REVEALED: Cristiano Ronaldo IS football’s GOAT ahead of Lionel Messi and Pele – according to University of Oxford mathematician who created a formula to compare legends’ success
- Mathematician Dr Tom Crawford claims to have settled football’s GOAT debate
- He devised an algorithm to compare 10 of the game’s greatest players
- It revealed that Man United’s Cristiano Ronaldo should be considered the best
- Ronaldo scored highly for records held, international goals and club honours
- He edged out rival Lionel Messi with both modern stars ahead of Pele
A University of Oxford mathematician is claiming to have settled the oldest debate in football – who is the greatest player of all time?
Using a unique algorithm that takes into account achievements on the club and international stage, Dr Tom Crawford compared football legends across all eras in search of the definitive answer.
And Dr Crawford’s number crunching has revealed Manchester United new boy Cristiano Ronaldo is the greatest of all time (GOAT).
Cristiano Ronaldo has been declared the greatest footballer of all time by a University of Oxford mathematician who devised a unique algorithm to settle the age-old argument
Ronaldo edged out his rival Lionel Messi to top the leaderboard over seven categories
The Portuguese superstar, who is poised for his second debut at Old Trafford in the coming days, finished ahead of his Argentine rival Lionel Messi plus icons Pele, Ferenc Puskas, Alfredo Di Stefano and Diego Maradona.
Dr Crawford, a huge football fan himself, devised seven categories on which the legends would be assessed and ranked them accordingly on behalf of LiveScore.
In order to qualify in the first place, the players needed to have won at least two Ballons’ d’Or or be recognised as a great in the era prior to 1956 when the prestigious award was created.
That left a shortlist comprising Cristiano Ronaldo, Messi, Pele, Maradona, Marco van Basten, Johan Cruyff, Puskas, Di Stefano, Ronaldo (the Brazilian one) and Michel Platini.
A shortlist of 10 football legends was drawn up and they were measured on seven factors
University of Oxford mathematician Dr Tom Crawford developed the GOAT algorithm
The seven key criteria
Dr Tom Crawford’s algorithm assessed players against seven weighted categories.
1. Honours (domestic and European) won at club level weighted by the UEFA coefficient for relative strength of the competition
2. Honours won at international level – 150 points for a World Cup, 100 for European Championship or Copa America with extras for Golden Boot wins
3. Goals scored at club level
4. Goals scored at international level
5. Votes received in the Ballon d’Or – number of votes awarded to the Ballon d’Or winner divided by the total number of votes awarded to the top three players. This was then multiplied by 100 to give a percentage.
6. Individual records held – for example, top goalscorer for a club or nation, or top scorer in a competition.
7. ‘Z-Factor’ seasons or ‘campaigns that are mathematically outstanding’ where player’s goals guided their team to glory
First up, Dr Crawford, of St Edmund Hall at the University of Oxford, assessed each of the players’ club honours with the relative strengths of leagues and cups won weighed by using UEFA’s coefficient for that particular season.
Ronaldo, who has an incredible CV consisting of seven league titles across three different countries plus five Champions League wins with Manchester United and Real Madrid, finishes just ahead of Messi.
The second factor in the equation took into account international honours, with 150 points awarded for World Cup wins and 100 for either the European Championship or the Copa America.
Given that Brazilian star Ronaldo won two World Cups and two Copa Americas, it came as little surprise that he won this round to take the maximum 100 points on offer.
Brazilian forward Ronaldo is seen celebrating one of his two goals in the 2002 World Cup final
Diego Maradona, seen lifting the World Cup for Argentina in 1986, finished down in ninth
Dr Crawford’s third criteria concerns goals scored in club football and here we see Hungarian legend Puskas, who had an astonishing record of 625 goals in 629 games, take full points.
Pele, with his 643 in 659 record for Brazilian club Santos, wasn’t too far behind and he actually takes the overall lead at this stage.
Unsurprisingly, the next category is international goals and it’s here that Cristiano Ronaldo returns to the top of the leaderboard having just overtaken Iran’s Ali Daei to take the all-time international scorers’ record.
After the latest set of World Cup qualifiers, in which he scored twice against the Republic of Ireland, the Portugal star is up to 111 goals for his country.
Brazilian legend Pele, who won the World Cup in 1970, scored highly in the club goals section
Hungarian hero Ferenc Puskas scored highly in the club goals category of the formula
The fifth input to the algorithm concerned Ballon d’Or wins, or more specifically, Ballon d’Or votes received. Pele gets the highest score ere but Cristiano, who has won the accolade five times, is able to preserve his overall lead.
And he bosses the sixth category, which takes into account records held. The Portuguese forward is not only the all-time top international goalscorer but holds five different world records in all.
Finally, Dr Crawford created something called the Z-Factor, which is based on seasons in which the player carried their team to glory with their goals.
Messi, whose goals have propelled Barcelona to 10 league titles and four Champions Leagues, comes out on top here by some distance.
But it isn’t enough to knock Ronaldo off top spot in the final reckoning with the formula suggesting he truly is the GOAT.
These were the final standings after all the points from each round had been tallied up
Dr Crawford said: ‘As a massive football fan, I have long debated with my friends who the greatest player of all time is.
‘I have loved bringing maths to the masses over the past few years, so being able to showcase how you can use it within the world of football has been a lot of fun.
‘Whilst Cristiano Ronaldo has come out on top from my algorithm, it is clear that all the other players’ stats are absolutely incredible, and I am sure the debate will continue!’
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