World class. We love this phrase. It means different things to different people.
For instance, in 2005, defender Sotirios Kyrgiakos was rated one of the defenders of the Champions League group stage, as part of the ‘team of the group stage’. We considered this a possible definition of ‘world class’ because our player had delivered on a stage of this magnitude and been rated among the best.
Others would go more extreme and say only a world’s best XI has players of the definition of world class, but then that raises a problem – how do we agree on the best XI?
Either way, the debate could go on all night, but truthfully with £50M transfer fees for someone like Wan-Bissaka who has one assist in nearly 20 appearances for Man Utd this season suggest the fees are meaningless as are the definitions and it’s down to personal preference.
So our definition?
Any player who plays at either of the two European trophy tournaments, or for their country, extensively, and delivers at those levels comfortably. Of course, there are magnificent players who don’t, but for the sake of argument, that gives us a starting point.
And that brings us to Rangers. Who do we genuinely consider established world class by our definition?
Discussing Steven Davis’ merits earlier is what led us to this – could a man with over 100 caps, a UK record for a midfielder, with a pile of experience in the Europa League, the Champions League and indeed the English Premier League be considered world class?
We say yes. Why Southampton let this mild-mannered goliath of midfield go is anyone’s guess, but we ended up with yet another staggeringly brilliant Bosman.
Then there’s Allan McGregor. What this astounding goalkeeper maybe lacks slightly in height he makes up for in everything else. His performances since returning have been every inch as good as before, maybe even better, and like Davis his experience and maturity (odd indiscretion aside) have made him simply into a better goalkeeper. If he’d been English he’d have been the NT number one for the past 10+ years. As it is, he was Scotland number one, with only Craig Gordon as competition, until he’d had enough. Fact is, McGregor is an astonishing goalie and if The Goalie was world class, McGregor is too.
Next up, an easy one – Borna Barisic. The best player in the SPL right now, delivering ridiculous crosses, performing superb defending, and regularly doing it for the mighty Croatia too. This LB is easily in the £40M range, and yes, he’s unequivocally by anyone’s definition world class.
Alfredo Morelos – ok, he goes loopy v Celtic, something happens with this guy v the green and whites, but v everyone else he’s just untouchable. He is world class for his country, for his club, at every level except that one, and there’s no denying he’s a marvellous asset. Yes, we’d include him too.
Jermain Defoe: might not play every match, and not every match suits him, but when they do, which is most times, his movement and finishing rival any player in the world. He has 50+ caps for England and he’s top drawer. Absolute yes.
The following are the ones we’re debating:
Ryan Kent? He shows some astonishing trickery and he cost £7.5M – but he’s not an international, at any level, and probably will struggle to be one, but at only 23 he has all the time in the world to develop into the consistent world class winger he threatens to be. But he’s a no, for now.
Ryan Jack: He’s been absolutely staggering for Rangers this calendar year and broke through to Scotland too, but will need to maintain that for the rest of the season while continuing to get time for his country before we can think about calling him world class. He is getting there. Had a wretched time v Celtic, but we won’t hold that against him.
Glen Kamara – this is a frustrating one. He has the tools, including the strength and the technical quality, and when he plays like he did yesterday it’s a yes, given he does it in Europe and for Finland. But all too often he loses focus, and concentration, and he has a lot of developing before he could be half as good overall as the likes of Kante, who we’d compare him to in a way. So, a no for now.
Scott Arfield: this guy is borderline. He is so reliable, trustworthy, and such a workhorse – he’s his country’s captain for goodness’ sake. But we can’t say, despite his consistency, that he’s quite good enough overall to be viewed as world class by our definition. He’s great, but maybe just not quite good enough. We’re not sure about this one. But we do absolutely love this guy.
Joe Aribo: starting to look the part, having had a strong Old Firm to cement his growing form and consistency. His close control is particularly admirable, and the guy is big and strong, as well as a great worker and brilliant at stealing. But has more work to do, despite his rise to the Nigerian NT, to prove he’s into the world class zone.
Nikola Katic: another one who’s raw but going in the right direction – has the potential to be every inch as good as Van Dijk, just needs to polish his performances and learn the game fully. Then he will be a regular for club and country and can be genuinely classed with the best.
James Tavernier: a good performance yesterday, but on no planet is James Tavernier a world class player in any definition of the word. For evidence, look on the other side and his Croat opposite number. That’s a world class FB. Tavernier isn’t and never will be.
Connor Goldson: wonderful yesterday but world class defenders don’t do it once or twice a year. Perhaps his own attitude is stopping him achieving his potential but he’s miles off being world class given how he performs against Motherwell. Prove us wrong, Connor.
Filip Helander: had a smashing performance in Porto but that’s the only match he stood out in. Can see why Mihajlovic didn’t really take to him at Bologna and why his career has been a bit stop start since he left Malmo. Has never played more than 29 matches in a league season, and at 26 that’s not stunning. Not world class, nowhere near, not for us.
And those are the main ones – there are many players this manager isn’t interested in – Murphy, Docherty, Jones, Polster – but only Jones of that lot has any hope of inclusion in this debate given his current CV of international success.
It’s a fun debate, an enjoyable one – and highlights what we’re achieving and where we’re going under Stevie G.