Cristian Ronaldo (Real Madrid), finalist for the fifth consecutive year, won the award for the 2013/14 season, whilst Lionel Messi (FC Barcelona) winner in the 2010/11 season has reached the final four times. The third finalist is Messi's team-mate Luis Suarez, who had an exceptional first season playing for the Blaugrana, even though his season didn't start until the end of October.
But statistically speaking, which of these three players was the standout performer? Sportsmatrix has dug deep into the data from every La Liga game from last season and reached the following conclusions.
All three performed close to a third of the good actions in their team's build-up play, with Messi losing possession least often (7.9%). When it came to their contribution to their team's attacking build-up play, Messi was responsible for almost 10% of Barcelona's actions, well over twice the amount contributed by Suarez (4.7%) and significantly more than Ronaldo's contribution (7.2%) to Real Madrid's attacking build-up play.
The data reveals that Messi was the clear winner when it came to chance creation. He averaged over 12 attempts per game at creating chances, of which five were converted into chances. Ronaldo made fewer than seven attempts per game at creating chances, with fewer than three successfully converted into chances. Suarez made more attempts per game (8.2) to create chances than Ronaldo, however fewer than a third of his attempts (2.4) actually led to an actual chance.
When it came to effectiveness in front of goal, these three players were in a league of their own, even though each had his own definitive style. Of the three, Ronaldo had most attempts on goal from open play (5.5), with fewer than half on target, but with a third rated as being dangerous. His conversion rate of shots to goals (19.7%) was the lowest of the three. Suarez converted a slightly higher percentage (20.5%) of shots into goals, although averaging fewest open play shots (3.4) and with the lowest percentage (28.2%) rated as being dangerous. But once again the statistics show that Messi was the clear winner, with over a quarter (25.5%) of his shots finishing in the opponent's net. He averaged fewer shots per game (4) than Ronaldo, but with the highest percentage (54.5%) on-target and with more than a third rated as being dangerous.
So, who's it going to be?