Friday, November 6, 2009

Henry the Best? The Limits of the Castrol Rankings:

Proclaiming itself "the world’s first truly objective football rankings system," the inaugural Castrol Rankings have declared that Barcelona's Thierry Henry was the best performing footballer in the world last year:

"Thierry Henry’s efforts in front of goal are what have made him the stand-out player of the last year. The French international scored five goals and provided three assists during Barca’s successful Champions League campaign and has contributed a further 18 goals and eight assists in La Liga during the 12-month period all of which have helped him become the world’s best performing player.The key to Henry’s success has been the accuracy of his shooting with the forward finding the target with an impressive 70% of his shots compared to an average of 42% across the five main European leagues."

The Castrol rankings claim to use "objective analysis and 100% accurate data to measure every pass, every tackle and every single move of over 2000 players and games every year, which means that the Castrol Ranking are based on actual performance."

We really like Henry - and he may well have been the Best Player In The World when he was younger and at Arsenal - but now? No. Not for us.

For us he is now a more peripheral player, a supporting player to the genius of Iniesta, Messi and Xabi - who are ranked well ahead of Henry at

In fact we agree with one commenter on the Castrol Rankings Blog that perhaps Manchester United's Wayne Rooney is now a better player than Henry because he has more real impact on games - just like Henry did at Arsenal all of those beautiful years ago.

And we also agree with another commenter who talked about the importance of the players around Henry at Barca - particularly Iniesta. It was Iniesta after all (set up by Messi) who put Barca past Chelsea in the dying seconds of the stiffest test they had in the Champions League. This for us is the real measure of the best performing player and The Best Player In The World - performing - and delivering - in the critical moment:

And this is why we have coaches and fans to subjectively assess players.

And this is why a computerized system may never fully work in assessing players.

We do think that the Castrol Rankings are a good tool. They might aid a bit in an assessment.

But in the end the best source to consult regarding Henry's performance versus say Iniesta's - is - without a doubt - the Pep Guardiola Engine.

If Coach Pep had to choose between Henry and Iniesta as top performer last year, who do you think he'd choose?

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