4 Sept 2015

Carra raves: £300k-a-week superstar can be best 'of all time'. Better than Gerrard?

For the first time in its history, the Wales national team is on the brink of qualifying for the European Championships, and after his vital winning goal against Cyrus last night, Liverpool legend Jamie Carragher is convinced that Bale is close to becoming one of then 'great British players of all time'.

Reacting to Bale's thunderous winning goal, Carra explained:

"He [Bale] has already achieved an awful lot, but if they [Wales] qualify when other great Welsh players could never achieve it. [then that] shows the accomplishment.

"If he [Bale] could be successful in terms of winning titles & the CL [with a Prem club] we could be putting him right at the top of list of great British players"

Carra is spot on here (IMO). Bale - reportedly on £300k-a-week - is already one of the great British players of modern times, but if he continues his achievements over the next five years, the sky is the limit.

Bale is definitely a 'world-class' player already, though, and he fits my personal definitely of the concept, even though he plays for one of the world's inferior international teams.

When assessing 'World Class' ability, the only fair way to judge is to apply - where possible - objective criteria.

The subjective formula is basically: 'I see, therefore he is World Class', but that arguably has no meaning unless the label can be persuasively justified with objective facts.

As such, before a player can be deemed 'world-class', he/she must:

* Have a Specific, Measurable Impact (SMI) - at all three levels of football, which are: Domestic (national leagues); European (Champions League/Europa League, or worldwide equivalent); World (International - qualifying and/or tournaments).

* Pushes his/her team to relative success at all three levels.

Relative Success: OAL and SMI

* What is the the team's Optimum Achievement Level (OAL) in a given competition? In other words, considering the overall quality of players available, and relative strength of other teams, 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?

* SMI at all three levels is required. Two out of three is not good enough.

* 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.

* A player's individual SMI is all important. How far did the player contribute to the team achieving its OAL? If you remove the player's SMI from the equation, would the team still achieve its OAL? If so, then that player is probably not world class. Truly world class players are absolutely integral to their team's success, to the extent that, without that player, the team would not achieve its OAL.

Gareth Bale: World-Class?

Bale easily fulfills the above criteria:

* SMI at Domestic Level | SPURS: 74 goals/assists in 146 games; 2x Player of the Year awards; integral to Spurs' qualification for the Champions League. MADRID: 53 goals/assists in 60 games.

* SMI at European level | SPURS: 22 goals/assists in 28 CL/UEFA apps. MADRID: 13 goals/assists in 22 CL apps. 10 goals/assists in 12 CL games in 2013/14 (plus a goal in the final) = integral to Madrid's CL win.

* SMI at International level | 18 goals in 51 games (13 in World-Cup/Euro qualification). Scored 5 of Wales' 9 goals in the current qualification campaign.

* Wales OAL: Since Wales have never qualified for the European Championships (and last qualified for the World Cup in 1958), the team's OAL is (arguably) qualifying for a major tournament. Wales are on the brink of achieving that. Without Bale's goals and assists, Wales wouldn't be top of their group, and would already be out of contention. As such, it's fair to say that Bale has played an integral role in helping Wales achieve its OAL.

With all this in mind, Bale is clearly 'world-class', even though he'll probably never get to play in the latter stages of a major tournament. In this respect, he's very similar to Kenny Dalglish, another world-class player whose goals and assists in qualification were integral to helping a Scotland (another small international team) qualify for major tournaments (World Cup: 1978 and 1982).

Some may disagree, but in the context of the definition outlined above, Bale is the UK's only (currently active) world-class player.

Author: Jaimie K


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