Neymar or Ronaldo
To me, this is a no-brainer and practically a litmus test for who I shouldn’t pay attention to.
But there are people, for one reason or another, who think different.
And right there, in that one phrase, “for one reason or another”, is where the myth busting of the “best players” needs to start.
You see, there are no measures that definitively conclude which player is better.
Simply put, the question “Who is better?” isn’t a good question. It’s a lazy and flawed one.
The better question is, “who is better for what, and under what circumstances”.
Can we say Neymar is better than Mix Diskerud?
Yes, of course.
When there’s an outrageous gulf in the variables, then the question is trivial.
But what happens when we say:
“Who’s better; Benny Feilhaber or Kelyn Rowe?”
If you find yourself compelled to google to find some metrics and make a case, the “myth of the best player” has a firm grip on you.
How about Riyad Mahrez while he was in the 2nd division versus players who were already in the EPL?
Most laymen, the media, the non or low-level practitioner, likely says:
Since he’s in 2nd division, then he must not be as good as players in the English Premier League.
And as you all should know by now, they’d be wrong.
Most in this demographic, understandably, are dependent on the system to form their opinions.
A system, whose architects of course need you to not only believe there is such a thing as “best players”, but that their system is efficient in sorting them to their appropriate level.
The Manager’s role in your Perception
See, when there’s no outrageous gulf between players, the selections that are made are based on the needs and judgement of the manager. And that depends on the style of play the manager intends.
That is, what does that specific manager need for the execution of his vision? And then of course, his judgement of being able to identify and select the proper player.
For example, what drove Jurgen Klinsmann to pick Miguel Ibarra (then in 2nd division NASL), or Jordan Morris (then still a college player) for the Senior National Team?
Would another manager, say Peter Vermes, or Porter, or Kinnear, or Arena, or … Manager X have picked them?
If you believe the “best player” myth, you’d likely think there’s a high probability that yes, irrespective of manager these players would be picked.
And you’d be wrong.
Managers are one of the many gatekeepers whose decisions in large part drive the perception of what is “best”.
If Jurgen had not picked Jordan Morris:
- Most everyone in American Soccer would know little to nothing about him.
- He’d still be in college.
- When he finished college, he would not have the profile and hence the opportunities and benefits he currently enjoys.
And on and on.
For the Senior National Team, I would not have picked him.
I may have given shots to a Kelyn Rowe, a Luis Silva, or any number of others.
These players are a far better fit for how I want to play.
What then, would the perception of these guys be now, versus what they are?
Bielsa’s US National Team, or an LA Galaxy under Bielsa, would also look radically different.
As a consequence, your thoughts and opinions of the players and the pool would be altered accordingly.
Think guys, think.
Think long and hard about this.
It’s Not Just the System Architects and the Manager
So much of who makes it to “the top” is circumstantial, especially when it comes to systems dominated by gatekeepers.
The more gatekeeper-dependent the system, the worse it gets.
And we haven’t even touched on all kinds of business, political, and interpersonal influences that come into play.
But it’s much easier to just believe the “cream rises to the top”.
Because then you don’t have to think, you don’t have to deep dive. You can simply accept, broadly apply, and move on.
And isn’t that just bliss?