The hardest working match-winners in Europe’s top five leagues
Who are the most goal-scorers that put in the most graft in Europe’s top five leagues?
Atletico Madrid manager Diego Simeone has a suggestion: Antoine Griezmann. In the build-up to his side’s Champions League quarter-final decider against Leicester City, he called the Frenchman “the complete footballer”.
“It’s hard to tell which position he plays because he’s everywhere,” continued the Argentinian, as reported by Football Espana. “He works like a central midfielder, assists like a number 10 and finishes like a number nine.”
Griezmann made four defensive actions in his team’s second-leg draw with Leicester, making two clearances, a block and an interception, and also put in six tackles at the King Power Stadium.
He is purported to be a major target for Jose Mourinho and Manchester United in the summer, and is touted as the high-class work horse the Portuguese craves to both put away chances, punish defences and unsettle opponents, yet he is not the most hard-working match-winner in Europe. Not quite.
To find out who is, Squawka looked at the top players for goals and assists combined across the Bundesliga, Ligue 1, Premier League, La Liga and Serie A this season and then ranked them by the number of tackles and interceptions they have made per 90 minutes – actions that usually require a footballer to put in exactly the sort of high intensity sprints that have become all the rage in the age of “Gegenpressing” and other fashionable tactical trends.
In order to qualify for consideration, players had to have scored at least 10 league goals and been involved in over 14 goals and assists combined. The final list of the 25 most prolific footballers for scoring goals, creating assists and working to win the ball the back can be found below.
1. Spain and Italy are home to the hardest working match-winners going by the number of players from La Liga and Serie A included in the final results table. Both leagues boast seven individuals in the list, with Spain’s top flight claiming four of the places in the top 10 as their own.
2. The Premier League has six players listed in the top 25, with four players in the top 10. Fourth is Ligue 1, with three. Fifth is the German Bundesliga with two – a surprising result given the league’s reputation for fast, attacking football and counter-pressing tactics.
3. Roberto Firmino comes highest among the Premier League’s representatives when it comes to tackles and interceptions, as well as scoring and creating goals. No player from the English topflight to have been involved in so many goals has a higher rate of ball-winning actions than the Brazilian’s 2.43 per 90 minutes.
4. Arsenal forward Alexis Sanchez is infamous for his tendency to over-work on and off the pitch, training while being injured and going above and beyond the call of duty to chase down opponents and lost causes on the pitch. The Chilean is the most prolific player for goals and assists out of the top 15 hard-workers for tackles and interceptions combined. He is involved in 0.96 goals every 90 minutes.
5. Monaco’s Radamel Falcao and Torino striker Andrea Belotti – the current joint top scorer in Serie A with Edin Dzeko – are the most prolific players for goals and assists per 90 in the table. The Colombian has scored or assisted 1.30 league goals every 90 minutes while the Italian has managed 1.00 per 90.
6. No player has been involved in more goals in the final 25 than Belotti and Sanchez, who have each had a hand in 28 so far.
7. Other notable players: Antoine Griezmann is ninth, ahead of Dele Alli on goals and assists per 90; RB Leipzig forward Timo Werner is the highest-ranked Bundesliga player in 14th place; Chelsea winger Eden Hazard is 16th; Liverpool forward Sadio Mane is 23rd.
8. At the other end of the spectrum, Romelu Lukaku has recorded the lowest number of tackles and interceptions per 90 with just 0.19 per 90. Cristiano Ronaldo wasn’t too far behind with 0.43. Monaco’s wonder kid super star Kylian Mbappe has made 0.51 per 90.
9. However, their records for goals and assists more than justify their less demanding styles of play. Lukaku has been involved in 0.96 goals per 90 minutes, Ronaldo 1.07 and Mbappe 1.44 – level with Lionel Messi for league goals and assists per 90 this season. For some players, it pays to stay fresh to focus on punishing errors and finishing chances.