The "World Class" Debate

  • There’s got to be some rules here folks.

I’m a fan of lists. If you can rank it, categorize it, number it, subdivide it, label it, then I’m usually interested. Every December I rank the top ten albums of that particular year and I’m constantly trying to re-work, re-figure and re-align my top ten films of all time, a project that’s been ongoing now for the better half of a decade. If a film, past or present impresses me all the way through, if the music is relevant, if the screenplay is flawless, it’s a masterpiece. If it’s current, it’s a modern day masterpiece. Why do I do this? Why can’t I just enjoy the art in front of me? Is the football fan that different?

In my attempts to compile a list of all time great footballers, I hit a snag when I came across the phrase “world class”. The phrase seems to come up all across the Internet, on blogs, message boards and especially basement run websites. Let’s be honest, the phrase itself  is at times a silly one. On one hand, I like it. It simply allows football supporters to place the cream of the crop on one clean pedestal, done and dusted. There’s really no higher individual honor a player can receive, except if it’s from FIFA, UEFA, etc., than to labeled world class. The greatest player of your decade, slap-world class, led your club team to the Premier League title, slap-world class, scored a stunner in the FA Cup Final, slap-world class.

On the other hand, it’s a bit silly. Football supporters are a fickle bunch who tend to throw accolades and labels around quite frequently and loosely.We all get so caught up in the here and now. What’s been accomplished just a few weeks ago is now a fleeting memory in our minds because we want more great performances, more wins, more goals, and we want it now! This keeping up with the Joneses mentality allows football supporters the sad characteristic of selfish, forgetful support. It’s the flavor of the week if you will, the absolute be all and end all. One week world class, the next week rubbish. If we continue at this rate, all the world class tags will surely be assigned, passed out and exhausted before we see Kai Rooney lace up for Manchester United’s 2028 Global Premier League match played v Chelsea on the moon.

One website I found went so far as to list Robinho and Park Ji-Sung as world class. Now don’t get me wrong, both players are fine in their own right. Park for United fits perfectly into the position that Alex Ferguson plays him in, when he actually plays, which isn’t that frequently. Park’s role for United usually beckons a Champions League tie or clash against another Big 4 opponent. As for Robinho, the quick Brazilian is a fine player when he wants to be, but shouldn’t “world class” be reserved for the upper echelon of footballing talent? Would not world class players usually be playing in the world’s best league? Or at least in Europe?

In Robinho’s attempt to make the Brazilian World Cup squad this summer, he’s pissed off back to former club Santos who sit 12th in the Brasileirao. My point here is that slapping world class tags on every player who comes along doesn’t make them deserved of such accolades. Remember, Robinho has made this move in hopes he’ll be picked for the World Cup. Would not a world class player’s name be first on the team sheet for his country regardless of how deep the country’s talent pool is? Shame on that website for throwing a world class tag to Robinho.

A truly world class talent could fit into almost any system put in front of them and excel. Their ability to adapt when different situations presented themselves and subsequently succeed in their new environment should be a deciding factor in who’s deemed world class or simply talented. Again, shouldn’t the term world class be reserved for the upper echelon of footballing talent and not be thrown around like some flavor of the week?

If you answered yes to that last question, then we must first decide the criteria that makes up a truly world class athlete as to not dilute the world football platform with every Robinho and Park that comes along. No matter how great they are, they are not world class, at least not yet. As football fans, we must cherish and hold our best accolades for the one in a million who comes along once in a lifetime. So for now, let’s hold our world class tongues until at least after the World Cup.

I’m not the be all and end all of which footballers get the distinct privilege and tag of being world class. I’m not that powerful, don’t want the responsibility and I’m still relatively young in my footballing life. I’ve got a lot to learn and vow to do just that, but I do believe we should wait until a player has reached the end, or near the end of their career before the world class tag is assigned. Let’s take for instance one Fernando Torres. Incredible talent, dangerous striking abilities, strong, fast, he’s got it all. But he’s bloody injured more than he’s on the pitch. How world class is he if he never plays? Will he still be considered world class if he fights injuries the remainder of his career? Would not the phrase “potential world class abilities” be more appropriate until we’ve seen the young Spaniard at his best for both club and country?

Ryan Giggs. Is he or isn’t he? The Manchester United winger has won everything possible at club level and remains one of the Premier League’s best, but the Welsh national team has failed to qualify for a  World Cup since 1958, or competed in a European Championship since 1976. Giggs would easily get my vote for world class, but what of the player who never gets his chance to prove how world class he is on an International stage? Should this be taken into consideration?

Whatever your opinion on the matter is, it’s ultimately just a phrase. Take it or leave it, love it or hate it. My advice to you though would be to not throw it around so easily and award it to the footballer who has most recently impressed you. Let players be players and fans be fans and we’ll all together, at the end of a truly great career, sit down and heap praise upon those so deserving of a fickle football supporters words of acclaim.

Shirt credit: Objectivo

8 thoughts on “The "World Class" Debate”

  1. Haha, good article mate!

    I think as a society, we wean out the stars that are and not world class. I mean, globally, there are so many of us that if there is a debate about a player’s stature of the tag, said player probably isn’t worthy of it.

    The problem is the amount of crazies that interject on the situation, the ones who truly think players like Park Ji-Sung, Landon Donovan and David James are world class. Certainly, these players are good at times, but look at the history of football – are these players truly different than the good to very good players that came a generation or two before them? (They are not.)

    World class players generally pick themselves, let’s be honest about that, and that’s why it’s pretty easy to agree. It’s the fringe players who get votes from said crazies who muck up the whole situation.

  2. I think it’s rather simple. If a player can find his way into the lineup of any team in the world, he is world class. At any point in time, there shouldn’t be any more than 20 or so players with that designation.

  3. good point about ryan giggs. George Best is considered one of the handful of greatest players of all time, but never got the chance to really get his shine on because he played for Northern Ireland.

    Then there those players who will shine at the World Cup, inspire insane transfer fees and fail to live up to world-class expectations.

  4. I don’t think a “World Class” player has to fit into every team and/or every System.
    Drogba was barely making the bench when Scolari was coach of Chelsea, yet I’m sure most people would put him among the top 20 footballers in the world today.
    I think world Class can be defined as “A Player most clubs would love to have, if they could” . So even though Chelsea has a bunch of strikers, they would gladly take Rooney, and figure out how to play him later..
    (I wonder if most clubs would gladly take Gerrard though)

  5. I think to be world class you should be considered one of the best players in the world at your position.

    If you take the top 3 players in each position you should have a total of 33 world class players.

    1. Thanks for the feedback.

      I really like that idea. It keeps things simple and not overblown. The only problem one could run into with that line of thought is the amount of different positions (especially attacking positions) players find themselves in.

      For example, when Cristiano Ronaldo played for Manchester United he more times than not played right side midfield. Other games he would start up front as a central striker. Same goes for Rooney, who is at his best in front of goal, but at times plays all over the field, I’ve even seen him deputize as right back before.

      Now I know he was just filling in, but the point being, for what position would you award the world class tag to the player? Would Ronaldo be considered a world class striker, midfileder or what?

      Maybe their most played position, the position where they start the game at?

      Good stuff though.

  6. I do agree with this article, I think transfers have gone to silly amounts now especially with English players (who are so over hyped its a joke and i think the world cup proved that), over the summer James Milner was sold to Man City for a massive 30 mill! no disrespect but James Milner is a good player but he’s only good. Meanwhile David Villa was brought by Barca for 29 mil now I know Milner is a few years younger than Villa but Villa is arguably the best forward in the world and just won the world cup surely if Milner is worth 30 mil Villa is more near the 60 mil mark.
    Another English player who is constantly over hyped is Gary Cahill who is rated by Bolton at 25 mil!!! despite the face he was no international experience, never played Champions league football and is playing at a below average club. Meanwhile Cheilini who plays first team for Juventus and Italy has champions league and world cup experience and is 1 of the best defenders in the world and he’s worth only 15 mil? that sums it up really. It seems that as soon as a player makes even 1 appearance for England the media dubs them the next superstar and there clubs wrack up the price to obscene amounts.

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