that the weakened Spanish League has helped them boost their numbers; but that theory breaks down in the presence of their majestic European Cup records.
And what if Raul’s record does last another season? Next season it will surely fall; and by the time Messi and Ronaldo stop playing, have been left a very long way behind.