28 May, 2008

The Best There Is. The Best There Was. The Best There Ever Will Be (Part One)

Cristiano Ronaldo's goal-scoring tally ended this year with 42 in total, 31 of which came in the Premier League, and 8 of which were in Europe to make him the Champions League’s top scorer. Despite falling a few goals short of a couple of other guys in recent memory, it was the manner of the performances too which signaled his dominance against almost every team he faced. In addition to the buckets of goals, he was involved in basically every potent attacking move the team mounted all year, and those few he wasn’t, he’d still be drawing defenders away with his mere reputation. So in conclusion, he was pretty good, but how does it compare to other Premier League performances over the years? The STT editorial office has racked its brains over the last fortnight or so and these were the other contenders we could come up with…

Eric Cantona (1993 – 1994)

Perhaps the greatest foreign player to ever grace this country, Monsieur Cantona became the only man in Premier League history to win back-to-back titles with two different clubs when he left Leeds in 1993 for the Manchester United revolution. He propelled United to the inaugural Premier League and FA Cup double, and subsequently won the PFA Player of the Year award. It was his goals, but also his assists that made the mark on history, collaborating effortlessly with Brian McClair and Mark Hughes. Over the years he produced some of the very best finishes the league has ever seen, a couple of which came in this first season.

Jurgen Klinnsman (1994 – 1995)

Joining Spurs with a reputation as a diver, the media instantly took a disliking to Klinnsman coming to this country, with one Guardian hack even penning an article called ‘Why I Hate Jürgen Klinsmann.’ His first goal however was celebrated by a piss-taking fake dive, and the rest is history. More than 20 goals followed in the league, along with Tottenham Player of the Year and PWA Writers Player of the Year awards, plus the biggest accolade of all: the publication of a ‘Why I Love Jürgen Klinsmann’ rebuttal article by that same Guardian writer.

Alan Shearer (1995 – 1996)

After a season where Shearer bagged 34 goals in 42 games to carry Blackburn to the title, his true revelation came as Blackburn themselves struggled to make an impact in the Premier League. In 35 games, Shearer scored an incredible 31 goals, firing in with both feet and his head. Here are some goals from both the aforementioned seasons, pretty special I think you’ll agree:

Gianfranco Zola (1996 – 1997)

During his first four years at Chelsea, the tiny Italian wizard was head and shoulders above the majority of the league, but it was his first FWA-winning season that resonates most, carrying Chelsea to FA Cup victory. The following year Chelsea won the League Cup, the Cup Winners' Cup and the European Super Cup, with Zola once again pulling the strings. Funny to think that back then everyone loved watching Chelsea. Here’s a reminder of everything Zola did over the years then, if only they still played like this: (the goal vs Wimbledon at 19 seconds was the one that put them in the FA Cup Final in 1997)

Robert Pires (2001 – 2002)

A year after joining Arsenal, Pires really came into his own. He led the Premier League assist charts, and was voted both FWA Footballer of the Year and Arsenal's player of the season despite missing the last two months through injury. Arsenal won the league title, propelled by Pires, Henry and Ljungberg in their prime, but it was Pires’ attacking play and cracking goals that were the highlights.

Thierry Henry (2002 – 2003)

In the season where Arsenal were undefeated and dubbed the ‘Invincibles,’ Henry was the talisman, leading the league in assists (23) and netting 33 times himself. In total, he finished with 46 goals in all competitions, which is a touch impressive to say the least. The fact that many of the goals were absolute crackers is testament to his confidence and unparalleled shooting ability.

Ruud Van Nistelrooy (2002 – 2003)

Having scored 23 goals in his 32-game debut season the year before, van Nistelrooy really pushed on this season as United tried to keep up with the blistering pace of Arsenal. In this incredible year, the Dutchman scored 44 goals in 52 games in all competitions; 12 Champions League goals in 10 games and 25 goals in 34 Premier League games just to start. The domestic tally also impressively included three hat-tricks, and he ended the season with an eight-game scoring streak. See the year for yourself here -

It’s a close call then, as all the aforementioned efforts were pretty special to say the least. Personally, the Shearer, Pires and Henry seasons are the ones that stand out in the memory, but the sheer quality of the goals of Ronaldo this season is the factor that elevates it perhaps to the very top of the pile. His willingness to entertain and do tricks is admirable so dare we say that, yes, this was indeed the greatest individual season from an English-based player. His target next year? 50 goals in all competitions. Pretty frightening.

Agree? Disagree? Don’t understand? Well let us know in the handy comment box below!

P.S. Check back later in the week for Part Two, where we assess Ronaldo’s season against some of the true greats from Europe in the modern day, and also back through the annals of history…trust me, it’s really good, much better than Part One…


harith said...

Excellent post mate. Imagine how the league would be with all those players playing at their peak in the present time :)

sp3ktor said...

Just a small note: 03/04 was The Invincibles season. They were unbeaten away from home though if memory serves.

Look forward to reading to reading the rest

STT HQ said...

thanks for your comments guys. Part Two shall probably have to be postponed a touch, but it is definitely in progress...

ah yes sp3ktor, you are indeed correct. i apologise for inaccuracy but take no responsibility for the mistake. you'll be pleased to hear though that a junior researcher has now been appropriately fired

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