Monday, 19 March 2012

European "Rangliste" 1980/1 - Sweepers

Ruud Krol (Napoli and Holland) *** 29 games, 1 goal

Having arrived from the Vancouver Whitecaps on an initial 4 month loan period, the Dutchman never returned. Perhaps that was unsurprising. The form he demonstrated at Napoli marked him out as the best player in Serie A and carried the club to a top three finish.
Gaetano Scirea (Juventus and Italy) *** 29 games, 4 goals

No defender in world football is more elegant on the ball than Scirea. The Juventus sweeper makes defending look effortless, with his anticipation and flawless tackling. Yet another Scudetto was a well earned reward for another supreme season’s form.
Aleksandr Chivadze (Dinamo Tbilisi and USSR) *** 31 games, 5 goals in 1980, 28 games, 2 goals in 1981

Outstanding in the exceptional form shown by Dinamo Tbilisi. The Georgian club completed a tremendous run in the Cup Winners’ Cup and Chivadze was one of the real stars in their heroics. It was a richly deserved trophy for a club who had shown their class in Europe for a number of years with Chivadze long being held as among the game’s finest liberos.
Bruno Pezzey (Eintracht Frankfurt and Austria) ** 31 games, 10 goals

Pezzey went from strength to strength in 1980-1 and underlined why many regard him among the best defenders in the world. His ten goals were of course of huge value  and underlined his all round contribution to the club, but it was at the back where his true class shone through.
John Metgod (AZ Alkmaar and Holland) * 34 games, 3 goals

Metgod is the starting point for so many of AZ’s best attacks. Able to spot a pass from distance or surge forward himself when the mood takes him, he is more than just a defender. No wonder then that he is already emerging as a key player for the Dutch national team.
Wilfried Hannes (Borussia Moenchengladbach and West Germany) * 33 games, 16 goals

Hannes’ debut for West Germany at the end of the 1980-1 season was evidence of the strides he made during the season. The sweeper contributed a phenomenal 16 goals in the league from the heart of Gladbach’s defence, a commendable tally for a striker, let alone a central defender!
Luc Millecamps (Waregem and Belgium) *

Belgium’s Millecamps performed well enough in 1981 to be chosen by French magazine Onze Mondial for their World XI. Not as technically gifted as many of his fellow liberos, he is primarily focused on tidying up other player’s errors rather than prompting attacks of his own.
Russell Osman (Ipswich Town and England) * 42 games, 1 goal

In completing a superb season for Ipswich, Osman also forced himself into the reckoning for a place in the England team. Having made his debut in Australia in May 1980, his second cap came alongside club teammate Terry Butcher in a 2-1 defeat against Spain.
Dieter Bast (Bochum and West Germany) * 34 games, 5 goals

Bochum’s mid-table finish did not adequately reflect the contributions that Bast made during an eventful season. The club’s defence was always their key strength, indeed only the top four Bundesliga clubs conceded less goals than Bochum. Nevertheless it was a frustrating campaign for a player capable of competing at the highest level.
Alan Hansen (Liverpool and Scotland) * 36 games, 1 goal

Hansen continued his progress in a season that eventually saw him lift a second European Cup. The Scot’s partnership with Phil Thompson was a source of great surety for Liverpool. The club only conceded four goals in their European Cup victory and clean sheets in the home leg against Bayern Munich and against Real Madrid proved crucial.

Friday, 16 March 2012

European "Rangliste" 1980/1 - Full-backs

Antonio Cabrini (Juventus and Italy) *** 28 games, 7 goals

A dynamo down the left touchline for Juventus, Cabrini is not just a workhorse. There are precious few players in any position who possess his quality on the ball, his intelligence of positioning or his anticipation. Only 11 players scored more goals than the left-back in the whole of Serie A.

Maxime Bossis (Nantes and France) ** 37 games, 0 goals

Nobody performed better for Nantes in 1980-1 than Maxime Bossis. The French international was a pillar of strength throughout a campaign that almost saw them hold off the challenge from perennial title winners St Etienne. Few then were surprised to see Onze Mondial in their team of the year.
Manfred Kaltz (Hamburg and West Germany)** 34 games, 7 goals

 The runs of Kaltz down the right flank make him probably the best attacking fullback in Europe. His crossing has pinpoint accuracy and he is not afraid to take on a shot himself.  If he has a fault, it is that his defending is not quite as good as his offensive contributions, but regardless there are few better players in his position.
Mick Mills (Ipswich Town and England) ** 33 games, 0 goals

As captain of Ipswich Town, Mills could be hugely proud of a remarkable season. Winners of the UEFA Cup and only narrowly pipped to the league title by Aston Villa, the club had a fantastic year. Mills was a model of consistency for the Tractor Boys and was the pick of many for player of the season.

Jose Camacho (Real Madrid and Spain) * 34 games, 0 goals

Seemingly fully recovered from the knee  injuries which kept him out for so long, Camacho now appears to be back to his best. The left-back enjoyed an excellent season for Real Madrid, despite the club narrowly missing out on both the Spanish league title and the European Cup.
Hugo Hovenkamp (AZ Alkmaar and Holland) * 30 games, 5 goals

A converted left midfielder, Hovenkamp’s best attributes remain going forward.  Vastly experienced, his composed presence in defence was of great importance in helping some of AZ’s younger players through a challenging season.
Kenny Swain (Aston Villa and England) * 42 games, 0 goals

Very few neutrals gave Aston Villa much chance of winning the First Division title when the season kicked off. That they did emerge victorious was due to the fact that so many players performed to their very maximum. Swain was no exception, and his crosses from right-back were superb ammunition for Peter Withe and Gary Shaw.
Rafael Gordillo (Real Betis and Spain) * 34 games, 3 goals

Capable of playing as either a left-back or a left sided midfielder, Gordillo is at his best when he is powering down the touchline. The Spaniard’s contract was up at the end of the season and Gordillo naturally attracted interest from larger clubs, that Betis could hold on to their best player was a major coup.
Patrick Battiston (St Etienne and France) * 38 games, 4 goals
Battiston’s first season at St Etienne proved to be an unmitigated success. He played every league game in a season which saw Les Verts win another French title. Already established as a regular for the national side such success will do his long term position in the team no harm.
Wolfgang Dremmler (Bayern Munich and West Germany) * 33 games, 1 goals

Bayern Munich retained their Bundesliga crown with tremendous contributions throughout the squad. Dremmler’s performances were good enough to see him break into the West German national side, making his debut against Brazil in January 1981, no small feat given the strength of the European champions.
Kenny Sansom (Arsenal and England) * 42 games, 3 goals

Having moved from Crystal Palace to Arsenal in the summer, Sansom made an immediate impact in North London. The left-back had proven himself the best in England in his position over recent years, and continued that form for his new club as his peers voted him to their team of the season.
Cundi (Sporting Gijon and Spain) * 33 games, 5 goals

No nation can rival the depth of left-backs available to Spain. With Camacho and Gordillo in competition with Cundi it is questionable whether the Gijon man will add to his international appearances. Despite that he has been one of La Liga’s most consistent fullbacks and was a major force in Sporting Gijon’s creditable seventh place finish.
Eric Gerets (Standard Liege and Belgium) * 29 games, 0 goals

Winners in the Belgian Cup final, Standard Lierge owed much to their adventurous right-back Gerets. Never afraid to go forward, he is also very strong defensively and is rarely beaten in the tackle. Enzo Bearzot thought highly enough o f Gerets to place him as one of the top two full-backs in Europe.
Phil Neal (Liverpool and England) * 42 games, 2 goals

The consistency that is a trademark of Neal’s game was again evident in 1980-1. The Liverpool right-back was, yet again, a constant presence in their defence and his assured performances were of tremendous value in capturing a third European Cup victory.

Sunday, 11 March 2012

European "Rangliste" 1980/1 - Goalkeepers

Luis Arconada (Real Sociedad and Spain) *** 34 games, 0 goals

Arconada’s brilliance in goal was a central part of Real Sociedad’s Spanish title success. The Basque club had narrowly missed out the previous season, but were not to be denied a first ever championship in 1980-1. The consistency of Arconada led many to regard him as the world’s best keeper.
Dino Zoff (Juventus and Italy) *** 30 games, 0 goals

Scudetto success for Juventus was again based on their defensive excellence. The Turin giants conceded just 15 goals in the league all season and Zoff was an ever present part of that excellent unit. Even at 39 few can top Zoff’s command of his penalty area.
Harald Schumacher (Koln and West Germany) ** 34 games, 0 goals

Koln might have only managed a midtable finish but there was no better goalkeeper in West Germany than Harald Schumacher. While injury to both Sepp Maier and Norbert Nigbur handed Schumacher his place in the West German national, he has now demonstrated that he is fully deserving of his position between the posts.
Peter Shilton (Nottingham Forest and England) ** 40 games, 0 goals

While Nottingham Forest couldn’t hold on to their European Cup crown, Shilton was again a model of consistency in goal. Arguably the most well rounded goalkeeper in the game, the England international is apparently without a weakness though he may not pull off quite as many spectacular saves as his rivals.
Manuel Bento (Benfica and Portugal) * 30 games, 0 goals

An excellent season for Bento was well rewarded with another Portuguese league title, the fifth of his career. Benfica were pushed hard all season by Porto, but in the end they held on and won the championship by just two points. Bento remains the first choice keeper for the Portuguese national team with his unrivalled consistency.
Ronnie Hellstroem (Kaiserslautern and Sweden) * 34 games, 0 goals

Veteran keeper Hellstroem played a huge role in Kaiserslautern’s top four finish. Conceding just 37 goals in the season, the Swedish goalie gave Kaiserslautern the best defensive record in the league. Had the club’s attackers matched Hellstroem’s exploits they might have been genuine rivals to Bayern Munich. 
Urruti (Espanyol and Spain) * 31 games, 0 goals

Urruti must curse Luis Arconada. For the rise of Arconada led Real Sociedad to sell Urruti to Espanyol, while he now blocks his path in the national team. Despite that 1980-1 was a fine season for the Espanyol keeper, whose heroics in goal ensured that relegation was never a likely possibility.
Ray Clemence (Liverpool and England) * 41 games, 0 goals

After 14 incredible seasons at Anfield, Clemence moves to Tottenham at the end of the season. During his time in Liverpool the keeper captured almost every trophy available in the game (the only ones missing from his collection are the Cup Winners’ Cup and the Inter-Continental Cup). In winning his third European Cup he characteristically kept a clean sheet in the final victory over Real Madrid.
Rinat Dasaev (Spartak Moscow and Russia) * 34 games, 0 goals in 1980, 34 games 0 goals in 1981

Finishing second in both 1980 and 1981 to Dynamo Kiev, Spartak Moscow demonstrated a remarkable level of  consistency. Indeed it is that attribute which marks out keeper Dasaev, who remains a dominant force in their defence. The Soviet keeper made a rare error in Spartak’s European Cup quarter-final defeat to Real Madrid, allowing Isidro to put the Spaniards 2-0 up, but two late saves were evidence of his rare brilliance. 
Jean Castaneda (St Etienne and France) * 35 games, 0 goals

Succeeding Ivan Curkovic was no easy task for the young Frenchman. The Yugoslav keeper had been a legend at St Etienne and had throughout the 1970s been one of the best keepers in the world. Despite the pressure placed on him, Castaneda was more than up to the task as he won a debut Ligue 1 title.
Thomas Ravelli (Osters and Sweden) * 26 games, 0 goals in 1980, 26 games, 0 goals in 1981

Osters won league titles in both 1980 and 1981 and both times had Ravelli to thank for their success. Far from the calming influence that so many of the best keepers provide, Ravelli is a hive of activity, but this proves to be a great strength as he is always prepared for the unexpected and is capable of pulling off the most remarkable saves.

Retro "Rangliste"

Earlier this season I attempted to rank this season’s European based players according to the system devised by German magazine Kicker in the 1950s. The focus of this blog though has so far been primarily historical and so it was inevitable that I would eventually try to recreate the rankings for the past. This then is my attempt to do that.
I’ve chosen 1980 as an arbitrary starting point on the basis that there exists a wealth of information for the period since then. These rankings do not claim to be definitive. It is hard enough to rank and rate players performing currently, let alone those from more than 30 years ago. Despite that there are more than enough sources with which to form an educated opinion on the standard to which players within Europe were operating. The ratings provided by Kicker itself, those of Don Balon, Mundo Deportivo, Guerin Sportivo and others offer a starting point. There are a plethora of domestic awards in addition to those organised by the likes of France Football and Onze Mondial, which add further light. In addition I’m in the fortunate position to own every copy of World Soccer from 1980 onwards which provided its typical encyclopaedic coverage of the international game.
If anyone has additional information or would like to suggest inclusions and exclusions for future periods then please let me know.
For those who missed the original the scope and categories are included below as a refresher.
These rankings apply to all players based in Europe in a given season. They focus primarily on domestic and European performances, with due consideration given to mid-season internationals, but exclude continental tournaments such as the World Cup, European Championships and Copa America. Consideration is given to the calibre of competition and opposition faced to reflect the difficulty in obtaining high quality performances. Therefore an outstanding performance in the Belgian league, for instance, will count for less than one in the Champions League final.
Players are rewarded for competing to a high standard in multiple competitions and for maintaining consistency throughout the period. Where a player is injured for a period of time in a season it may prevent them demonstrating the necessary consistency to be classified as world or international class.
The rankings consider merely the performances made during the season in question. They do not look at the ability or past history of a player, only how they have played during the year studied. They do not assess the completeness or variety of talents a player demonstrates either, merely the level to which he influences the games played in.
Note in any given season there may be no players performing to a world class level in a particular position, players do not become world class by default but by the performances they make.
World Class *** – Performing consistently to an exceptional standard. Among the finest players in the world and performing at a level comparable with the very best in your position. (Guideline – 15-20 players a season)
International class ** – Performing consistently to an excellent or sporadically to an exceptional standard.  (Guideline – a further 20-30 players a season)
National class * – Performing consistently to a very high standard or sporadically to an exceptional or excellent standard.  (Guideline – a further 50-60 players a season)

Note: All appearance and goal statistics throughout the rankings refer only to the domestic league.