Monday, July 24, 2006

A Tribute to Dennis Bergkamp

In honor of his testimonial match this weekend, here's a video guaranteed to make Arsenal fans get all teary-eyed in their cubicles:

A tribute to Dennis Bergkamp

I got the video from The Sports Economist, who posits the "why is Bergkamp not viewed on the same level as Zidane or Ronaldinho as the best player of this generation?" question. (Interesting that an Arsenal fan wouldn't mention Henry in the same breath. Hmmmm.) I think he hits the nail on the head by arguing that Bergkamp never won a World Cup or a European Championship and that he suffers as a result of playing for sides that weren't quite as good as France or Brazil. The Stam-de Boer-van der Sar-Davids Dutch teams of the late 90s were very good, but Bergkamp never got to play with the lights-out French defense (plus Didier Deschamps and then Patrick Viera providing the backbone) that backed Zidane, or the Rivaldo-Ronaldo pairing that played with Ronaldinho in 2002. I'd also add that Bergkamp never won a Champions League title, unlike Zidane and (now) Ronaldinho, and that affects his legacy. All that said, I tend to reject the tendency to evaluate players solely based on their teams' accomplishments without paying any attention to the roles of supporting casts and The Sports Economist makes an interesting point in putting Bergkamp up there with Zidane and Ronaldinho.


Kanu said...

Another major thing for DB10 as far as visibility is his fear of flying, which meant that he did not participate in 90% of Arsenal's road games in the Champions League during his career. The CL is the highest visibility competition in club football, so this definitely hurt him as far as exposure is concerned.

Solon said...

Not to hate on you--because I like both Ronaldhino and Barcelona--but, to be quite honest, putting Ronaldhino in the same class as Zidane or Bergkamp is comical. In fact, I think it shows a lack of understanding of the history of the game. Part of me thinks it was a mistake, and he must have meant to put Ronaldo--which would be a much more apt comparison--in that spot.

(For the record, my opinion, if you were to rank the all-time great players, is that Zidane is somewhere at the top of the 2nd 10, Ronaldo is at the bottom of the 2nd 10, Bergkamp is somewhere in the 20's, Henry is in the 30's, and Ronaldhino is in the 40's.)

Bergkamp did pretty much the same thing Ronaldhino does--roughly the same position, and a roughly similar role--but he has done it better, and for longer. Ronaldhino has some great highlights, but DB10 is one of the few players who can match him in that regard. DB10 scored a higher rate of goals for both club and country, and assisted on a higher rate of goals for club and country. I'm not sure what's left to compare the two, other than some sort of intangible.

In terms of honors on the International level, it is true that Ronaldhino was on a World Cup winning team and DB10 wasn't. Of course, Ronaldo and Rivaldo were the stars of that team, not Ronaldhino. And, DB10 was never as anonymous in a major tournament for Holland as Ronaldhino was in the WC just completed.

On the club level, it's true that Ronaldhino has won a CL title, and DB10 didn't. But, while DB10 won 2 UEFA Cups (when winning the UEFA Cup actually meant something) and led Arsenal to 1st or 2nd place EPL finishes in his first 9 years with the club, Ronaldhino didn't win anything until he started playing with Eto'o, Deco, Guily, et al.--and he couldn't even get PSG to the Champions League.

Ronaldhino is only 26, so he's got some time. But, at this stage, there's no comparison between him and Bergkamp, World Cup and Champions' League titles notwithstanding.

Michael said...

You're selling Ronaldinho short. He initiated Barca's resurgence when he transferred in 2003. Barca was coming off of their worst season in eons, a sixth place finish, and in Ronaldinho's first year, Barca finished second. (In fact, Barca's hot streak came when Ronaldinho returned from injury.) Ronaldinho accomplished this before Barca had acquired Deco, Giuly, or Eto'o. When Ronaldinho arrived, Real Madrid was on top and Barca was struggling; three years later, the roles are completely reversed. In soccer, it's never quite as simple as one player making that big a difference, but in this case, it's hard to argue with Ronaldinho's role.

I agree that Ronaldinho was fairly anonymous during the World Cup and his play did come up short. However, he was deprived of service by a central midfield that got dominated by France, so the fault isn't all on Ronaldinho.

Solon said...

You may very well be right regarding my selling Ronaldhino short--I'm starting to view him as wildly overrated, particularly when I read things like the article by the Sports Economist (which I think is a great blog, by the way), or the article in some soccer mag right before the World Cup with the headline "Is Ronaldhino the best player ever?" I understand that we always want to compare the greats of today favorably to the greats of the past, but it seems like overkill in the case of Ronaldhino, at least at this stage of his career.

An interesting, and fair point, regarding Barca's resurgence. I think of it more in terms of Real's regression than Barca's resurgence, but given the way Barca has played in Europe that isn't really a fair way to look at it.

Another reason for my problem with the perception of Ronaldhino is that I've watched plenty of Barcelona football in the last couple years, and, to me, Deco appears to be their most important player. Obviously, a MF would tend to have more impact on a game than a F would, but given the way R10 plays there's not too much difference between these two (in terms of time on the ball, for example). And, given that Deco won the CL with a rather average Porto team, and then has been there the last two years with Barca, I view Barca's "taking it to the next level" more to him than to R10.

(For the record, I think I viewed the 6th place finish in 2003 as more of a blip, and the 2nd place finish in 2004 as more of a correction--not that it matters too much, but I don't really think Barcelona got a whole lot better, they just got more breaks--but I'll defer to you on this, since you're a bigger fan.)

All of which is not to say that R10 isn't great, just to say that he's not in the class of the all-time greats, even those of today.

Michael said...

We're in agreement that calling Ronaldinho one of the best of all-time is quite premature, although I still think he's the best player right now, or at least the best offensive player.

I do like Deco's game a lot. His fitness is positively Edgar Davids-esque, his distribution is excellent, and he helps Barca dominate the midfield. However, I think he's replaceable. When Xavi is healthy, he can do the things Deco can do, although his workrate isn't as good. Iniesta is growing into the role and played very well at the end of last year. People forget this, but he started the move for Eto'o's equalizer in the CL final. Edmilson also performs some of the tasks that Deco does, although he's more of a defensive player. Also, Deco didn't do that much to impress this summer (although playing with a decent striker would have helped) and he was anonymous during the CL Final. I like him a lot, but if I ranked the most important Barca players, my list would be:

1. Ronaldinho
2. Puyol
3. Eto'o
4. Deco
5. Marquez
6. Edmilson
7. Messi
8. Xavi
9. Valdes
10. Oleguer

(With Zambrotta in the mix, I might bump him at the top of the second five. We'll need to see how he fits in.)

It's hard to call anyone on that squad indispensible since they have two of everything, but that's my stab at it.