Mo Salah Vs. Cristiano Ronaldo: Breaking Down the Champions League Final Showdown

This Saturday’s Champions League final has been described as Real Madrid’s chance to cement itself as the dominant force in European soccer in the 21st century, or Liverpool’s opportunity to bring the glory days back to Anfield after a barren decade.

Winners in three of the last four seasons, Real Madrid could become the first side to win the trophy three times in a row since Bayern Munich did so between 1974 and 1976. While the current Real side might not be as entertaining as the Barcelona teams that won the trophy three times between 2009 and 2015, winning a fourth Champions League in five seasons would overshadow their great rivals.

GettyImages-960961662 Mohamed Salah and Cristiano Ronaldo will be closely marked men when Liverpool and Real Madrid meet in the UEFA Champions League Final on May 26 at the NSC Olimpiyskiy Stadium in Kiev. Shaun Botteril, Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images

Liverpool, meanwhile, have lifted just two trophies since winning a fifth European Cup 13 years ago, and there is a feeling winning in Kiev could be a major turning point for the club. Thanks to Jurgen Klopp’s “heavy metal soccer,” Liverpool has dazzled at home and abroad—but the German knows it needs some tangible returns to match the acclaim he has received.

As it’s normally the case when it comes to a major final, the subplots are just as intriguing as the main event and they don’t come much more exciting than the prospect of seeing Cristiano Ronaldo and Mohamed Salah battle it out for European soccer’s biggest trophy.

The pair have been integral to their respective sides’ march towards Kiev and have both scored 44 goals in all competitions this season, although the latter has played eight more games than the former.

Ronaldo has shrugged off an indifferent start to the season to plunder 15 goals in the Champions League, making him the competition’s top scorer going into the final.

Salah, meanwhile, has been an absolute revelation in his first season back in the Premier League since moving to Liverpool from AS Roma in the summer for $49.2 million last summer. The Egyptian has scored 11 goals in the Champions League–including one in the qualifying stage–and set the record for the most goals in a Premier League over 38 games, breaking a record previously jointly held by Ronaldo, Luis Suarez and Alan Shearer.

While Ronaldo and Salah have both scored the exact same number of goals, the Portuguese has had 83 more attempts on goal, giving him a 15.8 percent conversion rate. Salah, on the other hand, has converted 22.6 percent of his chances but scores less often than his counterpart, netting once every 93 minutes, compared with Ronaldo’s 81.4.

The Liverpool star has delivered a higher number of assists, 14 to Ronaldo’s 8, but the latter has the edge in terms of passing conversion, having completed 81.4 percent of the 1,170 passes he attempted this season.

Salah, on the other hand, has completed 76.2 percent of passes he has attempted this season, although he has touched the ball 155 more times than the Real Madrid star.

While there is little difference between the two in terms of contribution, a look to their respective supporting casts is telling. Real Madrid is largely considered to be the favorite going into Saturday’s game and common wisdom suggests its squad has bigger than depth than Liverpool’s. However, Ronaldo is the Spaniards' only player in the top 10 Champions League goalscorers this season, while Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane have added 11 and nine goals respectively to Salah’s 11.

Ronaldo, however, does have the edge over Salah in terms of experience of playing in major finals.

The Egyptian has only reached one final in his career, when Egypt lost the Africa Cup of Nations 2-1 to Cameroon in 2017.

Ronaldo, meanwhile, has won 18 of the 25 finals he has played for club and country, scoring 18 goals in the 23 finals he has played at club level, including 15 in 14 finals for Real Madrid.

In the Champions League, Ronaldo’s record is even more impressive. The Portuguese, who is the competition's all-time top scorer, has scored four goals in the five finals he’s featured in and could become the first player since Paolo Maldini to win five Champions League titles.

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