18 May 2017

World-Class Series [No11]: Roberto Baggio (Juve, Milan, Inter, Italy). Was he 'world-class'?

Roberto Baggio...what a player! Anyone who watched football in the 1990s will remember the genius of Baggio, but did he do enough to be considered 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).


* SMI at Domestic Level: Serie A: 291 goals/111 assists (400) in 643 apps for Juve, Inter, Milan, Brescia, Bologna, Fiorentina, and Vicenza (Overall: one every 108 mins). 20+ goals/assists in 9 separate seasons. Juve: 153 goals/assists in 200 apps. 1995: Goals/assists helped Juve win the league for the first time in 9 years (qualifying for the European Cup for the first time in 8 years). 1995: G/A helped Juve win the Italian cup. 1996: Goals/assists helped Milan win the league. 7th highest scorer in Serie A history. Juve finished 1st or 2nd in the league in 3 of Baggio's 4 seasons at the club.

* SMI at European Level: Juve/Milan: 30+ goals/assists in 42 European games. 1993: 10 goals/assists in 9 games to help Juve win the UEFA Cup. 1991: Top scorer in the UEFA Cup Winner's (9 goals in 8 games). 1993: 2nd place in the Ballon d'Or. 1993: 3rd place for 'World Player of the Year'. 1990: U23 European 'Player of the Year'.

* SMI at International level: Italy: 27 goals/10 assists in 56 apps. Italy's 4th highest goalscorer of all-time. Only Italian player to score in three separate World Cups (1990, '94, and '98). Italy's joint highest goalscorer in World Cup games (9 goals overall). Always scored in the most high pressure World Cup games (3 in group stages; 6 in knockout games). 1990: G/A helped Italy get to the World Cup semi-final. 1994: G/A helped Italy get to the World Cup final. 1998: G/A helped Italy get to the World Cup quarter-final. With Baggio in the team, Italy lost just one of 16 World Cup matches.

* Conclusion: Baggio had a specific, measurable impact at all three levels of football. Helped his respective teams win league titles, and a European trophy (at a time when Juve were not consistently in the European Cup). Baggio's goals and assists also played a huge part in dragging Italy to the final stages of 3 World Cup tournaments.

* Verdict: Obviously World-Class.


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