Being considered ‘the best’ in anything is usually no more than a matter of opinion. But when you have some statistical analysis to back it up, then calling anyone ‘the best’ is a much easier task.
For a great many, Argentina midfielder Javier Mascherano was the best midfielder during the World Cup in Brazil this summer.
While leadership qualities, determination and guts cannot be calculated or measured, the Barcelona star’s contribution to his national side, and how he helped them to the World Cup final, can be seen in the stats issued by Opta, analysing players performance by their success – or lack of it – in certain key areas.
And in terms of midfield play, no-one quite matched up to Mascherano.
The 30-year-old was not only the top tackling player in his position during the World Cup, but the best tackler throughout the tournament, clocking up 30 successful challenges, four more than defender Stefan de Vrij of the Netherlands.
Equally impressive, were the numbers attributed to Mascherano as a contributor to Argentina’s forward play, coming out third behind the German World Cup winning duo of Toni Kroos (544) and Philipp Lahm (530) as the best passer in the competition, the former West Ham and Liverpool player clocking up no fewer than 515 successful completions.
So while Lionel Messi may have been gifted the ‘Player of the Tournament’ title by FIFA, the contribution of Javier Mascherano to the cause can be backed up by solid facts.