Sport

The game’s highly paid stars seeking bans to get holiday time off appears to be a myth Read more

goal scorers, Champions League and European Cup

By Wednesday night it is almost certain there will be a new name atop the goal scoring charts of European club football’s elite competition.

Lionel Messi currently sits level with former Real Madrid star Raul on 71 goals, and behind them is Cristiano Ronaldo on 70. Either Messi or Ronaldo could become the outright leader when their sides play on Tuesday and Wednesday respectively.

And the fierce competition between Messi and Ronaldo may even be ushering in a new higher scoring era. The goals-per-game ratio across all players declined steadily from four per match in the late 1950s to settle around 2.5 in the past decade, but has jumped back up to three in the past five seasons.

Looking back across the Champions League and its predecessor the European Cup, the 100 highest scoring players are packed with modern greats. And this is no coincidence – there are 126 matches in the current format, excluding qualifiers, up from fewer than 60 in the early years of the European Cup.

But that hasn’t stopped some of the greats of yesteryear breaking into the upper echelons of that top 100.

Alfredo di Stefano – one of 22 Real Madrid players on the list – scored 49 goals in the 1950s and 1960s, placing him sixth in the all-time rankings. Portugal and Benfica star Eusebio is two places behind on 46. So what happens when we adjust the absolute goal tallies for the number of matches each player took part in?

Eusebio tops the rankings, followed by former Manchester United forward Ruud van Nistelrooy. Messi, Raul and Ronaldo complete the top five, and then Ronaldo’s team mate Karim Benzema is sandwiched between two men who stopped playing before he was born – di Stefano and the Hungarian Ferenc Puskas. Read more

By John Burn-Murdoch and Gavin Jackson

Pity the white queen’s pawn. It tends to survive only one in every four games.

That statistic comes from an analysis of 2.2m master-level tournament games conducted by Oliver Brennan. But statistical analysis has found that overall white wins about 37 per cent of the time to Black’s 28 per cent. Read more

By John Burn-Murdoch and Gavin Jackson

In the latest instalment of The Baseline, our weekly feature on sports statistics, we looked ahead to the ATP Tour Finals, the climax of the men’s tennis season.

The tournament is played on a hard court surface, which goes some way to nullifying the relative advantages afforded to big serving and big returning players by grass and clay courts respectively. But where exactly does hard court fall between those two extremes, and what can this tell us about its impact on the playing styles of grass and clay specialists? Read more

By Jurek Martin, Gavin Jackson and John Burn-Murdoch

In the latest instalment of The Baseline, our weekly feature on sports statistics, we looked at baseball statistician Bill James and the impact his insight and methods have had on not just one but arguably all sports.

Bill James began dissecting the numbers behind baseball in the late 1970s and among his acolytes was Billy Beane, general manager of the Oakland Athletics and inspiration for Michael Lewis’ best selling book Moneyball. Such was Oakland and Beane’s success that the stats-driven approach has transcended baseball and now has its adherents in hockey, football, tennis, golf and dozens more of the world’s biggest sports Read more

FT Baseline

Between them Barcelona’s Lionel Messi and Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo have scored more than 300 league goals in the last four seasons of Spain’s La Liga, but which player provides more goals for their team? Read more