Lionel Messi used to be an average penalty taker, but now he is performing like one of the best in the world from the spot. Messi hasn’t scored as many from open play as he’s used to lately, but he has made up for it somewhat with better accuracy from the spot and also by winning penalties himself.
Around 76% of all penalties are scored, and Messi has scored 96 out of 122 penalties he’s attempted, or 79%. However, delving into the stats shows he’s improved considerably as of late.
With his penalty in Barcelona’s 5-2 win over Betis, Messi has now scored 13 of his last 14 attempts, or 93%. His accuracy before then was 77%, meaning there has been a pretty massive shift. We shall see if this is the new normal, and if Messi can continue having over 90% accuracy, which would put him on an elite tier of penalty takers.
For comparison, Cristiano Ronaldo has scored 84% of his penalties in his career and is usually seen as a great penalty taker. Of course, it’s more difficult to maintain that accuracy over 154 attempts, than over 14. Messi could perhaps just be on a good streak. Again, we will see. But right now, at least, Messi is doing very well.
It’s also worth noting how Messi improved his free kick accuracy as well.
Before 2012, Messi had scored only 7 free kicks. Ronaldo had 33. Since 2012, Messi has scored 46 free kicks while Ronaldo has scored 23. Sorry for dredging up Messi-Ronaldo comparisons, but I think it is a useful benchmark to compare against.