Date: 29th September 2011 at 5:00pm
Written by:

The description ‘World Class’ is undoubtedly over used in the modern football era and I sometimes feel many players who are described as such are perhaps merely ‘International Class.’

We are at Arsenal have certainly lost players in the past 6 years who have correctly been described as world class, but do we have any left in 2011?

Well we have certainly lost one such player in our departing skipper, Cesc Fabregas, but what about the man who inherited the arm band, our longest serving player, Robin van Persie?

We hear that he is stalling on new contract talks and I am sure we don’t actually blame him, but just how hard should we fight to retain his services?  Well, if we believe what most pundits say that you cannot be truly world class until you produce regularly on the world stage for your country then you might be surprised just how special RVP is.

In the early professional era the bench mark for a top class striker was a goal to games ratio of 1 to 1 or close to it. In more recent and competitive times the very best would aim for a goal every other match, a ratio of 0.5. It might surprise you then to see how few of the top class strikers in the modern era get near these marks for their countries. Many might do it domestically, but the measure of true class for a striker has to be to score regular on the international scene.

The table below shows 20 top international strikers, mostly from the past 20 years, although, I have left in Gerd Muller and Romario, just to illustrate just how far off some of those players of today really are:

Striker Country Caps Goals Ratio – goals/game
Gerd Muller West Germany 62 68 1.09
Romario Brazil 70 55 0.78
Gabriel Batistuta Argentina 75 56 0.74
Didier Drogba Ivory Coast 75 50 0.66
Brazil 97 62 0.64
David Villa Spain 78 49 0.63
Gary Lineker 80 48 0.6
Ruud van Nistlerooy Holland 64 33 0.51
Dennis Holland 79 37 0.47
Christian Vieri Italy 49 23 0.47
Andriy Schevchenko Ukraine 92 43 0.46
Samuel Eto’o Cameroon 108 50 0.46
Michael Owen 89 40 0.45
Robin van Persie Holland 58 25 0.43
Zlatan Ibrahimovic Sweden 67 28 0.42
France 123 51 0.41
Marco van Basten Holland 58 24 0.41
72 28 0.39
Christiano Portugal 83 29 0.35
Lionel Messi Argentina 62 17 0.27

(Figures courtesy of Wikipedia and ESPN Soccernet)

Of course we can all pick holes in this, but the facts don’t lie, and you must all remember moaning about Emile Heskey; International strikers are judged on GOALS. This being the case with several top years ahead of him, RVP is amongst the very best in the business of the current crop.  Of his current peer group (in bold), only David Villa is miles ahead. The likes of Drogba, Eto’o, Schevchenko, van Nistleroy and Owen have superior records to RVP, but are perhaps nearing the end of their careers or have retired from international football.

Interesting then to see the 3 names at the bottom of the pile are Rooney, and Messi with goal to game ratios of 0.39, 0.35 and 0.27.  All 3 feted as the top 3 strikers in world football by most pundits and all 3 some way behind in RVP’s international goals scoring ratio 0f 0.43.

Indeed, with many years ahead of him Robin’s ratio already betters that of and Marco van Basten, two of his own footballing mentors, and he is closing in on the international ratio of his hero Dennis Bergkamp (as well as catching him in the all time Arsenal scoring charts).

This article of course does not tell the whole story and I am not by any means suggesting that Rooney, Messi and Ronaldo are not true greats of the modern game, but I am suggesting that our skipper RVP is also right up there with the best of them.

To be a truly world class striker you have to be judged on your goal scoring at the top level and that can only be internationally, where van Persie is closing in on current form on a goal every other game ratio. (Before you say it, in the Champions League, RVP also has 16 goals in 44 appearances, only 33 of which he started.) You can draw up your own conclusions, but the main one has to be that we must do everything we possibly can as a club to keep our skipper happy at the Emirates.

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