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Bev's Good News

15 Apr 2017

World-Class Series [No5]: Ryan Giggs (Manchester United and Wales). Was he 'world-class'?

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Man Utd legend Ryan Giggs had an incredible 24-year career at Manchester United, but was he a world-class player?

World Class: My Definition

Before a player can be deemed 'world-class', he/she must have a Specific, Measurable Impact (SMI) at all three levels of football, and push his/her team to relative success at all three levels.

The Three Levels

* Domestic: National leagues.

* European: Champions League, Europa League, or equivalent.

* World: International - qualifying and/or tournaments.

Relative Success: OAL and SMI

* What is the the team's Optimum Achievement Level (OAL) in a given competition? In other words, based on historical performance, what is the absolute best the team can realistically expect to achieve?

* Causation: The player's causal contribution to his team's OAL. To what extend did the player in question help the team to meet its OAL? But for the player under consideration, would the team still have achieved its OAL?

* A variety of objective, position-specific criteria should be used when assessing the SMI of players. For example, for attacking players: Goals; assists; conversion rate; key passes; shot-assists; passing accuracy etc. For defenders: goals conceded; blocks; aerial duels won; tackle success rate etc.

* Players in inferior teams are still capable of being 'world class' as long as their SMI is such that they excel, and push their team to achieve its OAL (though in all cases, SMI at all three levels is required).

RYAN GIGGS: WORLD CLASS?

* SMI at Domestic Level: Manchester United: 114 goals/162 assists (276) in 672 apps (League). 44 goals/assists in 115 apps (Domestic Cups). Helped Utd win 13 league titles, and 8 domestic cups. 2x 'Young Player of the Year'. 6x Prem 'Team of the Year'. Most Prem assists ever (162). First player to score 100 Prem goals for Man Utd. Reached double figures for goals only 5 times in 23 seasons.

* SMI at European Level: Manchester United: 59 goals/assists in 157 European games. Helped United win two Champions League trophies (1998 and 2008). 1998: 6 goals/assists in 7 games. Scored in the semi-final vs Juventus, and created a goal in the final. 3rd highest assists-maker in the CL (after Ronaldo and Messi).

* SMI at International level: Wales: 12 goals/0 assists in 64 games for Wales. Failed to create a single for Wales for his entire international career (I can't find any evidence anywhere of any Wales assists. I'm happy to be corrected on this point). 11 goals in 54 World Cup/Euros qualifying games (One every 497 mins).

WALES OAL: Prior to 2016 Wales had never qualified for the European Championships (and last qualified for the World Cup in 1958). As such, the team's current OAL is (arguably) qualifying for a major tournament. During Giggs' tenure as an international, the OAL = a good qualifying run and getting close to qualification.

* Conclusion: Failed to score more than 3 goals in a single international season for Wales. Never came close to pushing Wales towards World Cup/Euros qualification, which is disappointing considering his immense goals/assists impact for Man Utd.

- Failure to provide a single assist at international level is poor for a player of Giggs' calibre. Clearly, he couldn't transfer his form to international level. A player of Giggs' undoubted ability should've been able to push Wales to the brink of qualification for a major tournament, or even qualification itself.

- Plus, Giggs' assist record in the CL shows that he often struggled to produce against the very best teams, which possible explains his assist-struggles on the international stage. Examples: First 12 seasons for Man Utd in the CL = 11 assists (less than one per year). Contributed more than 5 assists just twice in 20 seasons of CL football.

* Verdict: Not World-Class. In my view, a player with such a poor international record simply cannot be world-class. As a comparison, consider Gareth Bale: his goals/assists and overall impact helped Wales qualify for the 2016 European Championships. That's the kind of impact Giggs should've had.

* Previous articles in this series: Kenny Dalglish | Sami Hyypia | George Best | Wayne Rooney


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