Question: what do Lionel Messi and Peter Crouch have in common?
The unlikely answer: both sit top of a stat-leaders group for the past decade. Well, that and their inclusion in teams of the decade, if the recent poll on Tottenham’s Twitter deciding who should lead the line is anything to go by.
🤩 TEAM OF THE DECADE! 🤩
— Tottenham Hotspur (@SpursOfficial) December 30, 2019
Crouch isn’t the only man who may surprise you as a European elite. Some other toppers include a 29-year-old goalkeeper, a European journeyman and a former West Ham winger. Here is the decade’s statistical elite.
Most goals: Lionel Messi
*pretends to be shocked* – Yes, Lionel Messi outscored everyone in Europe’s top five leagues this decade, bagging 369 goals in total. A simply absurd number.
Cristiano Ronaldo is just behind him with 335, meaning the pair scored an incredible 704 league goals between them this decade: for context, Manchester City are the only Premier League team to have scored more goals than them in the same time period. If, for whatever reason, you needed any more statistical evidence that these two are the greatest players to have ever lived, there it is.
Edinson Cavani, perhaps a little surprisingly, tops the ‘best of the rest’ but is more than 100 behind Ronaldo, just about pipping compatriot Luis Suarez and Bayern Munich star Robert Lewandowksi.
Most goals scored in Europe’s top five leagues: 2010-2019
- Lionel Messi (369)
- Cristiano Ronaldo (335)
- Edinson Cavani (223)
- Robert Lewandowski (221)
- Luis Suarez (210)
Most assists: Lionel Messi
He may not top every list, but you might want to get used to seeing his name in the titles of this article. Once again, the little magician fairly comfortably beats everyone else in Europe, with Angel Di Maria being his closest challenger.
Despite what seems like half a decade of criticism, Mesut Ozil is the only Premier League player in the top five – although a lot of his came in La Liga. Meanwhile Thomas Muller is the only other player to crack 100 league assists for the decade.
Interestingly, three of the top four started the 2014 World Cup final, where there were no goals in the 90 minutes. Pressure does funny things.
Ronaldo just scrapes into the top five ahead of David Silva, who finished with 89 assists.
Most assists in Europe’s top five leagues: 2010-2019
- Lionel Messi (136)
- Angel di Maria (108)
- Mesut Ozil (106)
- Thomas Muller (103)
- Cristiano Ronaldo (95)
Most chances created: Dimitri Payet
Didn’t expect that, did you?!
Yes, the ex-West Ham playmaker created more chances than anyone else this decade, making the fact that the Hammers only paid around £13 million for him even more ridiculous. It should be noted, however, that most of these were created for Marseille.
Four of the top five have mostly plied their trade in England this decade, with Messi being the only exception.
Leighton Baines makes it into the Premier League top five, though not the overall one, whilst Thomas Muller is the only player other than Messi and Ronaldo who is in his league’s top five for goals, assists and chances created. Not bad at all.
Most chances created in Europe’s top five leagues:
- Dimitri Payet (974)
- Mesut Ozil (916)
- Eden Hazard (830)
- David Silva (812)
- Lionel Messi (789)
Most tackles: Arturo Vidal
Arturo Vidal made at least 100 more tackles than any other player in Europe's top five leagues in the 2010s.
Víctor Sánchez the only other player to break 1,000. 💪 pic.twitter.com/HUvaytfNEs
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) December 31, 2019
It needs to be noted that sometimes the timing of your career is key to topping one of these tables, and Vidal falls into that category. Clearly a very good tackler, but the best of the decade? We’re not so sure, but the stats say he is.
Unsurprisingly, Idrissa Gueye makes it into the top five following his exploits around Europe, as does Lucas Leiva, who seems to have found another level to his game.
The lesser-known Victor Sanchez, who plays for Espanyol in La Liga, comes in second – the versatile midfielder has been a stalwart for the Spanish side after starting his career at Barcelona, where Vidal now plies his trade.
N’Golo Kante and Wilfried Ndidi, two supreme tacklers, don’t make the Premier League list, let alone the top five leagues. Timing is everything.
Most tackles in Europe’s top five leagues: 2010-2019
- Arturo Vidal (1,102)
- Victor Sanchez (1,002)
- Idrissa Gueye (981)
- Gabi (980)
- Lucas Leiva (967)
Most take-ons completed: Lionel Messi
Normal service resumed.
Arguably the greatest dribbler of all time tops this one, of course, having completed 364 more take-ons than his closest rival Eden Hazard. Close run thing, then.
The rest of the top five is fairly predictable as Neymar, Roberto Firmino (mainly with Hoffenheim) and Franck Ribery complete the set. Wilfried Zaha, despite his prolific numbers in recent seasons, misses out on the top five by just two dribbles – given that he didn’t play top-flight football at all until 2013 and hardly played regularly until 2015, this is very impressive.
— Crystal Palace F.C. (@CPFC) December 30, 2019
Notorious dribblers such as Ronaldo, Paulo Dybala, Arjen Robben, Hatem Ben Arfa and Allan Saint-Maximin all make the top fives in the respective leagues they spent most of the decade.
Most dribbles completed in Europe’s top five leagues: 2010-2019
- Lionel Messi (1535)
- Eden Hazard (1171)
- Neymar (759)
- Roberto Firmino (743)
- Franck Ribery (726)
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Most fouls won: Eden Hazard
Anyone who watched Hazard play for Chelsea will know this hardly surprising – it seemed like he got fouled hundreds of times every game.
There is a common theme of fairly slight, nippy dribblers dominating these lists, with Messi, Juan Cuadrado and Alejandro Gomez making the top five, along with Perparim Hetemaj. Don’t worry, we weren’t too sure either.
The Finnish midfielder spent most of the decade playing for Chievo as a midfielder – he played 239 games for the club, scoring six goals and creating 10 more. By far one of the most surprising inclusions on any list.
Danny Rose makes it into the top five in the Premier League, whilst the surprising names of Stefan Kießling and Florent Balmont top the Bundesliga and Ligue 1 respectively.
Most fouls won in Europe’s top five leagues: 2010-2019
- Eden Hazard (1030)
- Perparim Hetemaj (797)
- Juan Cuadrado (735)
- Lionel Messi (702)
- Alejandro Gomez (675)
Most saves: Oliver Baumann
Oliver Baumann, Hoffenheim’s no.1, made more saves than any other goalkeeper in Europe for Julian Nagelsmann’s former club and Freiburg over the decade. He also managed more Bundesliga appearances than anyone else (316), which may have helped.
Samir Handanovic pips Stephane Ruffier and David de Gea to second – the inclusion of the former and the latter perhaps indicate just how disappointing a decade it was for Inter and Manchester Utd (post-Sir Alex Ferguson, at least).
The Premier League top five is lead by Ben Foster, with Lukasz Fabianski coming in fourth after an extremely busy few seasons with Swansea and West Ham.
Most saves in Europe’s top five leagues: 2010-2019
- Oliver Baumann (1,122)
- Samir Handanovic (1,054)
- Stephane Ruffier (1,038)
- David de Gea (1,037)
- Stefano Sorrentino (1,016)
Most aerials won: Peter Crouch
Go on, Crouchy!
Yes, “officially” Spurs’ best striker of the decade *cough* beats Christian Benteke to the best player in the air of the decade. Andy Carroll completes an all-Premier League top three – we love a bit of route one over here.
Raul Garcia is the only player in the top five who isn’t a designated striker, as he just pips veteran striker Aritz Aduriz to fourth spot.
Gary Cahill and Ryan Shawcross both ended the decade on 837 won, whilst Naldo is officially the best centre-half in the air of the decade, winning 872.
Most aerials won in Europe’s top five leagues: 2010-2019
- Peter Crouch (1,565)
- Christian Benteke (1,538)
- Andy Carroll (1,267)
- Raul Garcia (1,178)
- Aritz Aduriz (1,171)
Most successful passes ending in the final third: Lionel Messi
A fitting way to end.
Messi is the only non-Premier League player in a top five which resembles a five-a-side team taht would finish the game with 100% possession. Credit must go to Messi and Hazard, who also topped the dribbles chart. Masters of progressing the ball.
Surprisingly, Jordan Henderson makes it into the Premier League top five, whilst the Bundesliga list is made up entirely of Bayern Munich players.
Messi fought off Xavi and Andres Iniesta to top the La Liga list – the fact that he was able to beat them at their own game speaks volumes as to the little magician’s ability.
Most successful passes ending in the final third in Europe’s top five leagues: 2010-2019
- Lionel Messi (8264)
- Eden Hazard (7656)
- David Silva (7516)
- Mesut Ozil (6975)
- Cesc Fabregas (6379)