The debate for which player truly has been the greatest performer in the Premier League this season has been in question recently. The PFA and LMA will hand out their own awards but this won’t stop heated discussion up and down the country as to who really is deserving of these accolades. But when we engage in these conversations, does player perception tarnish our judgement as to who is the best footballer?
Gareth Bale is the latest star to the take the limelight and stake his claim in recent games for being the best the Premier League has to offer. Barcelona star Gerard Pique admitted in his most recent interview that the talent of the Tottenham star was even of intense debate in the Nou Camp dressing room. It appears that he is faultless at the moment, before you are forced to consider an objection of “oh but he dives”.
The same sort of retorts are made as people makes sighs of derision if you are to imply Luis Suarez is world class. If you suggest the Uruguayan is truly the best you will have to fend off complaints of “he is a cheat” from fans you debate with.
It has lead several to conclude that Robin van Persie is the best purely because he is perceived to be a saint due to his etiquette on the pitch.
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This is not a swipe at the talent of the Dutchman but the press seem to have already given him an unfair advantage, because he is not seen to cheat over the likes of Bale and Suarez. This does not mean he always is the perfect role model in how he acts on matchdays however.
Is judging the character of a player relevant though to deciding who is the very best footballer? There are several supporters who have been warped into the idea though that it is 100 per cent necessary to drudge up every player’s dirty laundry when discuss their footballing talent.
It is desirable for the fans seeing their players acting like true gentlemen and it may make the average football fan warm to them, but it doesn’t exactly guarantee success. Trophies are won and lost on goals, assists and dominant performances when we look at the cold hard facts. There are some that desperately want to cling on to the notion that players should score negative points for actions outside of their footballing ability, but they should dismiss these now.
The fact that several supporters love to hate Luis Suarez does not make him any less of a superb talent. While we may also wince at Gareth Bale’s simulation against Inter Milan at White Hart Lane, it does not make his winning goal against West Ham any less decisive.
I am not stating such discussion should be merely based on statistics because if we were to go on goals and assists alone we would have to conclude that Walcott has currently been more efficient than Bale. And while some in North London want that to be true, it is not.
When we consider who is the best we need to balance up a few factors. Firstly the impact the player has on their side and where we predict they would have ended up without them.
Secondly, how important have their goals/assists actually been, because if Luis Suarez scored 30 goals all in 4-1 defeats we would hardly be calling him a great would we?
Then you need to consider whether the player has truly made an impact on his team winning any silverware or achieving the team’s goals.
Robin van Persie may have the advantage in that he is playing for Manchester United in this part of the discussion, but it is unfair to discriminate against his ability because he is playing for the best team.
If a player is truly the best then a mark of his success should surely be how much tangible reward he has provided for his side at the end of the season.
We may all swear and curse the next time we see a great footballer not follow the rules of the game as we would like them too, but this will not detract from their talent.
The players who commit such offences walk a tightrope because if their level drops then the fans won’t be so forgiving of their mistakes. Whether players dive or cheat is irrelevant though to how good they are at a football, however much that hurts to admit.
If we can’t accept that then maybe we should leave the task of deciding who is the best to the professionals who hand out the awards every season.
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