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The other day I had a debate with a friend about who the best midfielder in the world is. We discussed their defensive contributions, passing skills, ball control, final ball, consistency and goal scoring abilities.
My friend argued for Luka Modric and I argued for Thiago Alcantara.
I thought of players such as Marco Verratti, Paul Pogba, David Silva, N’Golo Kante, Toni Kroos and the list goes on. All of them are world class at what they do, but what makes Thiago better than the others to me? (I will be using statistics from WhoScored.com to back up my points)
Defensively, Thiago is statistically the best in the Bundesliga, as he makes an incredible 4.6 interceptions per game.
To put this into perspective, Chelsea’s rock solid N’Golo Kante makes 2.4 interceptions per game but Kante makes more tackles with 3.6 per game to Thiagos 2.8.
An argument against this is that the Bundesliga is a very central league. A lot of play is through the middle of the park giving Thiago more passes to intercept.
Even if this is the case, Thiagos job is not to win the ball back and retain possession, whilst it is what Kante lives for.
A fine passer
Passing wise, Thiago is certainly one of the best.
Toni Kroos is statistically the best in the world, completing an incredible 92.2% of his passes. Thiago still has an impressive 90.2% completion rate.
To counter this, Kroos only attempts 71.4 passes per game, while Thiago has a ridiculous 94.9, more than Verratti, Pogba, Silva and Modric, making his completion rate even more impressive.
His biggest problem
The biggest problem with Thiago is his injury record.
He’s been with Bayern for four seasons, and through them he has missed 93 games due to injury. In his defence, only 11 of the games he missed were in the last two seasons and last season being his most consistent in his career as he played a total of 3077 minutes, his most before last season was 2356 the season before.
Hopefully, he continues this and plays even more next season.
Thiago has a completely free role in the Bayern midfield, usually just behind Lewandowski but he can also slot next to Vidal further down the pitch acting as a deep-lying playmaker.
This kind of versatility is quite rare nowadays. Luka Modric is similar to Thiago in terms of being able to play in all kinds of roles in the midfield.
Pogba, who is labelled as a ‘complete midfielder’ is too suspect defensively to play in deeper positions, whilst players like Thiago and Modric are a lot calmer and smarter in his own half of the pitch.
Stats don’t back up his attacking prowess
Compared to attacking midfielders, Thiago’s attacking stats are not too impressive.
Last season in the Bundesliga, Thiago scored 6 goals and got 5 assists, whilst Kevin De Bruyne scored the same amount, but got 18 assists, Christian Eriksen also out ranks Thiago by scoring 8 and assisting 15 times.
Thiago did start 7 less times than De Bruyne and 10 times less than Eriksen, and also played in a deeper position. On the other hand James Rodriguez played just over half the minuets of Thiago (1180) and scored 8 goals and assisted 6.
That is an outstanding record, which is why team like Bayern have been linked to him, and it would be my personal football dream to see him and James playing together.
Compared to midfielders who have a similar style to Thiago (David Silva, Luka Modric and Marek Hamsik), Thiago is the second best in terms of goals (Hamsik 12) and third best in assists (Hamsik 10, Silva 7).
Out of the four, Thiago has the best passing and defensive stats and at the age of 26, the youngest out of them, he will more than likely start adding more goals to his game.
Entertaining to watch
Obviously, it is also opinion-based on who is the best.
Also, statistics don’t tell the whole story as Yohan Cabaye scored and assisted more last season than Luka Modric, but it’s pretty obvious who is better.
In my opinion, Thiago is the most fun player to watch out of all the players I have mentioned.
I understand that watching YouTube videos of players doesn’t paint the whole picture of a player, as Giannelli Imbula can be made to look like the new Yaya Toure on it, but it’s just so entertaining to watch him play, and if you haven’t seen him play before, I recommend doing so.
Written by Andy Doorbar
Follow Andy on Twitter @WatfordAndy
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