2 May 2017

World-Class Series [No9]: Gareth Bale (Spurs, Real Madrid, Wales). Is he 'world-class'?

Since signing for Real Madrid, ex-Spurs attacker Gareth Bale has gone from strength to strength, but is he now 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: Spurs: 74 goals/assists in 146 games; 2011/2013: 2x 'Player of the Year' awards.  2013: PFA 'Young Player of the Year' award. 6x Welsh 'Player of the Year' awards. 2010: Integral to Spurs' qualification for the Champions League. Real Madrid: 90 goals/assists in 100 games (One every 86 mins).

* SMI at European Level: Spurs: 22 goals/assists in 28 CL/UEFA apps. CL only: 13 goals/assists in 11 games. 2010-11: Without Bale's goals/assists, Spurs would not have advanced to the CL quarter finals. Real Madrid: 21 goals/assists in CL 37 games. Two Champions League winners' medals . 2013-14: 10 goals/assists in 12 CL games (plus a goal in the final) = integral to Madrid's CL win. 2016: Created the winning goal in the semi-final against Man City. 2016: CL 'Squad of the Season'.

* SMI at International level: Wales: 37 goals/assists in 66 games. Euro/WC Qualifiers: 26 goals/assists in 45 games. Euro 2016: 4 goals/assists in 6 games propelled Wales to the semi-final. 2011/2013: 2x UEFA 'Team of the Year'.

* 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 OAL is (arguably) qualifying for a major tournament.

* Conclusion: Bale has excelled at all three levels of football, and his personal impact on his respective teams' OAL is undisputed. For example, without Bale's 8 goals/assists during qualifying, Wales wouldn't have qualified for Euro 2016. Bale then helped Wales exceed its OAL by pushing the team into the semi-finals of Euro 2016.

* Verdict: Clearly World-Class.

In my view, Bale is the only British world-class player (currently active).


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