How Do YOU Rate Players?

How do you rate players? I mean, how do you do it exactly?

Ever since the dawn of time, players have been compared to each other. Teams have been compared to each other. Players have been described as great, brilliant, poor, and average. But when it boils right down to it, what do you look for in a player?

A few years ago, there was been a plethora of David Beckham articles, and the core of each of these articles centred on whether he should win his 108th cap…or not.

The argument for Beckham seemed to centre on his great service for club and country.

The argument against focused on whether he deserved to be treated as a legend, an honour that the cap would undoubtedly bring.

Many felt that as a great player, Beckham deserved the status as England legend too.

Recently, the shift has moved towards Lionel Messi and whether the little maestro should be held in the same breath as the likes of Pele, Maradona, and the likes.

But when you get right down to the nitty-gritty, what are the elements that make a player, never mind a great player?

Skill, technique, strength, speed, stamina, tactical acumen, desire, belief, drive, and these are only a few of the elements needed to make it as a professional footballer, the list is endless.

These days, in our media driven age (and us on the Internet are guilty too) greatness is a term that is used too often (in my opinion, anyway).

To me, there have been two truly great players. Pele and Maradona. No-one else comes near. Messi might someday but for the moment not. But how do you describe them?

If Cristiano Ronaldo and David Beckham are viewed upon as being “World Class”, how do you rate Pele and Diego?

Universal class? Out of this world? The point is (again my opinion) that Pele and Maradona were the greatest players to ever play the game, so I view them as being World Class. (Legends if you like).

You can’t keep inventing terms to describe a players ability.

The way I look upon footballers could be construed as being strange but to me there’s a logic there.

Pele and Maradona were “World Class” ***** (five stars) (or Legends), they had all the attributes necessary to make it in any league.

Cruyff, Puskas, Charlton, Beckenbauer, Platini to me were what I’d call “Continental Class” **** (four stars), they had the attributes to play in most leagues, but not every league.

Beckam, Giggs, Guardiola, Totti, Rodney Marsh, Stan Bowles, Matt Le Tissier are “Premiership Class” *** (three stars) these are players who usually only excels in one major league.

Players like Gerrard and Lampard would also figure in here, in my reckoning, because part of what makes a footballer great is his desire and drive to prove himself in other climates. And while these two players are brilliant players, they have chosen to stay in the comfort of home rather than ever move abroad.

Now I know that Bobby Charlton only ever played in England, but when his career is analysed, he was just a phenomenal player, and is deserving of the legend status.

When Gerrard and Lampard have retired, their careers will have to be forensically analysed to see if they reach this status too, for some they might. For others not.

“Lower Premiership Class” gets ** (two stars), players like Danny Murphy, Kevin Davies, really good pro’s who have dined at the top table but aren’t exactly what you’d call great.

And finally “Championship Class” * (One Star), your average Crystal Palace player, or Ireland player for that matter.

Being “anal”, I further break these allocations down again, from 5* to 1*.

For example, Roy Keane is a five star premiership player, but Jermaine Jenas is a three star premiership player. Beckham would be a four star premiership player, in case you are wondering.

Anyway, I’ve shown you how I rate players. How I begrudgingly recognise their greatness, because let’s face it, even Kevin Davies is Pele when compared to us writing here.

But how do you rate players? Am I being too harsh? Am I not harsh enough? Are there more terms to describe our idol’s that I haven’t thought of?

Some are just better than others. And everyone views it differently.

The Author

Willie Gannon

Willie Gannon is a football writer with a number of coaching badges who is lucky enough to cover the greatest and most debated sport in the world for Backpage Football. He specializes in the English Premier League, Champions League, European and International football. His work has been featured on Fox Sports, CBSSports, the Daily Mirror Football Online, the LA Times Online, Tiger Beer Football, Bleacher Report and the International Business Times.

14 thoughts on “How Do YOU Rate Players?

  1. Overall, that’s a good, thoughtful way of looking at things. The words “great” and “legend” are thrown around too freely, meaning we run out of words to describe the truly great.

    Personally, I’d put Cruyff up there with Pele and Maradona but that’s just my call.

    I’m not sure how the likes of Beckenbauer and Platini didn’t have the attributes to prosper in every league. From what I know of those players, they set the standard for their positions and type of game, and wouldn’t be found wanting in any league (assuming they had the benefit of modern coaching and training). Also, there’s a risk of paying too much respect to players from countries with weaker leagues who prove themselves in a big league, while discounting the players born in those big-league countries and supposedly seeking comfort by remaining there. That makes little sense. For sure, a player like Brady or Klinsmann deserves credit for proving himself in different leagues but who doubts that Alan Shearer would have prospered in Italy?

    1. Cheers Kevin,

      Tis just an opinion really. No doubting that Platini and Beckenbauer were special players, I just don’t think they were as special as Pele or Maradona.

      I wouldn’t read too much into players staying in one league. I tried to convey that I only really consider that while they are still playing.

      I mean there can be little doubt that Frank Lampard or Steven Gerrard are ten times the player that Christian Poulsen is or ever could be.

      Well, for me, Shearer is the greatest centre forward I ‘ve ever seen. But I think it’s pointless to say how he could have done in another league because he simply never went.

  2. You forgot DiStefano.
    And Beckenbauer, Puskas,Cryuff had what it takes to paly in EVERY league, you are severely mistaken if you think that they couldn’t.

    Internationals are there for a reason and Beckenbauer is the most successful human being in my opinion on the planet in footballing context, you don’t get lucky for such a thing you have to be good.

    Besides Pele only played in Brazil and most of time it was in State championships (different from National level)
    You system if applied in full would render Pele to Danny Murphy level.

    I rate Maradona to be the greatest human to play the game, Pele comes after rest take you pick.

    My system involves the
    *ability to play technical football (must)
    *ability to bring the maximum out of team mates
    *Vision (absolute must)
    *Ability to “turn the match on their own” (must)
    *World Cup trophy (absolute must)

    1. I didn’t forget DiStefano Varun, I just didn’t mention him in the article. But you could say that about a couple of hundred thousand players too.

      Again, I wouldn’t read too much into what I was trying to convey. Maybe I should have worded it better, but for me there is little doubt that Pele and Maradona were a touch better than anyone else who has ever played, with perhaps the exception of Arthur Friedenreich or Di Stefano.

      No one said anything about Beckenbauer being lucky. Der Kaiser was a phenomenal player as was Gerd Muller as was…

      Nope, you’re wrong about the Danny Murphy thing and you’re looking at something that can’t be graded too literally.

      Like I said in the article when players like Gerrard or Lampard retire you can then fully see how you would rate them. Until then, they’re most definitely a cut above being honest pro’s.

      On your views, yep I agree with them all, some to a lesser extent, but I’d add a few things too.

  3. Once a player reaches a certain level, it becomes futile to make comparisons; this probably explains what you perceive to be an overuse of the term great.

    Henry, Bergkamp, Romario are not lesser players than any on your 4* list, and there are tens of others that could be included.

    Ronaldo (R9), and Zidane, on the other hand, can sit alongside Maradona and Cruyff.

    Then there is the question of criteria – is longevity a necessary consideration? Who would argue that Ronaldinho wasn’t a ‘great’?

    The fact is that when a player is great, the only way to discern between them is personal preference, (be it stylistic, statistical, etc…).

    As for Pele, he is beyond comparison – he played before substitutions, when red cards were almost unheard of, and despite this he played with skill and aplomb. Maradona had the protection of the ref, Pele didn’t. And, with all due respect, the oft cited argument that Pele is the lesser of the two because he never left Brazil is inane when considered in context: Pele played before the mass exodus of players to Europe, Brazil had by far the best team in the world and they were all home based, the Brazilian league then was, arguably, the strongest in the world – consider how Santos would demolish European giants on their Globetrotter tours.

    1. The argument that Brazil had the strongest league & teams back then is also inane.

      Besides Maradona was hacked to hell every time he played and he played in the league which still to this day has had no equal.

      Besides Pele always had legends besides him, Maradona was a 1 man machine, others were average at best.

      Red card argument is also not credible ‘coz no red card doesn’t mean every match there was an ambulance at the ground.

      Players today are stronger, more powerful, more faster, the pinnacle of human athleticism, with refined knowledge of century of tactical knowledge.

      those who dominate today are certainly better than those who played in the 1950, regardless of cards/no cards.

      For sheer genius value Maradona still has no equal, only Messi can usurp him if he wins the WC.

      But then again this debate is highly personal as well.

      1. I wouldn’t read too much into fitness or physical attributes Vaun. Back in the 50s and 60s players were considered to be in peak condition then too so I kind of see the fitness argument as being relative.

        But like you said, tis all opinion and its good to see different views.

    2. Great points one and all T.

      I agree with a whole lot of what you’re saying.

      On Ronaldinho, I consider him a fantastic player but I wouldn’t put him with the likes of Cryuff and Beckenbauer if you’re interested.

      I won’t argue with your choice of Pele as being the best as you put forward a good argument for him. But for me Diego was just as good.

  4. So there are only two world class players, Maradona and Pele? Pele only played in America (I’m not counting his time at NY Cosmos as ‘proving he could do it in other leagues’!).

    You’re right that not many players deserve to be given these high accolades, but what about Ronaldo and Messi? I’d say they’ll be there or thereabouts come retirement day.

    1. “To me, there have been two truly great players. Pele and Maradona. ”

      “If Cristiano Ronaldo and David Beckham are viewed upon as being “World Class”, how do you rate Pele and Diego?”

      At the moment I’d say Messi has the best chance of joining them, but you just never know.

  5. Great Article!

    I fully agree with your point that as a whole the footballing community seems to build most players up beyond there ability.

    I constantly hear players being called world class when in my mind a world class player should then have the ability to break into any team in the world if they were bought. For example I would say there are only 5 world class centre forwards currently playing yet i will hear plenty of players being built up and never reaching the heights of the hype placed upon them.

  6. I think your method of classifying players is ridiculous. “They’ll make it in any league”?

    First of all, there are many players that would make in “any league”. Off the top of my head, let me say Carvalho. Is he then on Maradona’s level?

    Also, it is so vague. How would you decide if a player would make it in “any league”? How would you know if they haven not played in it?

    We are talking about football and the only way to ever rate a footballer is how well they play that ball. First of all technique, technique, technique. This is about 70%. If you do not have PERFECT technique, you cannot be a great. I mean the way you move with the ball, the way you cushion it, how economical your actions are, how imaginative you are when you feint or turn etc. For attacking players i’d add shooting, for defenders i’d add sliding and shielding and such.

    Then there is tactical awareness. Constructing intricate moves, finding space, mastering timing. Or reading such moves and stopping them in case of defenders. 20%.

    Lastly there are the intangibles. Fire (Carragher), drive (Gerrard), elegance (Redondo/Riquelme/Zidane), grace, audacity (Ronaldinho/Rivaldo) etc.

    This is an imperfect system obviously. A player can have vast reserves of tactical awareness or some intangible and so overcome his lack of technique to become great, but this is difficult.

    Notice i did add accomplishments or trophies or whatever. Football is a team sport. Your individual performance is all that counts to your tally.

    Players i consider “Great”, that is, the highest level of football excellence. I must add that this only includes players i have watched extensively either live or via archival footage.

    Johan Cruyff
    George Best

    This is an incomplete list obviously. But i consider all these players to have reached the highest footballing level at various times due to having a combination of the characteristics i mentioned above.

    1. Tis an opinion, not a science.

      Would you put Carvalho on Pele’s level?

      I wouldn’t, but he’s an absolutely brilliant defender and will be regarded as one of the best defenders of the modern era.

      On technique, you’re wrong. You don’t need perfect technique to be considered great. To be held in the same esteem as Pele or Maradona, yes.

      On you rating players as individuals…

      I’d disagree, football is a team sport and it is essential to be a team player. Without your team you’d be a circus juggler.

      On the players you mention…

      I wouldn’t consider any of them on a par with Pele or Maradona who are true greats.

      For me,

      Johan Cruyff *****
      Socrates ***
      George Best *****
      Messi *****
      Riquelme ***
      Zidane ****
      Bergkamp ***
      Valderrama **

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