Tag Archives: Average Opposition Index

Player Comparison: Romario vs Ronaldo vs Rivaldo vs Ronaldinho vs Messi

27 Feb

From the early 90’s to the current team, Barcelona have relied heavily on the magic of their South American superstars. One club, two nationalities and five of the best players of all time. All won the World Player of the Year Award in their time with the Catalan club. But who performed most in the big games? And who was most important to the team? The fourth feature in the Player Comparison series compares those brilliant Barcelona boys – Romario, Ronaldo, Rivaldo, Ronaldinho and Messi.

The Contenders:

First up is Romario, the Brazilian marksman was a ruthless finisher, and one of only two players to have scored 1,000 career goals – depending on what you class as official (more on that one here). He played in 6 different countries for 10 different teams, including footballing giants Adelaide United, Miami FC and Al-Sadd. For Brazil, he scored an incredible 55 goals in 70 games, winning the World Cup and the Copa America (twice). Described by Johan Cruyff as a “genius of the goal area”, he won La Liga and the Spanish Super Copa during his time his short stay at Barcelona.

Ronaldo came next. And it was an even shorter stay. For the single season that he represented Barcelona, there were absolutely no doubts who the best player in the World was. Although he didn’t win the League title with the Spanish Club, he did win the Copa del Rey and the UEFA Cup Winners Cup, and despite later going on to play for bitter rivals Madrid, he is still considered one of the Barca greats. Like his predecessor, he also won the Two Copa Americas and a World Cup with Brazil – and is the tournaments all time top scorer with 15 goals. In total he scored 62 goals in 98 appearances for Brazil. He suffered three career threatening injuries, with many suggesting that without them, he could have been the best of all time. Despite this, he still managed to win the World Player of Year award on three occasions.

After Ronaldo’s sale to Inter Milan, Rivaldo was identified as the player to fill the “Brilliant Brazilian” hole that had been left behind. More of a playmaker than the two before him, he was still a prolific scorer, particularly in his 5 years with Barcelona. Deadly from set pieces, he also had the eye for the spectacular – none more so than his hat trick to beat Valencia on the final day of the season to pip them to the last Champions League spot in 2001. The third goal was an over head kick from outside of the area in the last minute (as seen here), and possibly better than Pele’s in escape to Victory. He had a left foot like a magic wand/traction engine, and like Ronaldo, he enjoyed his greatest moment in the 2002 World Cup, as part of the 3 R’s attack. As appears to be the pre requisite, he also won the Copa America, and scored 34 goals in 74 appearances. He’s had even more clubs than Romario, and at 39, is still playing.

Fourth in the list, was cheeky schemer Ronaldinho. As with Rivaldo, he was also more of a playmaker, one blessed with incredible dribbling skills. He is one of the few Barcelona players to have received a standing ovation from fans of Real Madrid in the Bernebeu. Although mainly deployed from wide positions, he has close to 300 career goals (stop laughing Romario) including the 33 for his country (from 93 caps). At 31, he is still strutting his stuff in the Brazilian league with Flamengo. He’s regarded by some as a wasted talent, but during his time with Barcelona he won two World Player of the Year awards. Not bad for an International Playboy (I met him once in Las Vegas – the reputation is justified). Ronaldinho’s partying and the emergence of another skillful playmaker resulted in a somewhat premature exit from the Nou Camp, after he signed for AC Milan (like Rivaldo and Ronaldo before him). As with the players above, he also has World Cup and Copa America medals.

And so on to the last and current Barca player in our list – Lionel Messi. He has the vision of Rivaldo, the dribbling of Ronaldinho, and the finishing and pace of Romario and Ronaldo. He, like Ronaldo has 3 World Player of the Year titles. Where he differs from his Brazilian predecessors (apart from his nationality) is that he’s been a one club man. He had to overcome similar physical challenges as Rivaldo before making it as a top class player. The undoubted best player in the World at the moment, he just has to do it on the International stage to truly cement his place as one of the best, if not the very best of all time. He currently has 222 goals in 309 games for his club (as at the time of writing), and a rather more modest 19 in 66 for Argentina.

“No hard feelings, I just want your Number 10”


As per usual, it’s primarily a comparison of their Leauge goals rather than all goals. Why? Because it’s similar opposition (give or take for relegation) – and these opponents are ranked, meaning that we can calculate an average. As they played for different amounts of time for Barcelona, it’ll be a look at their most prolific season in the league. This is calculated on final league positions, rather than at the time of playing.

Of course these players aren’t just about goals, but I don’t have the assists available for Ronaldo and Romario, so will leave them out for this comparison.


Romario, then 27, signed in the summer of 1993 after 129 goals in just 5 seasons with PSV Eindhoven. Under the stewardship of Johan Cruyff, he had just one full season with the Spanish Giants, so we’ll be looking at the 1993-94 season.

Like Romario before him, Ronaldo made his European club bow with PSV, though only stayed for 2 seasons – his 54 goals in 57 games were enough to persuade Barca to part with $17m for a teenager. Under Bobby Robson, Ronaldo played just the one season with Barcelona – 1996-97.

Rivaldo joined aged 25, from La Liga rivals Deportivo La Coruna for a fee of $26m. Though he played for Barca for 5 seasons, it’s his most prolific that we’ll look at – 24 league goals in 1998-99. Free from the shackles placed upon him by Louis van Gaal in previous years, he thrived under Ferrer.

Ronaldinho’s most prolific season was actually after his two World Player of the Year awards. 2006-07 saw him bang in a decent 21 in the league in Frank Rijkaard’s penultimate season with the club.

And lastly, Messi’s best haul in La Liga was as a 22 year old. He looks set to have his best season in goal scoring terms this season, but for the purpose of this piece, we’ll use his prolific season under Pep Guardiola (Romario and Ronaldo’s team mate) in 2009-10.

This was initially going to be about the 4 Brazilian’s, but you can’t leave Messi out of this. He fits the South American World Player of the Year criteria, and plays up top, so we’ll leave him in. Even though his name doesn’t begin with R and end with O.


Apologies for the long build up, but we can now move onto the stats. I’ve decided to look at it based on three criteria – goal scoring out right, big game players, and importance to the team.


First up is the the goal scoring records of each player – based on goals per game and goals per minute:

Firstly, Ronaldinho’s 21 goals in 32 games would be an incredible season in most players careers, and a rate of 0.66 goals per game is an awesome strike rate. When you add to that the fact that he played wide of a front three, then it’s even more impressive. However, this comparison is against some of the greatest and most prolific forwards of all time. Whilst Ronaldinho is perhaps only second to Messi in the dribbling stakes, he’s last in the goals table. Similarly, Rivaldo was more than just a goal scorer, so 24 league goals is a great season. To put it into perspective, it would have won the golden boot 4 of the seasons from 1997-2004.

And so onto the super strikers. In all honesty, there’s not much in it. Ronaldo and Messi lead the way in terms of goals scored with 34 (Messi in two games less). Romario wasn’t too far behind with 30 league goals from just 33 games. They all have close to a goal a game strike rate with 0.91, 0.92 and 0.97 goals per game for Romario, Ronaldo and Messi respectively. To add some perspective, in the last 20 years only 3 other players have broken the 30 goal mark in a season – Cristiano Ronaldo last season, Diego Forlan the year before that, and Pizzi for Tenerife back in 1996. Pizzi did so in a 42 game season (he played 41 games), and whilst Ronaldo also did so in a 42 game season, he only played 37 games – within the confines of a normal season now. It’s interesting to see that the 30 goal mark has been broken in the last 3 (soon to be 4) seasons. Is La Liga getting easier?

When looking at the goals per minute, it’s Messi once again that does this business with a goal every 83.53 minutes. That works out better than a goal a game, and when allowing for injury time at the end of both halves of football – Ronaldo and Romario pretty much equal that with goals every 94 and 91.9 minutes. In terms of games scored in, Ronaldo walks this one, with a massive 23. It’s up to you the reader to decide if it’s better to score in more games, or to score multiple times in fewer games. Ronaldo can certainly say his goals influenced more games than the other players.

Winner: It’s a joint win for Ronaldo and Messi on this one. Messi equalled Ronaldo’s 34 in less games/minutes, but Ronaldo did it in more games. It’s also easy to argue that Messi’s team mates were better than Ronaldo’s. Honourable mention to Romario.

Big Game Players:

And so on to round 2, and the lifeblood of this site – who was most effective in the big games? Once again, unfortunately I don’t have the assists available for each player – so whilst they may have dominated the game without scoring (see Messi vs Real Madrid in 2010/11), we’re solely looking at goals.

Well well well. I didn’t just put it together like this so that Ronaldinho and Rivaldo could prevent it from turning into a 2 horse race. It’s certainly interesting that the two Playmakers have the best average ranked opposition per goal. Even though they scored the least amount of goals, they had the mentality to perform in the big games – more so than the small games. They’re the only two on the list that have more goals against the Top 6 than the Bottom 6. It was certainly levelled at Ronaldinho that he didn’t always turn up for the small games (mentally not physically) – and this goes some way to proving it.

Big game? That’ll be Real Madrid. Interestingly, all 5 players scored against arch rivals Real Madrid in their Barca careers, though Ronaldinho didn’t manage it in his most prolific season (a young Messi did though). Romario banged in a hat trick in a 5-0 whitewash, Ronaldo scored the winner in a 1-0 win whilst chasing the Madrid club for the title, Rivaldo scored in a 3-0 win, and Messi scored in a 2-0 win at the Berbebeu.

Although Ronaldinho didn’t have the goal against Madrid, he did score against the teams in 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th and 7th. And this was a league table where 3rd placed Sevilla were only 5 points off the title, rather than the 24 points that Valencia are behind in today’s table.

Messi has the most goals against Top 6 opposition with 10, but this was in a league where 3rd placed Valencia finished 28 points behind the Champions, and 6th placed Getafe were 41 points off Top spot – whilst only 22 off relegation. The gap between 1st and 6th was only 16 points in Ronaldinho’s 2006-07 season – the lowest by someway – adding to the importance of Top 6 goals.

Ronaldo and Romario fall victim to being consistent with an expected split weighted towards the middle range, and it’s worth noting that Ronaldo’s goals against the Top 6 opposition were worth more points (6) than any of the others.

Winner:Although his star had started to fade, it was Ronaldinho’s big game mentality that shone through. He scored twice the amount of goals against Top 6 as he did against Bottom 6, had the best Average ranked opposition for each goal, and the league he played in was still very very competitive. The only he didn’t notch against Real, he did against all the other challengers.

Importance to team – goals as points:

The last measure is based on the importance of the goals. It’s not an exact science but it does give a basis to measure the importance of a goal. For the mathematics behind it, click on the Rules and Workings page. So if we take Romario’s hat trick against Real Madrid as an example, he’d receive zero points for his treble as the team won 5-0. If you take his goals away, then they’d still win 2-0. Similarly, Rivaldo’s hat trick against Valencia in 2001 was worth all 3 points as they were the only Barca goals in a 3-2 win. Take them out and the team lose 0-2. So with that in mind:

Despite scoring less goals than Romario, Ronaldo and Ronaldinho, it’s Rivaldo who’s goals were most important to his team. His 24 goals were woth a massive 20 points to Barcelona’s final tally of 79. This means that he also leads the way in the percentage of team points he was responsible for, with a mightily impressive 25.32. Barcelona went on to win the title that year and usually you’d expect the Champions points spread quite wide across a team. It’s not unusual to see a struggling team have a stand out player for points, as the team points is that much lower, so to score goals worth a quarter of the final tally is very impressive.

Ronaldo once again is there are there abouts. His 34 league goals were worth 17 points as Bobby Robson’s team just missed out on the title by 2 points to Real Madrid. If he’d played all the games, it’s likely that he would have made the difference. He edges out his predecessor Romario who had a credible 16 points. Surprisingly enough, Messi and Ronaldinho’s goals were only worth 13 points – 13.13% and 16.67% of the the over all points tally.

Although they were less important that the other players, Messi is ahead on the percentage of the team goals scored with 34.69% – narrowly ahead of Ronaldo and Romario.

Winner:This one has to go to Rivaldo. Whilst he scored less goals than than 3 of the other contendors, the goals he did score were worth more to his team. Honourable mention to Ronaldo who won 17 points, and scored a third of his teams goals.

Overall Winner:

With wins for each player (aside from Romario) across the three categories, it’s incredibly hard to call this one. Each reader will have their own opinion as to which parameter is most important. Some may well argue that stats don’t tell the whole story – and i’d agree to an extent, as there is no measurement on assists, on brilliance, beauty, style etc…..Personally, Ronaldo is my favourite footballer of all time, regardless of the stats, but regular readers will no that I don’t like to sit on the fence, nor let my preconceptions shape the outcome.

As a result, I decided to rank the players on each measurement and work out the average position. And so, without further ado, I give you:

Overall Winner:

Well it looks like Messi has done it again. Taking into account every single parameter, he just edges out Ronaldo with a average rank of 2.4 across the 10 measurements, with Ronaldo averaging 2.5. It’s no surprise that the order is the same as the number of goals scored.

Whilst he appears set to be crowned Barcelona’s all time greatest player – and 3 Champions League titles of their 4 would suggest it’s justified, it’s worth noting that Ronaldo’s 34 league goals (and 47 overall) came when he was just 19 years old. Messi’s season at 19 read played 26, scored 14 (17 in 36 overall). So whilst Messi is the winner here, i’d stick my neck out and say that had Ronaldo stayed at Barcelona, and avoided injuries, then he would have won.

Interestingly, if you remove the percentage of team goals statistic, then Messi and Ronaldo are level.

In Conclusion:

All five players were among the best of their generation, and arguably of all time. It’s a shame that Romario and Ronaldo’s stay was so short as they both had their best seasons with the club, and it meant that the comparison was restricted to just one season per player.

Whilst Messi tops the league in this comparison, he still falls short on the international stage. The four Brazilians have World Cup and Copa America glory, and until Messi wins big and performs well on the biggest stage, there will still be some doubting his place on the football pantheon, alongside Pele, Maradona and Zidane. I would also put Ronaldo on that list. He’s the all time top scorer in the World Cup, he’s the three time World Player of the year, and he had to overcome three career threatening injuries resulting in having to change his game. A good piece of trivia is that he is the only player to have scored on both sides of the Clasico and the Milan derbies. Ronaldo aged 17-21 is one of the greatest players of all time, and better than Messi at the same age.

Luckily for Messi, there were no measurements based on partying.

Further Viewing:


Romario 1993/94

Ronaldo 1996/97 Top 10 (The top 3 are ridiculous)

Ronaldo 1996/97 All Goals

Rivaldo 1998/99

Ronaldinho 2006/07

Messi 2009/10

Apologies for the length of this one, but with five players (and five of the all time best), it’s hard to keep the word count down. Make up your own mind who you think was best for Barca. The stats say Messi, my own personal choice is Ronaldo, but it differs for everyone. I hope you enjoyed the latest Player Comparison, and as always, all suggestions are welcome. Whether you want an in depth anaysis, or are just wondering about the stats of a few players to settle a pub argument.




Serie A Round 24

22 Feb

They say there’s no easy games in top class football these days. I would suggest there is – Inter Milan. After their well documented 7 match winning run under new manager Tinkerman Ranieri, they’ve been terrible. In the last 5 games, they’ve picked up just one point. Without wanting to sound like a broken record, I’m afraid it was another very bad weekend for Inter Milan. After losing at home to bottom placed Novaro last week, they’ve gone and done it again with another home defeat, this time to 16th place Bologna, 3-0. They’ve now conceded 12 goals in their last 4 games. This is a team with Zanetti, Lucio, Samuel, Stankovic, Maicon, Cambiasso, Sneijder, and Forlan. They’ve already lost 10 league games this season, and there’s already talk of Ranieri losing his job.


It’s not quite the doom and gloom I’ve made out to be though. They are in 7th place. It’s just a club the size of Inter (2010 Champions League winners) shouldn’t be 6 points off the Champions League places. Serie A only get 3 places in Europe’s premier club competition, so it’s looking like a tough task to qualify. Though I for one don’t feel too sorry for this cheeky young scamp.

Of course it doesn’t help that your biggest and nearest rivals are currently top of the table. Yep, even without Zlatan, the suspended self crowned King of Football (and possibly the Universe), they managed to sweep 19th placed Cesena aside 3-1 away. What was interesting about this game were the scorers. After his goal against Arsenal, Robinho concluded his good week with another goal, but it was the names of Emanuelson and Sulley Muntari (on loan from Inter), that caught my attention as both scored their first goals for AC Milan. This means that the club have now had 18 different goal scorers in the league this season. That’s 4 more than any other team.

At the other end of the scale, Bologna have only had 7 different scorers, which perhaps explains their lowly position of 14th – although things are looking up with back to back victories against Fiorentina and Inter. Fairing a little better in 10th are Chievo who have also only had 7 different scorers.

And so on to the usual stats:

Fabrizio Miccoli’s fantastic season continued at the weekend. Faced with 4th placed Lazio, he scored the 5th goal in a cracking 5-1 win for Palermo. This both increased his AOI to 6.27 meaning he retains his Big Game Player title, and also meant that he went further ahead in the goals vs Top 6 Opposition, with 8. From 11 goals, that’s certainly an impressive return.

There’s also no change at the bottom end, with Marchisio keeping the Flat Track Bully tag. His average ranked opponent per goal is 13.33, though he hasn’t scored since round 13, which means he’ll probably fall off the top scorers list shortly. Osvaldo and Di Natale are most at risk. Something that I haven’t really noticed is that Edinson Cavani is currently without a goal vs Top 6 Opposition – which is odd considering he just scored against Chelsea in the Champions League. Although……

Elsewhere Andrea Pirlo scored his first goal for Juventus as they aim to win their first title since 2006, or 2003 depending your views on Calciopoli, as they beat 16th placed Catania 3-1 at home. An interesting scorer for Bologna (against Fiorentina in a catch up match) was one time West Ham forward Alessandro Diamanti. I say one time forward, because it turns out that West Ham were never paid by Brescia for the inconsistent playmaker. Strangely, he’s now co-owned by Bologna.

Bundesliga update is up next, and hopefully a feature this weekend.



La Liga Round 23

21 Feb

There were a few shocks this weekend in La Liga – firstly, one of Messi’s goals was a scrappy tap in. Secondly, Falcao didn’t score against poor opposition, but perhaps the biggest shock is that Levante are no longer in 4th place!

Yes, it finally happened. The favourite early season team of every neutral have lost one game too many (at home to 12th placed Rayo Vallecano 5-3). After just 3 points from 8 games, and no wins in the same period, the chasing pack decided to wake up, and Bilbao, Espanyol, and even Atletico Crazy Madrid have all moved above them. In fact, the win took Vallecano to within one point of them. It’s a shame they couldn’t keep up their early season form, but the way it’s going, they’ll be lucky to stay up. They have a 9 point buffer, but they’re in terrible form, and have let in 9 goals in the last two games. I’ll have a look at the end of season table to compare the first half of the season to the second – I certainly can’t recall of a collapse like it, with maybe the exception of Norwich City in 1994-95 who had one win from their last 20 games.

More of the same at the top as Real Madrid continued their Championship Manager form, racking up their 18th win in 19 league games. And as long as they keep it up then it doesn’t matter what Barcelona do. And that includes Lionel Messi. It seems odd that he’s still doing things for the first time, but Sunday saw him score 4 league goals in one match for the first time – and impressively it was against 3rd placed Valencia. Whilst it doesn’t help him close the gap on Real Madrid, it does improve his average opposition ranking to 8.85 per goal – lower than Ronaldo, and also increases his tally vs Top 6 teams to an impressive 7.

Fabregas continues to have the best average opposition ranking, though as pointed out previously, his goals have dried up. Cristiano Ronaldo continues to lead the way against the Top 6 with a massive 12 goals. Messi’s 4 goals have closed the gap though, and also in the number of total league goals. They’re scoring stats over the past 2 and a half seasons really are amzingly similar.

Falcao, as mentioned above, didn’t actually score against 19th placed Sporting Gijon, as Atletico dropped 2 points. Regardless of that, he still retains the worst average opposition index, which means he’s still the league’ flat track bully.

Last week’s predictions:

“1. Falcao to score against 19th place Gijon – his AOI is the worst in the Top Scorers list, and he has 3 against 20th placed teams, and 2 against 18th placed.

2.  Llorente to score against Malaga – he has a decent average of 9.36, and has 3 against Top 6 teams, so a team in 7th should be within range.

3. Messi to score against Valencia – to increase his record vs Top 6, and because he’s the best player in the World. Can you bet on assists?

4. It’s tempting to go for a Levante win – their average opponent per win is 7.88 or 8th. They’re well overdue a win, and are at home against a consistently inconsistent Vallecano (LLWWLLWW). Though confidence is very low – so check the odds and it might be worth a fiver.

I’ve not included Ronaldo to score against Racing as they have a Champions League game in the mid week after. If he plays though, it’s probably gonna result in a hat trick.”

Well I think it’s fair to say that I didn’t quite nail this one. Yes, both Messi and Ronaldo scored, but it hardly takes a sophisticated system to work out that the two best players in the world will score. In my defence, Llorente didn’t play in Bilbao’s 3-0 win over Malaga.

I’ll have another go at a different league before the weekend’s fixtures.



Serie A Round 23

17 Feb

And last but not least, on to Serie A. There hasn’t been a great amount of changes since the Round 22 update but one thing that did catch my eye is the different approach to the loan system in Italy. You can probably guess what’s coming – yep, an on loan player scored against their parent club, and it proved decisive.

Chile’s Mauricio Pinilla (see striker, journeyman) is now onto his 13th professional club in his 7th different country. Hearts fans may remember him from a brief spell in Edinburgh in 2007, but it’s in Italy where he’s currently plying his trade. After 10 goals in 35 Serie A games for Palermo, he was deemed surplus to requirements and shipped off to Sardinian club Cagliari. Last weekend, Pinilla scored the first goal in a 2-1 win against his owners, a win that takes Cagliari within a point of Palermo. He also has goals against Inter Milan (Palermo) and AS Roma (Cagliari) this season, which suggest that he perhaps has the mentality for the big occasion.

However, with just 4 league goals (worth a decent 4 points), he doesn’t register on the Average Oppostion Index scorers table.

After 23 games it’s a striker that Palermo did decide to keep that’s proving to be the Big Game Player. As per last week, Fabrizio Miccoli continues to lead the way with an average ranked opponent per goal of 6.50. He also leads the way with goals against the Top 6 teams, with an impressive 7 goals.

Juventus midfielder Claudio Marchisio remains the Flat Track Bully, with an AOI score of 13.33, and no goals against the Top 6 teams. It’s perhaps telling that Juventus only have 2 players with 6 goals or more as they’ve lost top spot in the league. Despite being unbeaten all season, they’re trailing AC Milan who have already lost 4 games. Juventus have drawn 10 games, and it’s the lack of goals that’s costing them dear – they have 33 goals, which is only 7th best. AC Milan have 45.

It’ll be interesting to see how the season finishes. There’s certainly a lot of good will towards Juventus after the Calciopoli scandal, but AC Milan are the reigning champions, and certainly the best attacking team.

Bundesliga Round 21

15 Feb

With the Premier League and La Liga upto date, it’s time for a catch up with our German friends. And there’s a new superstar on the block.

Rolls Reus – remember that pun, you’ll see a lot more of it

Step forward Marco Reus. Those who follow German football will need no introduction to the Monchengladbach youngster, but i’ll go on the assumption that many of you will not know much about him. In the January transfer window, he agreed to sign for reigning champions Borussia Dortmund for 17.1m Euros. That’s the 3rd biggest transfer for a German player in Budesliga history – and the 13th highest of all nationalities. A big signing for Dortmund, although you can’t blame them for feeling a bit hard done by at the price, after all, he played for their youth team up until 2008. Ouch.

They won’t feel too hard done by though, if he can match his current form. At just 22 years of age, he’s scored 13 goals in 17 games, and chipped in with 4 assists for good measure. But that doesn’t tell the full story. He’s the epitome of a big game player. Of his 13 goals, a massive 10 have come against Top 6 opponents, with none against the bottom 6. His average ranked opponent per goal is a mightily impressive 5.38 – easily the highest in Germany. And he’s already helping out his future team with goals against Bayern Munich (then 1st), Schalke (3rd), and a hat trick against Werder Bremen (3rd) amoung others. He may not be the biggest name internationally, but he will be.

So apart from Reus, who else is performing well? Mario Gomez has continued to bang the goals in, albeit at a slower rate than at the start of the season, although of his 18 goals, only 1 has been against Top 6 opposition, with his AOI of 12.50 reflecting this. He’s like the Bundesliga’s Falcao. Podolski has continued his good season with 15 goals, but like his German team mate, they’ve come at a slower rate – with just one in the last 5 games (against 3rd place Schalke). That goal increased his goals against the Top Ranked opponents to a very impressive 8.

Elsewhere Stuttgart’s Austrian Striker Martin Harnik is the flat track bull with an average opposition per goal ranked at 14.70. He does have one goal against Top 6 opposition, but that’s one of ten, compared to the 6 against the bottom teams. Huntelaar who’s second in the goal scoring charts has 11 against the bottom teams, with only 2 against the Top teams.

Goals win points

In terms of the importance of their goals, it’s Mohammed Abdellaoue that remains top of both the points won league and also of the importance to their team. The 16 points that his goals have earned Hannover have been worth over half of their total points. A point per goal is impressive, and 1.45 points per goal is phenomenal. He has scored the decisive goal in 6 games.

Aside from Norwegian Mo, Claudio Pizarro has been responsible for 11 points for Werder Bremen in what has been another good season. In fact, he’s the Bundesliga’s all time top scoring foreigner with 157 goals, and 15 of them have come this season. On top of that he’s also created 7 for his team mates (Ribery leads the assist charts with 10). Not too bad for a player that looked very poor for Chelsea. Although underperforming up front for Chelsea isn’t that unusual.

Serie A to follow.



La Liga Round 22

14 Feb

And then there was one. Well played Jose, it looks like you’ll leave Spain with your head held high. A 10 point lead over the greatest team in the world is a pretty large gap, and one that you don’t expect a Jose Mourinho team to lose. If Barca beat Madrid again in the league, and go on to win the Champions League (possibly beating Madrid again) – it’ll be a bittersweet success for the fans and the boss. But that’s a lot of ifs. After losing away to Osasuna, Barcelona left themselves with a Bernebeu shamped mountain to climb, and Real Madrid have won 17 of their last 18 games. Good luck with that. As mentioned by La Liga expert Sid Lowe in the excellent Football Weekly, this could well be the weekend that decided the Spanish Title. Madrid can lose 3 games of the last 16 and still win the league.

Busquets after hearing about the 10 point gap

So with that decided, we can look at the rest of the league. Apart from Madrid’s ridiculous winning run, there’s been some other notable trends, that i’ve touched on before. For the seventh game running, Levante failed to pick up a win. For the seventh game running, they managed to stay in the last Champions League spot. But Seville can top that – they’ve picked up just 2 points from the last 8 games as they’ve plummeted to 13th. Unlucky for some. But wait, there’s more! And this is quite the shock – and no, it’s not Falcao scoring against anyone good. Bottom side Real Zaragoza, ended Round 22 with a win, their first in 14 (fourteen) games. And more surprising than that is that it was against 5th placed Espanyol (see Levante, Lucky). And it was away!

And so onto the Average Opposition Index for La Liga’s goalscorers:

Ronaldo scored his 6th hat trick of the season (there was another penalty involved for those wondering). This takes him up to 27 league goals this season, and more importantly for his AOI rating, this latest treble was against 4th placed Levante (seriously, how are they still in 4th!?). Not only does that increase his average opponent per goal to 8.59th place, it also takes his goals against Top 6 opponents to a massive 12. Add that to the recent goals against Barca (albeit in the cup), and you get the feeling that Cris, as some people probably call him, has silenced a few critics. I’d like to claim an assist here, as it seems to have happened since the Messi vs Ronaldo comparison. You’re welcome Cristiano.

Elsewhere, Atletico Madrid played 3rd placed Valencia in Round 21 which meant that Falcao had a chance to prove us wrong and deliver in a big game. It finished 0-0. He retains the Flat Track Bully Tag for this season.

Cesc Fabregas keeps hold of the Big Game Player title, though hasn’t scored since Round 17. Real Betis’ Castro Martin has a very respectable 7.29 which is largely down to a brace against Valencia, and one against Barcelona, whilst Higuain is in 4th place in the AOI ranking behind his team mate Ronaldo in 3rd.

After the success of my Premier League Predictions for Round 24, I thought it’d be interesting to try and apply it to another league. So, with nothing to gain (I don’t generally bet), but plenty to lose (any credibility) here are the fixtures for this weekend, and my predictions:

1. Falcao to score against 19th place Gijon – his AOI is the worst in the Top Scorers list, and he has 3 against 20th placed teams, and 2 against 18th placed.

2.  Llorente to score against Malaga – he has a decent average of 9.36, and has 3 against Top 6 teams, so a team in 7th should be within range.

3. Messi to score against Valencia – to increase his record vs Top 6, and because he’s the best player in the World. Can you bet on assists?

4. It’s tempting to go for a Levante win – their average opponent per win is 7.88 or 8th. They’re well overdue a win, and are at home against a consistently inconsistent Vallecano (LLWWLLWW). Though confidence is very low – so check the odds and it might be worth a fiver.

I’ve not included Ronaldo to score against Racing as they have a Champions League game in the mid week after. If he plays though, it’s probably gonna result in a hat trick.

Good Luck.

Bundesliga and Serie A to follow this week.



Premier League Round 25

12 Feb

Well that was a quite the drama. Everyone has their own opinion on the handshake, or rather the lack of handshake, but that’s not what this site is about. More importantly, there was a pretty big match on, between the two most successful teams in English football’s history.

Suarez didn’t think much of Evra’s Flying Crucifix trick

Predicatably enough, the man in the spotlight scored, and although Suarez only has 6 league goals this season (from 20 appearances), goals against Man Utd, Arsenal, and Everton suggest he does have a big game mentality – as shown in the Copa America Final. His goals are also important, the 6 goals have been worth 5 points to Liverpool.

And what a time for Wayne Rooney to wake from his mid season slumber. From open play, these were his first goals in 8 games, and what a time to do it. As mentioned in Sky’s coverage of the match, before the game, Rooney had only scored twice against Liverpool in his career. Although Liverpool were outside of the Top 6 range, this was undoubtedly a big game, and he now adds Liverpool to Chelsea, Spurs and Arsenal in his list of victims. His Average Opponent per goal is 12.82 based on standings at the time of playing. However, when looking at the AOI based on the current positions, his average increases to 10.53 – pretty much the exact average of teams ranks 1-20. His goals come in batches, but he’s doing it against all opposition.

AOI ranking based on current league positions

Interestingly enough, the big game player and flat track bully remain unchanged – whether we’re looking at the opponent’s ranking at the time of play, or based on the current table. When looking at the Average Opposition ratings based on the current Premier League table, Edin Dzeko and indeed Rooney benefit. For those that have read this blog from the start will know, Dzeko can count himself quite unlucky at his low AOI score, and number of goals versus the Top 6. Based on the current table, Spurs are of course in 3rd place, and as you’re all aware, the big Bosnian scored 4 away at White Hart Lane when Spurs were 20th. Similarly, Rooney’s Top 6 goals increases based on current position due to the North London clubs poor start to the season. Both are now in the Top 4 now, so Rooney’s goal against Spurs, and Hat Trick against Arsenal make him the leading scorer against the best teams in the league with 7 goals, one ahead of Dzeko.

But Arsenal and Spurs were both very different teams back then, and were very poor – so it’s fair to say that the games weren’t as big as they would be now (as proved recently at the Etihad stadium).

So back to the usual system of Average Opposition based on the time of play:

Robin van Persie continues to lead the way vs Top 6 opponents (along with Dempsey, Fletcher and Balotelli). Whilst we know that Gareth Bale is down as the Flat Track Bully (harsh as he’s a midfielder – but those are the stats), we can also see that Yakubu is in 3rd place in that list, with an average opponent per goal ranked 13.92 place. And Blackburn will not care a bit. His return this weekend after suspension, saw an important opening goal against fellow strugglers QPR. If Blackburn stay up, none of the fans will care that the majority of his goals have been against fellow struggler, a whopping 10.

And in terms of the importance of goals as points, none have been more important to their team. The Yak’s 13 goals have won Blackburn 13 points – with 2 of them coming from this weekend’s 3-2 win.

Robin van Persie still leads the way with out right points with 17, whilst is the most important to his team with 61.90% of Blackburn’s points being won by Yakubu goals. Big Grant Holt (TM) scored a brace away at fellow promotees Swansea in a 3-2 away win – goals worth 3 points to his team. Take them out and they lose 2-1 – granted, it’s not an exact science (Swansea’s 2nd was scored at 3-1), but it’s still a good indicator.

Elsewhere, Steven Fletcher’s fine season continued with a goal in a big game of sorts (a derby). Unfortunately for him, Peter Odemwingie and his team mates scored 5, to ruin Fletch and Mick McCarthy’s day. Adebayor increased his record vs Top 6 opponents with a goal against Newcastle (as well as 4 assists – sort of), and Anthony Pikington notched his 7th of the season from midfield in his debut Premier League season. Though that wasn’t good enough for Trappatoni, nor was McClean’s recent good form. Strangely.

I’ll be writing another player comparison piece shortly, so any ideas are welcome.



Premier League Round 24

7 Feb

Another round passes and two more big games with it. One was a Premier League Classic at Stamford Bridge, whilst the other was a bit of a damp squib at Anfield, where the most interesting moment was when a Cat appeared on the pitch, which appeared to un nerve an otherwise flawless Brad Friedel. Although one talking point was when Gareth Bale was put clean through to win the game. Now you could argue that this would be a good time to prove he was a big game player – but he just kicked the ball straight at Pepe Reina (although he was positioned well). ***Flashback Alert*** The angle and position of the keeper reminded me of Steve McManaman’s goal in the Champions League Semi-Final against Barcelona back in 2002, but from the left side. McManaman showed his big game player status, away at a footballing Cathederal, by scoring from a one on one with a keeper off his line (1.30min on this clip) much like Bale faced. McManaman in fact was a big game player – this goal aside, he has a Champions League Final goal (2000) as well as two in the League Cup Final in 1995.

Bale on the other hand, hasn’t really stood up to be counted in the big games this season. As mentioned in the Round 23 post, he’s now scored 9 goals after his brace against lowly Wigan, but aside from his excellent goal to equalise away at Man City (and that was undoubtedly a big game moment), the rest of his goals have been against slightly more humble opposition – 3 vs Wigan, 2 vs Norwich, 2 vs QPR and 1 against Fulham. None were ranked above 10th at the time of scoring:

There’s no doubt that he’s a very very good player, and he’s very young, but talk of people comparing him to Messi and Ronaldo is a bit premature. Even his hat trick away at Inter Milan last year was a group game in which they were always losing. Personally, I love watching him play, but he needs to be counted in more of the bigger games to really be nominated as one of the best in the World.

Aside from Bale, things are pretty much as they were. Robin van Persie continues to lead the way in goals. His Average Opposition rating took a bit of a hit with a hat trick against 18th place Blackburn, but he still has 5 goals vs Top 6 opponents – which is still joint highest. Big Game Players are Adebayor and Balotelli with 7.22 and 6.11 respectively, but they’re not scoring many of late, with a mixture of form and suspensions leading to 1 goal in the last 7 games between them.

Dzeko retains the Flat Track Bully title with a goal against 13th placed Fulham – as predicted in the Round 23 post on Friday. Also on that post, Javier Hernandez was also picked out as a player to watch/bet on at the weekend, and he didn’t disappoint, with his 3rd goal vs Top 6 opposition – Man Utd’s highest.

And whilst on the subject of the Little Pea, just to clear up a stat some of you may have seen on Monday Night Football – points won by goals. The programme had Javier Hernandez down as winning 9 points from his 8 goals. That should be down as 7 points as per below:

The difference is just that they’ve given 3 points for the winners against Everton and Swansea, whereas if you took those goals away, they’d still have a point in each game – therefore, the winning goal is worth 2 points. I agree with the sentiment though, not only has he got most goals vs Top 6 opponents for United, but his goals are generally important. To gain 7 points from 8 goals is a great return.

And whilst on the subject of points per goals, here’s the top point scorers in the Premier League after 24 games:

So Robin van Persie’s  fantastic season continues, although his hat trick against Blackburn didn’t translate into any points. As mentioned in an earlier post, 17 points was the highest any player got for the whole of last season, so to have that many after 24 games shows his importance to Arsenal.

Petere Odemwingie was that player last season with 15 goals, though he’s certainly suffered from second season syndrome – with just 4 goals this time round. The good news for him though is that the goals he has scored have been worth 6 points. Elsewhere, Demba Ba’s triumphant return to Newcastle (after Senegal’s untriumphant Cup of Nations) means that he moves above Yakubu into second place.

At the other end of the scale, AOI favourite, Dimitar Berbatov has 7 goals that translate into nil points. This feat is matched by Bolton’s Klasnic. Of the top scorers, you’ll notice Rooney and Aguero are missing from the list above. Both have 15 goals each. The number of points lost if their goals were taken away? 3 each.



Premier League Round 23

3 Feb

Very quick post today to update the Premier League numbers before this weekend’s games. The most interesting thing about the mid week fixture (apart from Andy Carroll scoring) is the performance and importance of goal scoring midfielders. Gareth Bale scored a brace against Wigan to make this his best goal scoring season in the Premier Leauge. He now has 9 goals from 22 games – very impressive. It’s this sort of strike rate from out wide that made the likes of Overmars, Pires, Ljungberg, Giggs, C. Ronaldo etc…. so important to a title challenge. Aside from his goals midweek, Dempsey continued his great run of form (why no bids?) and is now the top scoring midfielder with his 10th (vs West Brom). Bale’s goals have been worth 8 points to Spurs which is the 5th highest total in the league.

Elsewhere, there were also first goals of the season for widemen Obertan and N’Zogbia, and central midfielders Tchoyi, Gibson and Modric. All in all, a good round for the midfield men.

Leading the Big Game Player league is still Mario Balotelli with his 6.11 AOI – of course this is now helped by suspension. Robin van Persie joins him on 5 goals vs Top 6 opposition, whilst also leading the goalscoring charts outright. Edin Dzeko retains the Flat Track Bully tag with 13.91 due to his 7 goals vs Bottom 6 opponents – just ahead of Frank Lampard’s 13.33.

Just outside the 8 goal threshold sits Dimitar Berbatov on 7 goals. His average? 15.86 – and none of the goals have been worth any points (if removed from the final score of games he’s scored in).

This weekend’s fixtures:

If I were a betting man (I’m not and have a poor record), the stats would suggest:

  • Man Utd’s Javier Hernandez has their best AOI with 8.57 and 2 goals vs Top 6 (as per Nani)
  • Daniel Sturridge has 3 goals vs Top 6 opponents,
  • Dzeko to notch against 13th place Fulham




Player Comparison: Thierry Henry vs Ruud van Nistelrooy

27 Jan

Hot on the heels of the Lampard vs Gerrard comparison, the third in the series is another of the Premier League’s most discussed duos – Thierry Henry and Ruud van Nistelrooy. For the 5 years, that they both played in the Premier League they dominated the goalscoring charts with five winners, three runners up and one 3rd place in the race for the golden boot. But who was the bigger game player?

Henry getting away with another blatant handball

The Contenders:

France and Arsenal’s all time leading scorer, the man who brought va va voom to the Premier League and who is one of the most unpopular players in Ireland, Thierry Henry. Signed from Juventus after a less than convincing spell, Henry won 2 league titles and 3 FA Cups with the Gunners before moving on to Barcelona. On the Oranje side is Holland and Man United’s Ruud van Nistelrooy. Ruud has top scored in the Champions League 3 times, as well as golden boots in the Dutch, English and Spanish league. He moved on to Real Madrid in 2006 after winning 1 Premier League title, an FA Cup and a League Cup.

The Background:

Henry at Monaco

Henry began his football career at Monaco under the tutelage of his future Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger. Initially played on the wing, he was eventually moved up front. He made his professional debut in August 1994 – going on to make 141 appearances for Monaco and scoring 28 goals in all competitions. He made his France debut in 1998 and went on to win the World Cup that same year, and earning a big move to Juventus. Henry struggled to make an impact with the Old Lady (I wonder would Wayne Rooney thrive there?) and found himself back out on the wing. After 3 goals in 19 appearances, Henry was reunited with his first manager  in North London. It’s fair to say his strike rate improved with 46 goals in his first 100 games for the Gunners – taking us up to the summer of 2001.

Ruud van Nistelrooy had to overcome several hurdles at PSV

Ruud van Nistelrooy’s early career wasn’t quite as glamorous. He started his professional career with Dutch minnows Den Bosch. Like his French rival, he also started out as a midfielder but was moved to centre forward early on. He made his debut in 1993 and went on to score 20 goals in 71 appearances for them. His form in 1996-97 caught the eye of Heerenveen who shelled out €360k on the Dutch thoroughbred. His stay with them was a short one – his goalscoring record secured a move to Dutch giants PSV Eindhoven (for €6.3m – a tidy profit). It was here that his career really took off, scoring an impressive 71 goals in 95 games for the Eindhoven club. A move to Manchester United was all but tied up in 2000, but a serious knee ligament injury delayed it for a year.

The Rules:

As per usual, it’s primarily a comparison of their Premier Leauge goals rather than all goals. Why? Because they played against the same opposition over the same time period – and these opponents are ranked, meaning that we can calculate an average. International goals will also be taken into account. The time scale is the 5 year period from 2001-2006, from when van Nistelrooy joined, to when he left.

Premier League:


And so on to the stats, their first season head to head was Henry’s 3rd in the league, and van Nistelrooy’s first. With that in mind, it’s particularly impressive the impact that the Dutchman had, and just how close he ran Henry for the Golden Boot. Henry played one game more and scored 24 goals to van Nistelrooy’s 23. Their goals per games tally were virtually identical – 0.73 vs 0.72. Who did it in the big games?

Well once again it was very close. Henry scored 4 against Top 6 opponents on his way to winning the league title with Arsenal. Chelsea (6th), Man Utd (3rd, two goals) and Liverpool (2nd) were all victims to his goalscoring touch. On the other side, van Nistelrooy scored in both games against 4th placed Newcastle, and once against Chelsea. From an average opposition point of view, the Dutchman edges it with an average opponent per goal of 12th place compared to Henry’s 12.25.

Winner: A Draw

Too tight to call this one, so a draw. An incredible debut season for Ruud, whilst Thierry stepped up to score over 20 league goals for the first time in his career. Henry had 4 against the Top 6 (one pen), whilst van Nistelrooy had a better average. This is just based on goals scored – Henry provided more assists by far, but this comparison is just on the goals….for now.


van Nistelrooy’s only title came in 2003


Round 2, and after Arsenal won the title in 2001-02, Man Utd were out for revenge. And revenge they found. Powered by van Nistelrooy’s goals, United won the Championship, in what would be the Dutchman’s only Premier League title.Once again, they were pretty much neck and neck in terms of goals scored, this time van Nistelrooy winning the Golden Boot by one goal. He did it in 3 games less, taking his goals per game to an impressive 0.74 to Henry’s 0.65.

And they’re not the only stats that he wins on. His Average Opposition Index (AOI) was a very impressive 9.28, compared to the French hitman’s 12.25. The driver behind the AOI was a whopping 8 goals vs Top 6 opposition. On their way to the title, van Nistelrooy scored against 3rd placed Newcastle (4 goals including a hat trick in a 5-3 win),  Blackburn Rovers (6th), Liverpool (2 goals) and most importantly, against title rivals Arsenal. In comparison, Henry scored 5 goals against the Top 6 teams, including both goals against United in a 2-2 draw.

Winner: Ruud van Nistelrooy

Although the number of goals were once again similar, the AOI and goals against Top 6 were heavily weighted in his favour.

RVN showing customary calm under pressure. From a nutter.


In what was an historic season, Arsenal would once again take the crown of Premier League Champions from United but this time would go the whole season unbeaten. Not only was this Arsenal’s greatest season, it was also Henry’s best in the League with 30 in 37 (0.81 goals per game). Ruud van Nistelrooy hit 20 league goals for the 3rd season running, but was way behind his rival.

Once again, it was the Dutchman who had the best AOI rating with 10.6 compared to Henry’s  11.93 but that was the only area he bettered Henry who smashed in 10 goals against the Top 6 (in a maximum of 10 games). Once again for the 3rd season running, he scored against United, this time in a 1-1 draw, whilst the highlight was a Hat trick against Liverpool in a game where his team was behind twice.

Winner: Thierry Henry

Ahead in goals and against Top 6 opponents. Inspired his team to go the season unbeaten on the way to winning the league. Sadly for Arsenal fans, their last at the time of writing. Ironically, van Nistelrooy could have ended the unbeaten streak, but missed a penalty in a 0-0 draw – much to Martin Keown’s delight.

Henry carried Arsenal to the title in 2003-04


And so after 7 years of what seemed like Man Utd vs Arsenal for the title, Chelsea and Mourinho took over. In terms of the Player Comparison, this season was a write off for van Nistelrooy, with injury and form going against him. Just 6 goals, 3 of which were penalties, were scored in his 17 League appearances. On the other hand, Henry continued his impressive form with a 4th straight season of 20+ goals – hitting 25 in 32.

Not really much in way of comparison here, although interestingly, despite playing almost double the games, Henry only scored 1 more against the Top 6. Two of the three goals were against the Champions Chelsea in a 2-2 draw. Undeniably a big game.

Winner: Thierry Henry

For the first time, Henry’s AOI rating was better than the Dutchman’s, along with every other stat. No comparison. If the Dutchman were a horse, he’d have been put down.


And so onto the final season in the comparison, and van Nistelrooy’s final in England. Chelsea once again went on to claim the title, but Henry won the Golden Boot for the 3rd season running. But what of the comparison, and the big game scoring?

It was certainly a return to form for van Nistelrooy after a poor 2004-05. However, once again he was just no match for his French rival. Henry outscored in both goals and goals per game, had a better AOI rating (although still below the 10.5 aim), and did it more often in the big games vs the Top 6. In this season, he scored against 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th, whereas van Nistelrooy only scored against 6th placed Blackburn Rovers.

Winner: Thierry Henry

The stats do tell the full story on this occasion.

Premier League Conclusion:

Just looking at the Premier League goals, it’s a 3-1 win to Henry in the 5 seasons.

He’s done it against Top 6 opposition on more occasions, with 28 goals to 21 and has 0.76 goals per game vs 0.63. However, food for thought is that van Nistelrooy’s split is as you’d expect – 23-51-21 which converts to 24% of his goals were against Bottom 6, 54% vs Middle 8 Opponents and 22% vs the Top 6 teams. Henry’s split isn’t as consistent at 34%-44%-22%.

International Goals:

From the off, you look at Henry’s International career and see a World Cup medal, a European Championships medal and a Confederations cup medal. In terms of strike rate, he has 51 goals in 123 games (0.41 goals per game) and is France’s record scorer – over taking Platini’s haul. By comparison, van Nistelrooy has a better strike rate with 35 goals in 70 games (0.5 goals per game).

Of those goals, Henry has 6 World Cup goals and 6 European Championship goals. For Holland, Ruud has 1 World Cup goal, but matches the tally of 6 in the European Championships. And so once again onto the stats:

Once again, it’s a win for Thierry – he has more goals, a better AOI of 50.98 vs van Nistelrooy’s 61.11 and is ahead on Top 10 opposition goals. Whilst he didn’t score in the two biggest international games of his career – World Cup final 2006 and European Champonships Final 2004, he has done it against big teams. Goals against Portugal, Germany, Brazil, Italy and Holland points to the fact that he can do it against the best, indeed the winner vs Brazil in the 2006 quarter finals is undoubtedly a big game goal. For Holland, van Nistelrooy has a disappointing 3 goals versus the upper echelons of Footballing nations. His best moments for Holland came in Euro 2004 when he scored 4 goals – against Germany, Czech Republic and a brace against Latvia.

Both have a good International record and Henry’s medals would point to a great record. However, neither have really done it in the biggest games, something that separates the likes of Henry and van Nistelrooy to Brazil’s Ronaldo. Not many strikers have really done it in World Cup finals of late – Iniesta settled 2010, Materazzi and Zidane scored in 2006, and it was Zidane again with fellow midfielder Petit that settled the 1998 World Cup. Before that it was penalties in 1994 and a penalty by defender Brehme in 1990.

For Further Consideration

When looking at their big game credentials, it’s worth taking into account a few more details that aren’t easily comparable as the opponents aren’t ranked, and differ. In the Champions League, Henry has a medal with Barcelona, but again, failed to score in both the 2009 final, and the defeat for Arsenal in 2006. Ruud van Nistelrooy has 3 top scorer awards in the competition, and is second only to Raul in the all time European Cup scorers list. Guess who’s in 3rd? Thierry Henry of course.

In terms of cup finals as a measure of big games, van Nistelrooy scored twice in the 2004 FA Cup final – although as a caveat, this was against Championship side Millwall. He also played in the 2005 final versus an Henry-less Arsenal, the game finished 0-0. He also failed to score in the 2004 League Cup final defeat to Liverpool.

In terms of importance to their teams and value added to them, the below once again has Henry on top. Even taking into account van Nistelrooy’s poor 2004-05, Henry still wins in points gained and percentage of team points earned. 

In Conclusion:

The whole point of these player comparison’s is to find who was the better player from a big game perspective by looking at the opposition. In that sense, Thierry Henry wins. He does it more often against the Top 6, which is the measure to track by. Ruud van Nistelrooy edges it on the Average Opponent per goal rating, but that’s because Henry also heavily punished the Bottom 6. He has more tournament goals than his Dutch rival as well – another measure of a big game player.

Ruud van Nistelrooy has undoubtedly been a great goalscorer, and perhaps to say he isn’t a big game player is harsh as he hasn’t had as many final appearances as Henry. He still had 21 goals versus Top 6 opponents – which is still one of the best records of recent years. To van Nistelrooy’s credit, there wasn’t much in it against a player twice in the Top 3 for the World’s best.

So well done Thierry, he proved that beautiful football could win over a ruthless finisher. Although comparing the two, they are different types of players, and it’s worth remembering that in those 5 seasons, Henry also provided 59 Premier League assists.


He may rate as a big game player in the Premier League, and indeed he had his moments in Europe – a hat trick at Roma, a brace in the San Siro and the winner against Real Madrid showed this, however, no goals from the below games unfortunately excludes him from joining the greats:

  • 2001 FA Cup Final
  • 2002 FA Cup Final
  • 2003 FA Cup Final
  • 2000 UEFA Cup Final
  • 2006 Champions League Final
  • 2009 Champions League Final
  • 2000 European Championships Final
  • 2006 World Cup Final.

Personally, I think he’s one of the best players I’ve ever seen, it’s just a shame he never did it on the biggest stages.

Thanks for reading, it’s a bit of a long one, but when looking at two such decorated players, it was hard to cut it down. You’ve seen the stats and facts, make up your own mind.

If you’ve any ideas for the next Player Comparison, leave a comment or send me a mail.