Best By the Numbers: 6

Soccer lists are ubiquitous and come in all shapes and sizes, types and varieties. We at O87 never settle for just doing another list. “Just another list” isn’t even in our vocabulary. So, when one of us decided that it would behoove our blog to have it’s own take on the “Best Of” phenomenon of modern sports, we decided that we couldn’t just list the best players in order of their relative merits, by their decades or eras, or even by their positions. We would try something marginally novel (we won’t be so bold as to claim to be the first to come up with this idea): let’s rank players by the number they wore, not by their position. Now obviously, this throws in some wrinkles. Players who might not normally be compared to each other will needs be. For example, Makelele, Hargreaves, Koeman, Zanetti, and Fabregas have all iconically worn number 4. Who to choose? It doesn’t matter! We’re trying to approach this question from a different perspective. We hope you enjoy it.

Today, we decipher the best number “6” in history, and we do so through statistical analysis. Let’s take a look at the potential candidates. They are: Xavi Hernandez (who will be henceforth known only as “Xavi”); Franco Baresi (who will be henceforth known only as “Baresi”); Bobby Moore; Roberto Carlos (who wore number 6 for Brazil); Nilson Santos; and Josef Masopust. A note on the methodology: the analysis is horribly arbitrary. Sorry. There’s no other way to do it, really. And if it works for FIFA, it works for me. I tried to give the different achievements weight based on their prestige as I interpret it. If you disagree with me, let me know in the comments. Another thing to remember: there is perhaps an over-emphasis on actually winning these achievements. Although certain of the guys below may have gotten to two or three World Cup finals and lost all of them, they will only get the points for winning. I try to correct this slightly in the “Intangibles” rating, but there is always room for interpretation.

Here are our ratings:

World Cup Champions……………………………………………….. 20 points
International Individual Recognition*………………………….8 points
Continental Cup**………………………………………………………. 8 points
Other FIFA Tournament (Euros, etc)………………………….8 points
Club World Cup***………………………………………………………7 points
Domestic Individual Recognition****…………………………..6 points
League Championship………………………………………………….6 points
UEFA Super Cup*****………………………………………………..5 points
Other Domestic Championship…………………………………….4 points
Intangibles…………………………………………………………………..20 possible points

*FIFA Player of the Year, Ballon D’Or, etc.
**UEFA Champions League, Club Winners’ Cup, CONCACAF Champions League, etc.
***Whereas it is a massive achievement getting to the Club World Cup, actually winning it does not seem to be as difficult as getting there in light of the fact that only six teams contest it.
****FWA Player of the Year, etc.
***** Like the Club World Cup, getting here is hard, winning it is a coin flip.

First up:

1) Xavi

World Cup Champion (1) – 20 points
UEFA Champions League (3) – 24 points
Club World Cup (2) – 14 points
La Liga Titles (6) – 36 points
Copa Del Rey (2) – 8 points
UEFA Super Cup (2) – 10 points
European Championship (1) – 8 points
La Liga Spanish Player of the Year (1) – 6 points
Intangibles – 10/20 (The majority of Xavi’s achievements are reflected in the trophies he has won. While widely regarded as the best central midfielder of his generation, his point score largely reflects that).
————————————————
Total for Xavi: 136 points

2) Baresi

World Cup Champion (1)* – 20 points
UEFA Champions League (3) – 24 points
Intercontinental Cup (2) – 14 points
Serie A Titles (6) – 36 points
Italian Super Cup (4) – 16 points
European Super Cup (3) – 15 points
Serie A Player of the Year (1) – 6 points
Intangibles – 13/20 (Baresi was voted the top AC Milan player of the 20th century, which is saying something. He also spent the entirety of his career at Milan, forming part of one of the best defenses of all-time).
————————————————
Total for Baresi: 143 points

*Baresi made one appearance for the Italian team that won the 1982 World Cup. And not in the Final, or the Semi-Final. However, he gets the points anyways for having played in the 1990 World Cup Final, which Italy lost on penalties to Brazil.

3) Bobby Moore

World Cup Champion (1) – 20 points
UEFA Cup Winners Cup (1) – 8 points
FA Cup (1) – 4 points
British Home Championship* (8) – 32 points
FWA Footballer of the Year (2) – 12 points
Intangibles – 20/20 (Bobby Moore played with a trophy-less West Ham team for the entirety of his best years as a player. That hurts. However, Pele called him the best defender he’d ever played against, he did see England to a World Cup (hard enough to do, it turns out), and is one of those guys in the highest pantheon of soccer legends. Despite never accruing many physical awards, he gets our highest intangibility rating.
————————————————
Total for Bobby Moore: 96 points

*We’re counting this as an “Other Domestic Championship.”

4) Roberto Carlos

World Cup Champion (1) – 20 points
UEFA Champions League (3) – 24 points
Intercontinental Cup* (2) – 10 points
La Liga/Brazil Serie A Titles (6) – 36 points
Supercopa de Espana (3) – 12 points
Copa America (2) – 16 points
FIFA Confederations Cup (1) – 8 points
Turkish Super Cup (2) – 10 points
UEFA Super Cup (1) -5 points
Intangibles – 8/20 (Like Xavi, the majority of Roberto Carlos’ career is writ in the trophies he garnered, which were many. Extra points to the ridiculous free kicks for which he was known).
————————————————
Total for Roberto Carlos: 149 points

*A one-off between the winner of the Euros and the winner of the Copa America. It gets a five rating, because while it’s difficult to get there, it’s a one-off trophy.

5) Nilton Santos

World Cup Champion (3) – 60 points
Campeonato Carioca* (4) – 24 points
Torneio-Rio-Sao Paulo** (2) – 12 points
Intangibles – 18/20 points (While Nilson Santos doesn’t have many trophies to his name, he is regarded as one of the first (and best) modern fullback/wingbacks, and was influential to three World Cup squads.
————————————————
Total for Nilson Santos: 132 points

*Back in the day, Brazil didn’t have nation-wide leagues. Rather, they had state-central leagues, which would have been the equivalent of a domestic competition.
**A prestigious inter-state competition between the Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo states.

6) Josef Masopust

European Footballer of the Year – 8 points
Domestic League Titles (9) – 36 points
Intangibles – 12/20 (Led the Czech Republic to the 1962 World Cup Final, which they lost to Brazil. Also took the Czechs to 3rd place in the 1960 European Championships. Named by Pele as one of the best 100 players ever).
————————————————
Total for Josef Masopust: 56 points

On the basis of these rankings alone, Roberto Carlos is our winner of best no. 6 ever. However, a slight (OK, not so slight) caveat. Roberto Carlos is widely known for wearing number 3 for his club teams. We also considered him in the discussion for best no. “3” ever. Should he count for no. 6? Should only his achievements for Brazil count into our criteria? Personally, I feel like we should take out the points he won when he wore number three, which would leave him with about 30 something points. We should recognize that he was a great player, but also properly elevate Baresi as the best to have worn no. “6” in the history of soccer. I realize there is room for debate. Please engage me in the comments. Until then, hats of to Baresi, the little sweeper of Milan!

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3 Responses to Best By the Numbers: 6

  1. Ian Thomson says:

    Anyone worth their salt knows the best ever “No. 6” is Willie Miller. There is no debate.

  2. Pingback: Observations: June 22, 2012 | The Soccer Observer

  3. Pingback: Observations: June 22, 2012 | Epou

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