Last Thursday, retired French international Thierry Henry compared his compatriot Antoine Griezmann to three-time FIFA Ballon d’Or winner Cristiano Ronaldo. Henry called Griezmann France’s “main man” when speaking to the BBC following France’s semifinal victory over Germany adding that Griezmann “can win” France tournaments.
With six goals, Griezmann is the current goal leader in this edition of the European Championship, and with his brace against Germany last Thursday, he is tied with Henry for most goals for France in the Euros. Also last week, Cristiano equaled the all-time European Championship goalscoring record with his ninth goal for Portugal.
Between the 25-year-old Atlético Madrid forward and Real Madrid’s all-time leading goalscorer, who is the main man?
Looking at expected goal value data from the 2015/16 Spanish La Liga season, the 2015/16 UEFA Champions League season – in which the two also faced-off in the final – and the players’ current form in the Euros, we examined how each player has contributed to his team.
Below is a breakdown of the total xG involved per 90 for each player in terms of xG generated per 90 (xG/90) and xG assisted per 90 (xGa/90) in each of the three competitions. The xG values provided exclude penalty goals.
In xG generation, Griezmann leads in the Euros (0.92 xG/90 to 0.62 xG/90), where he has five non-penalty goals and Ronaldo has three. Griezmann has managed to over deliver, while Ronaldo in nearly on par (five non-penalty goals on 3.5 xG vs three non-penalty goals on 3.29 xG). When looking at xG assisted, the two are equal with 0.24 xGa/90.
Champions League 2015/16
In Champions League, the xGa/90 values for each player are also similar: 0.23 xGa/90 for Griezmann and 0.26 xGa/90 for Ronaldo. There’s a major difference, however, in xG generated. Ronaldo led the league in xG generated by a long shot. He scored 16 goals on 12.2 xG, followed by FC Bayern player Robert Lewandowski with nine goals on 7.5 xG.
Griezmann didn’t break the top five in xG generated in UCL, nor xG assisted for that matter (But Cristiano Ronaldo did; he tied for fourth with Real Madrid teammate Isco with 3.2 xGa). Ronaldo wins this round with 1.24 xG involved/90 to Griezmann’s 0.63 xG involved/90.
La Liga 2015/16
In La Liga, Ronaldo again comes out on top. Ronaldo scored 29 non-penalty goals to Griezmann’s 21 non-penalty goals. In terms of xG/90, Ronaldo generated more than double what Griezmann generated (0.84 xG/90 to 0.41 xG/90). And while we don’t see Ronaldo as one to share, he assisted more xG than Griezmann did (0.23 xGa/90 to 0.16 xGa/90).
It appears that between Antoine Griezmann and Cristiano Ronaldo, the 31-year old Portugal captain is the main man. That is not to say Griezmann has had anything but an incredible year exceeding expectations across multiple competitions. Thierry Henry could be proven right within the next 24 hours on Griezmann’s capacity to win France tournaments. In fact, our model favors France.