11 Apr 2017

'World-Class' Series [No1]: Kenny Dalglish (Celtic, Liverpool, and Scotland). Was he 'world-class'?

'World-class': Arguably the most overused label in the modern football lexicon. Everyone has their own view of what constitutes 'world class' football ability, but the label is thrown around so liberally these days that it barely has any real, quantifiable meaning. The commonly accepted definition is subjective and experiential, which is not (IMO) an accurate basis upon which to judge world class football performance. In this new series, I'll be applying my own personal definition of 'world-class' to a number of players (past and present), and I'll start with Liverpool legend Kenny Dalglish.

When assessing 'world-class' ability, the only fair way to judge is to apply - where possible - objective criteria. A purely subjective analysis is based on emotion, (flawed) individual perception and biased, experiential interpretation. Consequently, such an analysis is of questionable merit.

The subjective formula is basically: "I see, therefore he is...World Class". Subjectively, any player can be anointed 'world class', but it has no meaning unless the label 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 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, 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?

* 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).


* SMI at Domestic Level | Celtic: 240+ goals/assists in 322 games. Helped Celtic win 4 league titles in 5 years, and 6 domestic cups. Liverpool: Close to 200+ goals/assists in 355 games. Helped LFC win 6 league titles, and 5 domestic cups. Footballer of the Year: 1979 and 1983.

* SMI at European level | Celtic: KD's Goals/assists helped Celtic get to the European Cup semi-final in 1974. Liverpool: 25 goals/assists in 51 European apps. Helped Liverpool win 3 European Cups in 6 years, and get to the final of another. Scored the winner in the 1978 final.

* SMI at International level | Scotland's most capped player, and joint top scorer with 30 goals. Prior to Dalglish's international bow in 1971, Scotland had not qualified for the World Cup since 1958. From 1971 until Dalglish's international retirement in 1986, Scotland qualified for for 4 consecutive World Cups, including 1974 and 1978, two years in which England failed to qualify.

* Scotland OAL: Scotland have never advanced past the group stages of a World Cup or European Championship, so the team's OAL = qualification for a major tournament. Dalglish contributed 20 goals/assists for Scotland in various international qualification campaigns, and but for his goals/assists, Scotland would not have qualified for the World Cups in 1974 and 1978.

* Conclusion: Dalglish excelled at all three levels of football, and had a specific measurable impact for Celtic, Liverpool, and Scotland.

* Verdict: Definitely World-Class.

Next three: George Best, Diego Costa, Luis Suarez. If you have any suggestions for players to be included in the series, please leave a comment below.


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