Bale or Griezmann - Who will step into Ronaldo's breach as Messi's main rival?
With Cristiano Ronaldo gone, can Gareth Bale or Antoine Griezmann challenge Lionel Messi as the best talent in LaLiga?
When Real Madrid sold Cristiano Ronaldo to Juventus in a block-busting transfer-window move, the greatest domestic rivalry in history with Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi was ended.
The two familiar foes will undoubtedly continue to battle it out for football's most prestigious individual and European honours with their respective sides, but in LaLiga at least a new face will have to step into Ronaldo's boots to challenge the awesome Messi for the best in the division.
For Los Blancos, Gareth Bale is the man many are tipping to fill at least some of the sizeable void left by Ronaldo's dramatic departure, while on the other side of the capital Antoine Griezmann's decision to remain with Atletico Madrid is a huge boost to Diego Simeone.
So, how have Bale and Griezmann stacked up at their respective clubs? We have crunched the Opta numbers to assess how big of a challenge they face in trying to rival Messi.
Injury-free Bale means goals, Griezmann prolific
Bale's injury issues restricted him to just 19 LaLiga appearances in the 2016-17 season, a campaign in which he scored seven goals.
However, in 26 games last term he returned an impressive 16 and in 126 matches he has 70 goals to his name for Madrid.
Griezmann has a similarly impressive goal return. Despite having been at Atléti for one season fewer than Bale has at Madrid, the World Cup winner has 79 in 143 matches.
The France forward netted 19 times last term, an upturn on the 16 from the season before but down on the 22 he managed in each of his first two campaigns.
Bale's numbers suggest he needs more shots for his goals, with 339 efforts taken compared to 272 for Griezmann, while the latter is also more accurate with 162 attempts on target – the same as Bale, who has taken 67 more shots.
An incredible player and a top guy! It has been a pleasure to play alongside you for the last 5 years. Good luck for the future my friend pic.twitter.com/KBYLMYaWjP— Gareth Bale (@GarethBale11) July 10, 2018
Assists heading in opposite directions
In Bale's first three campaigns at Madrid, he proved a generous team-mate and teed up 31 assists for his colleagues.
However, in over the past two he has tallied just four (two in each campaign), while the highest amount of passes over the course of a season he has amassed is 869 in 2014-15.
Griezmann has gone in the opposite direction, providing more assists than the previous season in each of his four at Atléti.
After laying one just one goal in 2014-15, Griezmann's following three returned five, eight and nine respectively. His highest amount of passes was 1356 in 2015-16.
Griezmann has that winning feeling, Bale can count his medals
In terms of LaLiga wins, Bale has never managed to rack up more in a campaign than Griezmann, who had 19 to the Welshman's 14 last term.
But while Griezmann has just a solitary Europa League medal to his name, Bale has won three Champions League titles, a LaLiga and a Copa del Rey victory on his resume.
The truth of the matter is that bar Ronaldo, no player on the planet can boast numbers to begin to rival Messi, who has 383 goals and 149 assists in 418 LaLiga matches for Barca.
Griezmann and Bale are both extraordinary players in their own right, and the former will head into the new campaign boosted by his World Cup triumph with France.
Add in the fact that Atleti have signed Thomas Lemar in the close season, and Diego Costa will play a first full campaign since re-joining from Chelsea, then Griezmann may just have the edge.
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