26 Jun 2013

'World Class' football performance: A new definition...

'World-class' - arguably the most overused label in the modern football lexicon. Everyone has their own personal view of what constitutes 'world-class' football ability, but the commonly accepted definition is exclusively subjective, and this is not an accurate basis upon which to judge elite football performance. As such, I propose a more objective approach to establishing whether a player is worthy of the 'world-class' label.

Objective or Subjective?

When assessing 'World-Class' ability, the only fair way to judge is to apply - where possible - objective criteria. A purely subjective analysis has questionable merit because it is based on emotion, (flawed) individual perception and biased, experiential interpretation.

The subjective formula is basically: "I see, therefore he is...World-Class", and on that basis, any player can be anointed 'world-class'. However, the label arguably has no meaning unless it can be persuasively justified with objective facts.

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 geographical equivalent.

* World: International tournaments (plus qualifying).

Relative Success: OAL and SMI

Context is everything, and when assessing 'world-class' ability, the following criteria should be considered:

* Optimum Achievement Level (OAL): What is the the team's 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 extent 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).

It should be difficult to achieve world-class status, otherwise what's the point? World-class players are the elite of the game, and their achievements are arguably devalued by overuse of the label.

Examples of world-class players: Zidane, Maradona, Cruyff, Mathaus, Platini, Beckenbauer, Xavi, Iniesta, Pirlo, Charlton, Eusebio, Baresi, Van Basten, Ronaldo, Messi etc. Every one of those players excelled at all three levels of football, and to suggest that a player like Wayne Rooney belongs in their company is, quite frankly, heresy.

To see the theory in action, here is an analysis of Manchester United legend George Best, who is regularly labelled 'world-class by fans and the football media.


* SMI at Domestic Level: Manchester United: 250+ goals/assists in 474 games for Man Utd. Helped Utd win two league titles (1965 and 1967), though goal return was merely average (10 goals in each league-winning season). 1968: FWA Footballer of the Year. 1968: Division One top scorer (28 goals).

* SMI at European level: Manchester United: Helped United win the European Cup in 1968 (3 goals in 9 games). Scored in the semi-final vs. Real Madrid, and the final vs Benfica. 1968: Ballon d'Or winner.

* SMI at International level: Made only 37 apps for Northern Ireland during a 14-year international career, averaging only 2-3 games a season. 9 goals in 37 games, with all 9 goals coming against 6 teams: Albania, Cyprus, England, Scotland, Switzerland, and Turkey. Failed to score a single goal in 9 of his 14 years as an international, and only scored more than 2 in one of those years.

- In 1958, Northern Ireland got to the World Cup quarter-finals, but during Best's tenure as an international (1964-1977), NI didn't come close to qualifying despite having one of the (alleged) best players in the world. Additionally, in that time, NI won only 12 of their 26 World Cup qualifying games. After Best retired, NI immediately qualified for two consecutive World Cups (1982 and 1986).

- Similarly, with Best in the team, Northern Ireland never came close qualifying for the European Championships, winning only 6 of 18 qualification games during his tenure. NI exponentially improved their points totals in the two qualifying runs immediately after Best's retirement (1980 and 1984). Exactly the same thing happened with NI's world cup qualifying runs.

* Northern Ireland OAL: Qualified for the World Cup 3 times. Qualified for the Euros just once (2016). As such, OAL is arguably a good qualifying run (for both tournaments).

* Conclusion: Best excelled at Man United at domestic and European level, though he only helped United qualify for Europe in 4 of his 11 years at the club. Despite that, he meets the SMI/OAL requirements for the first two levels.

- A player of Best's quality should've (IMO) had a bigger impact at international level. Despite his alleged genius, he had little impact on NI, and never once played a leading role in helping the team to the brink of qualification. A truly world-class player will drag his team towards relative success, but Best failed to achieve that. A good example of this is Kenny Dalglish, who played for a similarly poor international team but still managed to help Scotland qualify for major international tournaments.

- I'm not suggesting Best should've dragged NI to World Cup/Euro qualification; I submit that his impact should've been enough to push NI to the brink of WC/EC qualification at least once in a 14-year international career.

* Verdict: Not world-class. I don't see how it can be credibly argued that best was world-class. A player with such a poor international record simply cannot be ranked on that level, and Best consistently failed to help NI achieve relative success.

Best obviously had prodigious ability, but being world-class is not just about ability, it's also about mentality. In my view, Best did not have the mentality to be a truly world-class player, and his patchy international appearance record suggests that issues outside football prevented him from being at the top of his game and/or playing regularly.

Labelling Best 'world-class' is arguably driven by emotion, not reality. Obviously, people are entitled to their opinions, and I'm interested in hearing credible arguments for why Best can rightly be considered 'world-class', though these arguments will invariably be subjective.

Ultimately, Best won only 3 trophies for his entire career, despite playing alongside players like Bobby Charlton, Nobby Stiles, and Denis Law. Compare that to Dalglish, who played an absolutely essential role in helping Liverpool win 3 European Cups and 6 League titles. Best may have been more talented, but Dalglish had world-class mentality, and that's the difference.


  1. If a player can walk into any team in the world he is surely world class.

  2. jk please dont upset my day tomorrow every fan every football pundit/expert will assert Kenny Dalglish was world class..................except you I fear

  3. That's one interpretation. However, how do you know if a given player could walk into any team in the world? There's no way to prove that as it's purely subjective. As such, it's a bit of a logical fallacy, and not really a strong foundation upon which to anoint someone 'world class'

    On the other hand - let's just say player X could 'walk' into any team based on current performance - where is the guarantee that he would perform at the same level?

  4. You'll have to wait and see :-)

  5. Well then there is no real way to tell as it's purely based on personal opinion, and then it depends on how many people agree

  6. KD was world class and I suspect 99% of people would agree

  7. xavi cant walk in to the chelsea team that won the champions league he wouldnt have much energy left by half time

  8. Lies, xavi could play for anyone, he is far superior than that whole teams mf players, come on now, lets call a spade a spade and stop the bs

  9. Interesting article! On the most part I agree but What if for instance, a Left back or even striker who excels for a top club in both domestic and European competition was from San Marino. Surely he would not be able to make a measurable impact as teams would probably just avoid his area of the field 

  10. youare going tosay he was PWC i just checked some stats !!!!!!!

  11. Good example, Alanable. 

    * First, you'd have to consider San Marino's OAL: What is the best San Marino can hope to achieve on the international stage?

    * Given San Marino's tiny population, comparative lack of quality to choose from, and the fact the national team only played its first game in 1990 (!), San Marino's OAL is arguably a decent run in the Euro or WC qualifiers.

    * You'd then look at the player's SMI: How did he perform in San Marino's qualifiers?  If SM won some games, was he the difference?  Did he manifestly excel above all reasonable expectation?  Is this player the reason SM did well in qualifiers? Are their specific examples of his individual ability? Did he rise above the limitations of his nation and by sheer force of ability, push San Marino to height of their OAL?

    If so, then an argument could be made for World Class status, but it would be very difficult, especially if the quality of opposition in the qualifiers was poor.

  12. I have my own way of defining a world class player.Watching a team struggle maybe 2or3 nil down the world class player will come to the fore and be able to change the game.Players i have seen do this are ruud Gullitt Johan Cruyff ,Leonil Messi, Matt Le Tissier, Didier Drogba Fernando Torres absolutely outstanding players for club and country although Le Tissier wasn't given much chance internationaly.I have not forgotten Steven Gerrard but he wasn't (or isn't) as consistent as the others. These are the type of players i use as my yardstick for "World class" without getting all scientific and feeling the need to get a bloody dictionary out to put my point across.I just watch football and if i'm excited or impressed by what i see to me that is what matters.IMO England do not have any world class players and that is why they can't compete at the very highest level. 

  13. So if Lionel Messi continues to score at this rate but does nothing at international level he cannot be considerd world class???

    Even though he's knocking in 72 goals a year??

  14. Messi is world class and when his time is up he may well be considerd the best player ever regardless of international accomplishment

  15. Mess has 47 goals/assist in 70 games for Argentina so far, so it's probably fair to say that he's already world class:

    * He was a key figure in Argentina's run to the 2007 Copa America final
    * He was pretty integral in Argentina's run to the SF of World Cup 2010

    Having said that:

    * Many of his Messi's international goals have come in friendlies.

    * He hasn't dominated a tournament yet, like a Zidane or a Maradona.

    * He failed to deliver in the two key tests of his international career: the 3-0 defeat to Brazil in the 2007 Copa America final, and the 4-0 hammering by Germany in the 2010 World Cup semi-final.

    Messi is an amazing player, but I personally put him in the PWC bracket right now. How can he in the same bracket as a Zidane or a Maradona when he hasn't inspired Argentina to a major trophy?

    Argentina's OAL is a major tournament victory, so until Messi delivers this, he will not be on the same level as the greats of world football (IMO)

  16. Which is why I and most others completely agree with your theory! Only method that stands up!

  17. I prefer to categorise the top players as being "great"

    World Class is used when denoting someone with a skill or attribute that puts him or her in the highest class in the world

    Liam Brady was a great player. As was John Giles. As was Paul McGrath. In my opinion....

    But then again, what qualifies me to definitively label someone as a great player? It's based on what I've seen and read, on testimony I've heard from people who have seen them play

    Hoddle, Waddle, Gascoigne, Platini all bordered on greatness but ultimately fall short of the mark

  18. I'm excited by watching football too, so what's your point?

    In 1994, Liverpool were 3-0 down at Anfield against Man United. Nigel Clough scored two goals and inspired the team to pull back the deficit and eventually draw 3-3.

    Was Nigel Clough world class?

  19. That's a fair explanation I guess. Also I suppose it can be said that a player has been playing world class football without actually proving or having the opportunities to prove himself to be world class.

  20. There's no way Messi will retire without having dominated a tournament for Argentina. He's too good, and at some point in the next 10 years, he will inspire Argentina to a World Cup/Copa America victory.

  21. That's covered under the part where he says Relative Success: The Importance of Context.

    Argentina of now aren't anything like as strong as the Argentina team of past decades so you look at the team as a whole, what they can realistically expect to achieve, and then look at Messi's contribution towards that.

    That's my understanding of what he's saying anyway :P

  22. Pure speculation Jamie, he hasn't done it so far; what's to say he will. Barca and Argentina play different football. At Barca Messi doesn't even have to look to know where someone is, he can play with his eyes closed; he doesn't have that luxury with Argentina.

  23. True, more than likely, but one man cannot win a major tournament by themselves, it takes a team of top players with the addition of one or two wc players, and also a great manager.

  24. You're right - it is pure speculation, but I would argue the probability is high given Messi's ability.

    If he truly is world class then he should be able to impose himself on an International tournament.  If he retired without having done that, then - IMO - there will be question marks over his world class status.

  25. I admire your attempt to define what a World Class Player is, but I can't help but feel that your attempts are somewhat flawed if you do not define Messi as World Class.

    He is the greatest player in the world currently. His wit, guile, vision, skill, unselfishness, work rate, finishing ability are second to none.

    Who is currently playing that is better?

    Argentinian football has been in crisis for a decade, even Maradona managed them!!!

    I agree that Pirlo is world class but not because of his Panenka penalty. If Hart had actually watched prior videos of Pirlo in shoot outs, instead of goofing around like a moron, it was an easy save. I hope Hart can show proper dignity In future and cut out the screaming, then maybe Buffon's prediction may come true. He tried the same crap with Gerrard recently

    Pirlo's performance in possession, never flustered, making Gerrard and Parker look like amateurs, is what illustrated his world class.

    He has been amazing for years, not just overnight.

    Reminds me of people raving about Scholesy at 35 as if they'd only just noticed how good he is.

    Scholesy has been amazing for 15 years and is / has been world class throughout that time in my opinion. A truly great player.

  26. Good points, Simon.  Totally agree about Pirlo. I wasn't suggesting that his penalty is the only thing that makes him world class; I was just using that penalty as an example of world class mentality. 

    As you say, he's been world class for years (who can forget that pass to Grosso for Italy's first goal in the World Cup semi-final vs, Germany in 2006 - pure quality). 

  27. I was at the Ireland v England match in 1995 in Dublin when the Combat 18 scum rioted

    Apart from the disappointment of seeing the famous old ground get wrecked, the game being abandoned while we were winning, a cameraman get his skull fractured, and being bewildered and scared at the injuries and wanton violence, my other feeling was of sadness for Le Tissier. That was his big night, his big chance, ruined by neo-Nazi, Chelsea thugs.

    Irish authorities really made a balls of the entire situation that night, created a perfect environment for the trouble to start, with the Chelsea fans / neo-Nazis / Combat 18 (all interchangeable terms) in the upper tier, so there is blame there too.

  28. Can't wait. Some guy tells Zidane what World Class is.

  29. Interesting that you should mention Grosso.

    I was chatting to a work colleague this afternoon about how he burst onto World Stage during that tourney, looked amazing, only to lapse into relative obscurity afterwards. (obscure to me anyway)

    Similar to Schillachi in Italia 90. Nuno Gomes in Euro 2000

    Pirlo had the same non flustered approach there too

  30. I've gone through this article with Steve G at the back of my mind, especially when you talked about the "OAL" of a team. I think it's fair to say that England has not reached its OAL since the late sixties, which made me wonder: By your definition, is there no English player who can be considered World Class?
    In general I like the idea of approaching this topic in this rather objective manner, but it occurs to me that determining the OAL of a team is going to pit you against the very problem you try to avoid. The performance of a player can, to some degree, be measured specifically (thus, objectively), but the potential of a team can, to my knowledge, not.

  31. So based on this both Ryan Giggs and Ian Rush are both not world class as they played for Wales that has never done well internationally 

  32. Forget these guys, jaimie i find your views interesting on this matter and i look forward to the player ratings you do...dont know how much time it would take but perhaps you could do with players
    on the current squad and on players we're linked with - have a whole new section on the site dedicated to this - it would be interesting to look back at it after a season or so and say we signed a player who was rated by your system and how he actually turned out.

  33. Good point Stella. To me, world class means the player must be skillful and technically good, possess the ability to influence the game, and can inspire the rest of the team to perform at a higher level. So, the criteria for success at all 3 levels of competition is not a fair criteria.

    Is Drogba world class? His country will not excel at the World Cup. And many regard George Best as world class. Messi, whether he wins the World Cup with Argentina or not, is already world class.

    As for potential world class players, if these guys are truly world class, they would have been snapped up by European clubs. So, I don't see how there can be another group of potential world class players. Either you are world class or you are not.

    Jamie, perhaps, we should add another criteria and that is the player's behaviour and character on and off the field. These group of people are idolised by the young generation and how they carry themselves on and off the field is important. Some of the ex-world class players are actively involved in charitable works and these sort of character deserves recognition and makes them truly world class.

  34. I've noted problems with your definition of world class before, since it has many inherent faults of its own and I'd rather take the opinion of someone whom I know has a good grasp of the game. Also, as Florian Schwarte notes above, determining the OAL of a team is fraught with potential for bias or dispute. You could say that it is determined by ranking, but FIFA rankings are notoriously unreflective of the actual state of international football. If you base it on results, then you have to consider the value of the opposition and the importance of each game, further reintroducing in the kind of human element this system is meant to eliminate.

    Also, personal gripe, I fucking hate it when people start coming up with theories and then use acronyms to try and legitimise it, so I'm biased against use of any original acronyms, justified or otherwise :p

    Also, worth pointing out, I'm no luddite- I've been a big fan of statistical analysis of the game for a while and am heartened to see Liverpool seem to be at the forefront of embracing that in football.

    I think your methods are useful, but far from definitive.

  35. Argentina only got to the QFs.

  36. So is Kuyt really worldclass? 

  37. When many good or great players at your team or around in your team ,,,you can be a worldclass player.....but for me greece captain kaourogonis also world class player but when you play with greece what you aspect,,,,lol 

  38. Totally agree with your objective approach Jaimie! From my own research, OLA is critical in this formula. I can see a lot of similarities between your analysis and my own WC statistical system as outlined on this site yesterday. Hoping that I've provided a ray of inspiration for this post in a world of dogmatic darkness!

  39. Looking forward to it. Not.

  40. Mr. Point Of View8:18 am, June 27, 2012

    My POV:

    Manager n Tactical is the KEY for the player to classify WORLD CLASS or WORLD FLOPs....

  41. Hey Vormhat. You're right, this method is not definitive, but I don't claim it to be. It's just one view. And re the acronyms - believe me, I don't use the to legitimise the theiry, it's just tedious having to write out the same phrases over and over again (!)

    Re OAL - Florian and yourself make valid point about the potential for bias, but I have a fairly objective method of determining it in mind, and I'll update the article when I've got it fully figured out.

  42. Yes, my mistake. Updated. Thanks for that.

  43. Hey Raxstar - I'll definitely be doing the entire squad LFC squad over the next few weeks.

  44. Based on the system, Giggs cannot be deemed to be World Class. Ian Rush is a more difficult question, and I'll be doing an article about him soon.

  45. The 1966 world cup winning team had a number of world class players.
    Banks, Moore, Wilson, Bobby Charlton and Ball. These players were all the best in their positions at the time.
    Greaves was world class but he was overlooked in the final for Hurst thankfully.
    Scotland world class players were probably Dalglish, Bremner, Souness and Jim Baxter.Wales have had Giggs and John Charles.
    Northern Ireland had Best
    Republic had Liam Brady.
    Long before my day we had Matthews, Finney, Dean and Lawton.
    However since 1970 the number of English world class players have diminished for one reason or another. I think you can measure this by the number of players that have played overseas and failed. Possibly only Beckham succeeded. Owen and Lineker flopped abroad though both in their prime were world class finishers for England.  
    Technically we will never produce a Pirlo or an Iniesta or a Messi.
    When we do produce a technically gifted player like LeTissier, Alan Hudson or Tony Currie they were stifled at International level and never allowed to express themselves as individuals.
    All I can see is a continued decline in our international pedigree and the gulf between us and the top 4 in the world will become more and more. I just do not see the surplus of young  players we require to make us a top class nation.

  46. Bad idea. You add that criteria and Jamie will be telling us how Suarez can never be world class.

  47. You seem to be confusing world class players and iconic legends.

    Gerrard, Keane, Ronaldo, Messi, Eto'o, Ronaldinho, Henry etc were quite clearly all world class players, as they were all better than their contemporaries for a sustained period of time (3+ years), regardless of whether they dominated an international tournament or not. 

  48. im talking about di matteos boring game 

    1) he is not quick enough to play counter attacking
    2) he doesnt have much energy after one counter attack
    3) possession is his favourite possession  

  49. Put Gerrard in the Spanish side playing alongside Alonso and he WOULD be WORLD CLASS...

    And thats the problem with Jamie's definition...some national sides are quite clearly a lot better than others.....therefore certain players who are LUCKY enough to play for those sides will enjoy World Class status when maybe they would not shine if not surrounded by WC players... while other players from "lesser" nations will struggle to realise their potential or World Class due to playing in a side largely bereft of World Class players.....or even players of international class....

    That said, i do agree that the term is bandied about far too easily and Jamie's criteria of World Class is by and large a fair one but there will of course be exceptions IMO... it does all boil down to opinons at the end of the day...

  50. Hey Mitszu - great points, and I agree, it does all boil down to opinions, and mine is just amongst many.

    I'm not sure whether Gerrard would excel in Spain's team. The Spanish play a very disciplined, tactical game, and every player is 100% confident in the role, and ability to fit within the system. I don't think Gerrard is tactically disciplined enough to fit into that team. Also, does he have the technical ability to match the likes of Iniesta/Xavi when it comes to constant one touch passing? Gerrard is used to being the main man for Liverpool, and thrives on taking control, being the focal point of the team and dragging his team-mates to success. Being surrounded by world class players, there would be no requirement for him to be the 'saviour' - he'd just be another cog in the machine, and that might affect his impact.

    Again though, it's all opinions as you say :-)

  51. the theory is extremely flawed Jaimie. So if Italy win this tournament, Ballotelli and thiago motta will be considered world class but messi/ronaldo not. If Spain win, Arbeloa, Busquets and Fabregas will be considered world class, Messi/Ronaldo not. If Germany win, Schweinsteiger and Boateng world class but messi/ronaldo not. If portugal win, Pepe and even Nani will be considered world class but missi and ronaldo not

  52.  Obv if Portugal win then Ronaldo makes it but you'd have the laughable situation of Nani being considered world classs but messi not.

  53. One person that has stood out to me  as a World Class left back is Jordi Alba of Valencia, wont be long before he joins one of the big 2 in Spain.

  54. Barca and Valencia negotiating over transfer fee. Shouldn't be long me thinks. Back to Barca for Alba then, he was there for a long time as a kid. 

  55. No, you have misinterpreted the theory. To be considered world class, a player must excel at all three levels of football: Domestic, European and World. Balotelli and Motta have not done the business at domestic/European level, so they're not world class. Plus, it's also about specific, measurable impact (SMI) - Balotelli has had no real impact on Italy's progression so far. Same applies to Busquts, Arbeloa etc.

  56. Again, you've misunderstood the theory.

  57. I think that both Balotelli and Motta have done the business at domestic/european level. Busquts and Arbeloa no SMI, sorry i didn't realise that only goalscorers could be world class

  58. Hey Jamie, great post!

    I agree with you.

    I personally think Ronaldo and Messi are the two best attackers at the moment. In my opinion they surpass Zidane, just because of the amount of goals and assists each one contributes to the their respective teams, both at club level and internationally.

    Someone like Luis Figo, would not be a world class player if he was playing now. Although he was deemed one in the early 00's. He scored on average like 8 goals a season, but was technically gifted. 

    Someone like Frank Lampard, was indeed a class player, but not world class, his performances for England have never stood out, same as Rooney. But Pavel Nedved was a class player and he did very well for Czech Rep although they never really went far. 

    But as for Ronaldo and Messi, I think they are the exceptions, and no players literally for the past 30 years have scored the sheer amount of goals they have in such a short time. Ronaldo has been tested in the PL, would Messi be able to the same? Possibly.

    But I agree, some players can be world class for their clubs and not so world class internationally.

  59. Using the criteria I've set out, Balotelli and Motta have not excelled at all three levels of football. And who said anything about goalscorers only being world class? Busquets probably has a stronger claim than Motta and Balotelli.

  60.  Jaimie, Nani has won League and champs leauge medals and by making the semis of Euro Portugal have already exceeded their OAL. Nani ticks all the boxes or your definition yet messi does not. Is it possible for a world class player to be inferior to a non world class player? I also see you could not find a single place in your examples of world class players for a goalkeeper.

  61. Winning medals is not enough. As it states in the article, 'SMI is all important'. Nani was not the main attacking reason United won those trophies, nor is he the main driving force behind Portugal at Euro 2012, or indeed any previous tournament.

    Portugal's OAL is, IMO, reaching the final of European competition, or the QF of the World Cup, and given they are the 6th highest ranked European team in the FIFA rankings, I think that's fair (especially since England and Denmark are somehow ahead of them).

    Goalkeepers can obviously be world class; the fact that I didn't include one in my list doesn't mean anything.

  62. I think Gerrard should have left LFC and gone to a European side after Xabi left tbh. I think that would have helped him realise his potential, when you look at the downward spriral of our team and the problems on and off the pitch since then it shows how lacking we have been esp in the midfield area of the park, none so much so as last season....

    At that point Gerrrard could have gone to any big team in Europe IMO and it probably would have helped his game and helped him forefill his potential, you are right technically speaking Gerrard is not World Class because his impact has never been enough to help England dominate at that level, but as we all know he has done it for his Club regularly...

    His loyalty to LFC has IMO stifled his development in terms of reaching the World Class level that he is/was capable of reaching, and a pretty thankless task at that considering how so many fans do not hold him in such high esteem anyhow and some fans are still bitter about how he didn't dig Rafa an all that....

    Gerrard has looked more and more unhappy with how things have panned out for Club and country, and tbh my opinion is that he deserves/deserved better on BOTH fronts..

  63. I look forward to seeing it but it better not feature any acronyms!!!!

  64. That is a good question really. If we look purely on his achievements:

    World Cup finalist
    Scorer in a major European final (2007 Athens- runner-up)
    Premier League runner-up
    FA Cup runner up
    KNVB Cup winner
    League Cup winner

    Scored or set up around 25% of all goals (old stat, which I got from here, may be different now but I don't think it would have changed too drastically in his final season) for a team that was for a few years of his Liverpool career the #1 ranked team in Europe.

  65. Based on your flawed system regarding International level (therefore George Best wasn't world class?!?!?! The man who Maradonna claims is the greatest ever). I don't for one second believe that International level is a step up from, or level with, Champs League - which is the current pinnacle of football.

  66. Utter rubbish. By your definition two players who have scored over (or close to) 50 goals a season for the last three seasons in one of Europe's top two leagues- including approx 60 and 80 this season aren't yet 'World Class'. Yet by everyone else's recognition they're probs both in or very close to the top 5 players of all time. Messi being widely excepted as at the very least being in the top 3.

  67. Busquts has played as a defensive midfielder for a team that has conceded one goal in 5 games. What more do you want? Ive spent the last hour searching for the articles where you wrote about how poulsen was a good player becasue when he played the results were good, regardless of his actual performance. So surely Busquets' team only conceding 1 in 5 means something. Also jaime, im interested to know how you would judge a keeper.

    My point is that its much more difficult for a goalkeeper/defender or defensive midfielder to dominate a tournament.

    The whole thing doesnt really make sense, if messi scores 70 a season for the next 5 years but never dominates a tournament, he wont be considered world class.

    Trying to define world class ( with regard to football players) is like trying to define 'brilliant'.  World class is just a superlative with no actual meaning.

  68. I find you opinion on Portugals OAL strange. Making a world cup QF is much easier than making a Euro Final

  69. Thinking about it a comparison with Xabi Alonso and Steven Gerrard would be interesting given Gerrard was more important to Liverpool during their time together. Yet Gerrard would not meet the criteria and Alonso does given what he brings to the Spanish team along with the success they have had.

  70. Fee finally agreed

  71. Ha Ha. That is a good one.

  72. Sorry for opening a can of worms, but for example Robbie Keane is World Class, based on his International and club records, but how many would really consider him to be really World Class, you are right it is, in the eye of the beholder,
    for example, name a player who would have got into the 1970 Brazil team, Messi-No, Ronaldo-No, its subjective, Maradonna, maybe
    .I should have kept my trap shut, but i'm stuck here in Indonesia.until feb 26th, so I have to vent my anger as often as possible, coz I get a signal once a week if I am lucky, YNWA.

  73. For me, Robbie Keane isn't world class. He hasn't had a major impact in European competitions (Champions League, for example), so he doesn't fulfil the criteria. Sucks about your internet access! Hope it improves.