Football Features

Squawka turns 10 today, so who’s the most dominant player since our stats records began?

By Muhammad Butt

Published: 16:58, 8 June 2022

Happy Birthday to us! Squawka is 10 years old.

It’s been a wild decade in football history, from seeing Bayern Munich bag a treble at the end of our first-ever season (they would add another in 2020) only for Barcelona to respond with their own in 2015 as La Liga crushed the so-called Bundesliga revolution with five Champions Leagues in a row, with Real Madrid doing their own unique treble and winning the European Cup three times on the bounce.

There’s been ridiculous domestic dominance from Bayern (eight consecutive titles) and Juventus (nine) while Barcelona have edged the dominance in La Liga over Los Blancos (five titles to three) while Manchester City won four Premier Leagues in five years under Pep Guardiola to grind English football under their well-oiled boots.

But what about the players? Football ultimately depends on them. So who have been the most dominant players to set foot on grass in the decade that Squawka have been covering football? Well, in true Squawka fashion, we’ve had a look and come up with a list! Multiple lists, actually. Here are the stat leaders in Europe’s top five leagues across the Squawka Era…

Most minutes played: Samir Handanovic

A pretty simple stat to start us off: who has played the most minutes? Unsurprisingly this list is dominated by goalkeepers including the big dog right now Thibaut Courtois, who has played 30,034 minutes of action since the start of 2012/13. The winner, however, is Inter Milan’s Samir Handanovic, who joined Inter a month after Squawka came into existence and has played a massive 32,720 minutes since!

Most goals scored: Lionel Messi

No surprises here, Lionel Messi leads the way with goals scored. When Squawka was born Messi was halfway through his superhuman 2012, where he scored a world record 91 times. Messi is 13 goals ahead of Cristiano Ronaldo, who is in turn 16 ahead of Robert Lewandowski.

Ronaldo and Lewandowski would be considered the more natural and all-around goalscorers. And they’re also not the size of a small child, which gives them access to scoring headers. These things only serve to make Messi’s achievements even more ridiculous, albeit with the caveat here that if we were to include Champions League goals as well then Ronaldo would edge ahead 438 to 436. It’s that close!

Most shots attempted: Cristiano Ronaldo

Messi has taken 1,659 shots since the start of 2012/13 (which given his 311 goals leaves him with a shot conversion of 18.7%). Lewandowski has 1,322 shots (which makes his shot conversion an even better 21.1%).

Both pale in comparison to Ronaldo, however, who has taken a colossal 1,907 shots since the start of 2012/13, nearly 300 more than Messi! His shot conversion is thus 15.6%, which makes sense if you’ve ever watched him play. The Portuguese has never been afraid to let it fly from any and all angles, no matter how ridiculous.

Most assists: Lionel Messi

Back when Squawka came into being, the Messi-Ronaldo debate was coming into the peak of its nonsense. Well, let a decade of Squawka help settle the issue for you: Messi is as good (or better, given shot conversion) a goalscorer while being far, far superior as a playmaker.

Messi has laid on a massive 135 assists since the start of 2012/13. And sure, he had MSN for three of those years. But he also spent a season where his second-best attacking outlet was Paulinho. Messi has worked miracles and this total should genuinely be much higher given the amount of sitters he has created for teammates who would go on to waste them.

Most chances created: Dimitri Payet

However when it comes to sheer, all-encompassing chance creation, even Messi has to take a back seat. Well, third place with 780 behind Kevin De Bruyne’s 885 and Dimitri Payet’s frankly unbelievable 979. Payet is helped by his superb set-pieces, but that is still an utterly outrageous number and one can only wonder what he could have achieved were he not so wedded to the idea of playing for Marseille.

Most take-ons completed: Lionel Messi

Yet more evidence to suggest Lionel Messi is the greatest player of this generation (and perhaps any generation, although we here at Squawka can only argue what we’ve witnessed. For the rest, you’ll have to yell at your dad on your own time). In addition to having the most goals and the most assists, Messi also has the most dribbles across Europe’s top five leagues.

And when we say he has completed the most take-ons, we really mean he is miles ahead. Over 400 completed dribbles ahead. Eden Hazard’s miserable time since joining Real Madrid and Neymar’s injury woes since joining PSG have allowed Messi to maintain a comfortable lead as Europe’s dribble king in the Squawka Era. He is truly ridiculous.

Most aerial duels won: Christian Benteke

Despite what his fans on twitter would have you believe, there are some awards that Messi just is never going to win. Take, for example, aerial duels. This aerial dominance category is dominated by one man, and it’s Christian Benteke, who has won a whopping 1,908 aerial duels during his time with Aston Villa, Liverpool and Crystal Palace.

Most tackles: Allan

Staying in the Premier League, Europe’s most prolific tackle merchant in the Squawka Era isn’t beloved international icon N’Golo Kanté (849 tackles) nor his antithesis, the reviled playmaking genius Sergio Busquets (872 tackles). No, this award goes to Everton’s Allan, albeit mostly thanks to his time at Napoli under Maurizio Sarri. Idrissa Gueye is just two behind on 1,046 tackles.

Most interceptions: Francesco Acerbi

While defensive midfielders are great at sweeping passing lanes, no one does it quite like a good centre-back. Unsurprisingly the league leader in the Squawka Era is Italian. Unsurprisingly, however, it’s not either of the Juve big boys but instead Francesco Acerbi, who has 733. The Italian has spent the last decade with a few clubs but mainly Sassuolo and now Lazio. Idrissa Gueye, makes another appearance in the top list for interceptions with 707 (as does Kanté with 611).

Most clearances: Hilton

A clearance can be a deft or dynamic header or an artfully crafted intervention but sometimes there’s nothing for it more than just a good ol’ fashioned hoik out of the box. A man who has mastered all types is the immaculate Hilton, the 44 year-old Brazilian who spent the last 10 years at Montpellier before leaving to join Sete this past summer.

Hilton is an absolute icon of defending (and his 715 interceptions has him third in that ranking too) but it’s worth noting that Ashley Williams is second on this list 1ith 1,835 clearances and he last played football in Europe’s top five leagues way back in 2018. So he was miles ahead and has only recently lost the crown.

Most goals and assists: Lionel Messi

We close with a flashback to the offensive stats, and with “direct goal involvements” becoming more of a thing, we thought what better way to end this list on? The most ruthlessly effective forwards in the Squawka Era. Well, shout out Thomas Muller for making the top 10 despite being the only man to have more assists than goals (128 to 105) but despite Ronaldo, Lewandowski and Luis Suárez’s valiant efforts, Lionel Messi reigns supreme once again with a whopping 446 direct goal involvements, over 60 more than his nearest opponent.

Lionel Messi, the Don Dada of the Squawka Era.