Messi, Ronaldo, Mbappe: Which player has the best defensive statistics?

Lionel Messi

Lionel Messi is hardly renowned for his hard-running, high-pressing approach to forward play. 

In fact, most perceive him to be on the lazier end of the spectrum in terms of defending from the front. 

But that's rarely been used as a stick to beat him with during a career that has seen him topple umpteen records and establish himself as arguably the greatest footballer of all time. 

However, the increasing expectation on forwards to contribute defensively has earned him criticism in some quarters, particularly during times when things haven't been going swimmingly for Barcelona. 

Those who most vehemently criticise the Argentine extraterrestrial, though, will be surprised to see the data included in a recent article from Spanish media outlet AS, which they drew from FBref.

In a statistical comparison looking purely at "the aristocracy" of football, which includes eleven of the best players from Europe's top five leagues, Messi actually ranks second for the effectiveness of his pressing. 

By dividing the number of pressures completed by the successful number of ball recoveries, all eleven players were given an "effectiveness" percentage based on how many times a pressure led to a successful ball recovery. 

The numbers were taken based on performances in domestic competition and the Champions League. 

Only Bayern Munich superstar Robert Lewandowski finished higher than Messi in the ranking, while Kylian Mbappe and Cristiano Ronaldo were down in sixth and eight place respectively. 

Not only is Messi more effective in his pressing, he has also applied more pressures to the opposition than Mbappe, Ronaldo, Neymar, Luis Suarez and even the exuberant Erling Haaland.

Due to the gruelling demands of Jurgen Klopp's renowned heavy metal brand of football, Mo Salah has recorded significantly more pressures (365) than any other player on the list.

Let's take a look at the ranking in full: 

1. Robert Lewandowski · 73 recoveries · 214 pressures · 34.1% effectiveness

2. Lionel Messi · 69 recoveries · 209 pressures · 33% effectiveness

3. Neymar · 53 recoveries · 159 pressures · 32.7% effectiveness

4. Mo Salah · 114 recoveries · 365 pressures · 31.2% effectiveness

5. Erling Haaland · 63 recoveries · 205 pressures · 30.7% effectiveness

6. Kylian Mbappé · 39 recoveries · 135 pressures · 29.9% effectiveness

7. Zlatan Ibrahimovic · 25 recoveries ·84 pressures · 29.8% effectiveness

8. Cristiano Ronaldo · 34 recoveries · 131 pressures · 26% effectiveness

9. Marcus Rashford · 51 recoveries ·  209 pressures ·  24.4% effectiveness

10. Luis Suárez · 29 recoveries ·129 pressures · 22.5% effectiveness

11. Karim Benzema · 35 recoveries · 173 pressures · 20.2% effectiveness

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