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Mistakes we make while comparing players in football

TOP CONTRIBUTOR
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4.73K   //    28 Sep 2017, 11:36 IST

Would it be fair to compare Ronaldo and Messi in terms of their style?
Would it be fair to compare Ronaldo and Messi in terms of their style?

If you are a football fan, at least once in your life, you would have come across a comparison between two teams or two players and you probably would have been a part of a discussion related to the same. Now comparing teams or players and their playing styles is okay but trying to reach a conclusion that who is better can be a difficult task. More so when you are comparing individual players.

Once it is easy to discuss that which of the two teams is superior like Barcelona under Pep or Real Madrid under Zidane as they can be compared on the basis of number of trophies won, number of years they dominated the stage et al. but when that discussion moves on to who is better between two players we often make use silly parameters to compare the players.

Reason of that being football is a team game and a player is only as good as his teammates and the way a player is playing depends pretty much on how his team and manager wants him to play. Agreed, there are players who can make difference alone like Ronaldo, Messi, Neymar etc but even they are limited by the team they play in.

When we compare players we need to understand that the two of them might not be having same roles for their team and even if they do it might be that the way their teams play is completely different. In fact, it could be that the same player plays an entirely different role for his national side and his club side. We also need to understand that the two players might be completely different in the way they go about their respective jobs.

Let's get down to the most notorious comparison of the current times i.e. Ronaldo vs Messi to understand this. Both of them are completely different types of players. On one hand, Messi is more like a magician at work while Ronaldo is like a machine. Messi is better in terms of his passing range and dribbling, Ronaldo is better with his head and shooting. You feel if somehow you can combine the both you will make an ultimate football player. You can't even think about comparing them based on their respective styles. It just depends on which type of player you like more.

The another way of comparisons is "stats."

Players are often compared by statistics and logically it may sound right too and it is to a certain extent but still, it cannot be the only parameter to find out who the better one is as they only tell you a part of the story. Stats in large part are affected by the way the team plays and the role a player is asked to play.

We don't give it enough attention before comparing them. If a striker plays for a team that plays defensive football and scores 25 goals a season and a striker who plays for a team that plays attacking football and scores 40 goals a season, we will say that the 40 goal striker is better than the 25 goal season striker, forgetting that it is pretty much because of the way their respective teams play.


Griezmann's ability has been often been shackled by Atletico's style of play
Griezmann's ability has been often been shackled by Atletico's style of play

Griezmann has never managed to cross the 30 goals mark in a season playing for Atletico Madrid but it is pretty much because Atletico are a team that play on the break more often and are not really known for their attacking prowess. However, you have to believe that if he goes and plays for a team like Barcelona or Real Madrid he will guarantee you at least 35 goals a season thanks to his supreme finishing skills.

It could also be that 2 players play in the same position for teams that play the same brand of football and still have different roles. Take Benzema for Madrid and Lewandowski for Bayern. Two teams who play offensive football and two players who are strikers for their teams but their roles are different even if the position is same.

While Lewandowski is the main goalscorer for Bayern, Benzema does not have the same role. It is because the way two teams go about attacking is different. Let's look into some detailed stats to compare the two players and understand that how their roles differ even though their position is same;

Enter captio
Source: Squawka

Lewandowski and Benzema have are entirely different even though they play as strikers for their respective teams. Lewandowski has a better goals per 90 minute ratio than Benzema while Benzema is ahead in terms of chance creation and assists. That clearly shows that while Lewandowski's role is primarily of a goalscorer for Bayern, Benzema is more involved in buildup play and doesn't play the role of primary goalscorer for Real Madrid, as his more number of passes and chance created per 90-minute ratio prove.

You cannot draw an inference as to who is better among the two as the roles they play are completely different for their respective teams. People will often forget this and judge the two just by the goals scored stats as they believe strikers have only one job and that is scoring goals which might not be always true.

Two teams might play attacking football but the way they approach the game can be completely different. Stats also ignore the quality of the opponent against whom the player has performed which should be a crucial parameter while judging players.

Different players have different abilities. They are utilised in different ways by the way their manager make them play out on the field. Once comparing the way they play and their contributions is okay but trying to find who is better than the other is a completely different task and various factors as mentioned above need to be considered before such comparisons are drawn.

Football is a team game and even though individuals do make an impact, the way they play is very much affected by the roles they are given and the kind of support they get from their teammates.

Most of the time, people completely ignore the smaller details while comparing. Drawing comparisons between two things is human nature, we just can't get rid of it. In an ideal world, it would be great if we completely do away with it and just enjoy the game as fans but we are not living in an ideal world, are we? Comparisons are okay but it is important that when they are drawn important details are kept in mind before judging a player.

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