Two of the greatest goalscorers of their generation go head-to-head on Friday when Bayern Munich and Robert Lewandowski take on Lionel Messi’s Barcelona in the UEFA Champions League quarter-finals. But how do the talismanic duo compare in 2019/20? bundesliga.com takes a look at their stats…
Few over the years have even come close to Messi’s goal tallies, but this season Lewandowski has delighted audiences with a level of scoring not seen in the Bundesliga since Bayern predecessor Gerd Müller's 1960 and '70s heyday. Lewandowski's 34 league strikes (from only 31 games) is the most ever scored by a non-German and has propelled him to third place in the Bundesliga’s all-time standings.
Messi also claimed the top scorer crown in Spain’s La Liga, but was far down on his haul of 36 from the previous year, instead bagging ‘only’ 25 in 33 appearances - still an excellent return, but also his lowest league total in over a decade.
Watch: All 34 of Lewandowski’s Bundesliga goals in 2019/20
Adding in all competitions (Champions League, domestic cups and supercups), the monumental scale of Lewandowski’s season becomes even clearer.
The Poland captain has played in 44 matches and scored an eye-watering 53 goals at a rate of one every 73 minutes. He was the top scorer in the DFB Cup for a fifth time (with six goals) and currently leads the Champions League scoring race by some distance on 13 from just seven appearances.
Across the league, Champions League, Copa del Rey and Spanish Supercopa, Messi has netted 31 times in 43 games, coming in at one every 120 minutes. In other words, Lewy has scored 1.6 goals in the time it takes Messi to score one.
On top of that, Lewandowski has got what is defined as the match-winning goal 16 times compared to 11 for Messi.
How they score
Lewandowski has also proven himself the more clinical of the two this year. In the Bundesliga, he took 140 shots, meaning that he beat the goalkeeper on average every 4.1 attempts. As with his goal count, Messi’s shot tally was also down, but that doesn’t mean quality over quantity. From his 115 attempts in La Liga, he found the back of the net on average every 4.6 attempts.
Unsurprisingly, both players scored the majority of their goals using their stronger foot, but 31-year-old Lewandowski proved he was far more versatile when it came to putting the ball away.
Watch: How Lewandowski has become the world’s best No.9
Bayern’s No.9 scored 36 of his 53 goals using his favoured right foot (68%), while Messi got 28 of his 31 using his, admittedly mercurial, left (90%). It means the Argentine only got 10 percent of his total using his weaker right boot. In contrast, Lewandowski got five (9%) using his left peg.
Mathematicians out there will have noticed that the Pole’s percentages don’t add up to 100 like Messi’s. That’s because 6’0’’ Lewandowski has also got another 12 goals from headers (23%), of which eight came in the Bundesliga - a league best. Standing at 5’7’’, Messi has not scored with his head this season.
The pair are also the designated penalty takers for their club sides, both maintaining a 100 percent record from 12 yards: 7/7 for Lewandowski and 5/5 for Messi.
The Barcelona man did, though, strike with more direct free-kicks, putting away five compared to Lewandowski’s one against Schalke on Matchday 2. That was also the game where Lewandowski got his only hat-trick of the season, although he did later break the Champions League record for the fastest four-goal haul when he got all four in the space of 15 minutes against Red Star Belgrade. Messi bagged four hat-tricks.
Watch: Lewandowski and the perfect penalty
Both players are adept at finishing chances themselves, but what about setting them up? This is where Messi has held the upper hand in 2019/20, providing 25 assists across his 43 appearances. Of those, 21 came in La Liga, while three have been in Europe and one in the cup.
Lewandowski’s skill is being in the right place at the right time to get the decisive touch on the final pass. Therefore, it’s no surprise to see he has fewer assists, with just eight spread equally across the Bundesliga and Champions League. However, his tally in the latter is a personal best and the second most in this year’s competition.
These numbers also reflect the way the pair have changed their style of play this season. Lewandowski’s goals are up but his assists are down on 2018/19 as Hansi Flick has ensured he’s the player on the end of chances, always bursting into the box when he has come deep. That is shown by the fact his heatmap covers a much larger area, both in terms of width and depth, than Messi, who firmly operates in the inside right position outside the penalty area. As such, the Barca man’s numbers have gone the other way, with his goals down but his assists up. The 33-year-old also handles corners and wide free-kicks for the Catalans.
So, Lewandowski leads on goals but Messi has the edge on assists. What about the two stats together? Again, the Bayern man comes out on top, having a hand in 61 goals during 3,863 minutes of playing time across his 44 appearances. That works out at either scoring or providing an assist every 63 minutes.
Barcelona’s talisman has been directly involved in 56 goals over 3,720 minutes in 43 games, which equates to a goal or assist every 66 minutes.
Both are phenomenal returns for players who have only failed to have a hand in a goal in six and 11 matches respectively all season, but Lewandowski’s already significant haul of silverware (Bundesliga, DFB Cup and top scorer in both) simply adds to the magnitude of his efforts, especially with Messi and Barcelona without a trophy this season.
France Football may have decided to cancel this year’s Ballon d’Or, but Lewandowski would surely have succeeded Messi as the best player in the world based on his performances this season.