The nuances of rating a footballer

Clubs spend vast sums on transfer fees and players demand huge pay-checks to kiss a different badge. This results in a hike in ticket-price that leads to fans expecting that extra bit of entertainment for the extra few quid they have shelled out this season. They assess the player’s performance thoroughly to ensure that their beloved club has spent wisely.

In this article, I try to consider all the gauges that fans take into consideration while making a performance assessment report on a particular player. Being a Manchester United fan, most of the examples that I use will involve the red devils and the players linked to them.

STATS!!! Well that would be the first thing that comes to mind. We are judged on our marks in school, cars are judged by their mileage, so why does it have to be any different for footballers? How many goals has he scored? How many assists has he provided? How many clean-sheets has he kept? In general we judge a player by the number of points he has scored for us in our fantasy-football team.

As the press link Luka Modric to Manchester United the great debate has been created as to whether he is good enough for the club. The opinion seems fairly divided. Some point out to the fact that he hasn’t recorded enough goals or assists to be labeled a top class midfielder while others appreciate the overall influence he has on games. Another example is Wayne Rooney, who has had a magnificent season after scoring 34 goals, but hasn’t produced the performances one can expect of him. So we can fairly say that stats don’t provide a definitive analysis; well we wouldn’t be happy if our intelligence was purely judged on our marks, would we?

So we move ahead towards another key element – CONSISTENCY or the lack of it. The moment a Manchester United fan hears this word the only player that comes to mind is Nani and we start wondering about what a magnificent player we would have in our hands if the Portuguese winger was a tad more consistent. I bet Arsenal fans put their winger Theo Walcott in the same bracket.

Some fans are willing to compromise consistency for players who provide that EUREKA MOMENT. So who cares if Nani is inconsistent for 89 mins if he has the ability to win you the match in the 90th min because in the end the 3 points is what we are all after, isn’t it?

Nobody likes a flat-track bully. Fans want players to perform when it matters the most (BIG GAME MENTALITY). Scoring 5 goals against a relegation threatened side although is entertaining (Berbatov), but doesn’t make you a great player. Luka Modric too has been criticized recently for not turning up the heat in the tail-end of last season. Hell even the world’s most consistent player Cristiano Ronaldo is judged by his performance in the El Clasicos and the latter stages of the Champions League.

One player who is renowned for his big-game mentality is former Chelsea striker Didier Drogba, who scored his fourth FA Cup Final goal this season against Liverpool and also scored in the Champions League semi-final (Barcelona) and an equalizer in the dying minutes of the Final, not to forget his calmly dispatched penalty in the shoot-out to ensure Chelsea won the European Cup. So, do Chelsea fans criticize Drogba’s appalling league form this season? I think not.

Fans who spend most of their savings to buy a season ticket surely don’t want to see a player coming out and demanding more money, or handing in a transfer request. Hence LOYALTY plays a key role if players want a place in their fans’ hearts forever. The likes of Scholes, Giggs, Gerrard, Xavi and Maldini are some one-club men that come to mind. Fans never have a bad opinion about these players because when they kiss the badge, they really mean it.

On the other hand mercenaries like Adebayor, Tevez and Wayne Bridge (who would rather play golf than football) only leave fans with broken hearts and a lot of anger. Arsenal fans clearly resent Samir Nasri for after his move to Manchester City and banners of “Petite Pute” (little whore) clearly show how low they think of him.

One criterion (which is no fault of their’s) that puts enormous pressure on some footballers is their “PRICE TAG”. It’s a sort of a baggage that they bring with them once they come to a club. Fans want value for money and their expectation grows for every extra 5m that the club pays for a player. While some like Ronaldo can handle it, players like Dimitar Berbatov, Stuart Downing, Andy Carroll and Jordan Henderson have succumbed to the pressure. While all of the above players were splendid for their former employers; they were expected to raise their game a couple of notches especially after their high profile transfers, something that they haven’t done, yet.

While Hernandez (6m) could be given time to settle at United, Berbatov (31m) was expected to get off to a flyer. While Hernandez with 13 league goals had a great season, fans still weren’t completely satisfied with Berbatov – the joint winner of the Golden Boot (22 goals).

Coming under stick from rival fans can really be a pain in the ass; therefore the great debate emerges to find out who is Top-Dog? “COMPARISION” between Scholes/Gerrard/Lampard/Fabregas have taken many hours out of our lives. Then there is the great Messi vs Ronaldo debate. The Torres vs Carroll too is there or there-about. Therefore a player is judged not only by his performance but also by that of his peers.

POTENTIAL and IMPROVEMENT are two things that create a lot of expectation. Players being dubbed the next Ronaldo, the next Messi and the next Zidane surely doesn’t help; as very few players actually go on to fulfill their potential. But in a money driven market, agents and media tend to over-hype the players to increase their transfer value. The next Ronaldinho tag on Anderson surely hasn’t done him any favors as United fans call for his head.

Fans generally want players who wear the clubs crest on their sleeve with pride. They want players who give 110% in every game that they play. In short they appreciate the EFFORT put in by players. The likes of Park, Walters and Kuyt became instant fan favorites based on their work-rate.

Most Manchester United fans clearly favored the hustling nature of Tevez than the languid Bulgarian – Berbatov. The English national team too prefers the likes of Scott Parker who put their bodies on the line rather than the elegant Michael Carrick.

After the end of a long and tiresome season what really matters is how SUCCESSFUL you were. The “Ballon d’or” is generally awarded to a player who has been magnificent and successful that season. League success and Champions League success generally dictate the nominees for the award. But players cannot be rated solely on success for example – Darron Gibson has won more League titles than Gerrard and Fabregas.

All in all, every footballer is judged in one of these ways. While some players seem to tick all the boxes and are adored all around the world, others have opinions divided in regards to their worth. While some players like Ronaldo use the boo-boys as inspiration (like he did after the World Cup in 2006) others are forced to shut-down their twitter account (Darron Gibson).

– by Rohit Shankarmani

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