Who was better: Zidane, Bergkamp or Ronaldinho?

      

Who was better: Zidane, Bergkamp or Ronaldinho?

Picture: Nick

Last week we did a piece comparing the three best English midfielders in recent times – Gerrard, Lampard and Scholes. Let’s take it up a notch if that is possible. Three figures: Zinedine Zidane, Dennis Bergkamp and Ronaldinho.

The question ‘who was better’ does these footballers a disservice because it is unfair to strip them of their legacy by comparing them directly as complete packages. But if we are to split their different attributes, we can easily determine who was better at which. Let’s go with it.

Skills

The obvious choice is Ronaldinho. Compared to the other two Ronaldinho's ‘love’ for the ball. If Zidane and Bergkamp were the more pragmatic and no-nonsense in their approach, Ronaldinho channeled the inner kid in him, played with the ball and infused joy into his viewers. His quick reflexes gave him an edge over others and a ticket to play around with the ball.

Who takes it? Ronaldinho

Technique

This umbrella term encompasses the practical execution of football basics: from shooting and passing technique to skills and ball control. They all had their strengths. Ronaldinho was best at dribbling and skills. Bergkamp had an unmatchable first touch and a precise shot. Zidane was the master at keeping the ball and had a powerful shot. It is difficult to chose among them, but I will for Zidane for the foresight which was an inseparable part of his technical executions.

Winner: Zidane

Vision

The less quick the reflexes the more vision a player must have to succeed in dribbling past opposition or spot a run of a teammate to whom to pass the ball. If Ronaldinho relied on his quick reflexes to do the trick for him, Zidane and Bergkamp had to rely on foresight to succeed. Both of them drew pictures in their mind quicker than their body moved. Their efficiency relied on good technique and efficient touch. 

But if Zidane slightly pipped Bergkamp in using his vision to keep the ball, the Dutch master could also interpret the movement of the players around him to execute a killer pass – something which Thierry Henry appreciated a lot.

Winner: Bergkamp

 

Passing

No contest here. The range of Bergkamp passing was just beyond astonishing: long passes, through balls, short passes, lobbed passes, he could do it all. Not only that but the receivers often found a ball tames and presented on a silver platter with bags of space around them. If any of the other could challenge him, Ronaldinho was the man, on through balls. The Brazilian could spot a run perhaps as well as Bergkamp and had the technique to give a pin-point pass.

Look for the free space, release and pass: it was what Ronaldinho and Bergkamp did. Keep the ball and pass sideways or back: what Zidane did.

Winner: Bergkamp

Pace

This is very easy. Bergkamp and Zidane were never that quick to begin with. Ronaldinho, on the other hand, had pace integrated to his game. His trickery provided an extra dimension, which was extremely hard for defenders to deal with.

Winner: Ronaldinho

First Touch

All three of them possessed an intuitive feel for the first touch, but Bergkamp scooped from rare inner sources. Just remember his goal against Argentina in the 98 World Cup. Or his masterful taming of the ball against Leicester. Or to take it further, his calculated first touch for that famous pivot goal against Newcastle.

Ronaldinho went beyond taming the ball too, but with perhaps more swagger than elegance. While Zidane’s first touches revealed something bordering on genius but touched with the occasional cheeky sloppiness.

Winner: Bergkamp

Dribbling

Positional responsibilities play a role: Bergkamp was a support striker, but he could play equally well at the central attacking midfielder position. Zidane was a deep-laying midfielder – a player who controls the tempo of the game, but he could also single-handedly decide matches.

In that regard, Ronaldinho was positionally similar to Bergkamp, but he posed a more direct threat because he could explode into free space with an incisive dribble, while Bergkamp preferred to pass into that same space.

Winner: Ronaldinho

Shooting

Oh, boy. So refined were all three’s shooting skills their shots entered artistic space. It's hard to compare artists. What Bergkamp could do, Ronaldinho could too. There is a joke about a family of tomatoes walking down the street. Papa Tomato turns back and yells at trailing Kid Tomato: “Ketchup!” Zidane was neither Papa, nor the other two. He didn’t need to catch up too. His shot was more powerful just as Ronaldinho's and Bergkamp's was more precise.

Tie: Bergkamp, Ronaldinho, Zidane

Influence

Players with a quality of such magnitude not only shine in their respective clubs and national teams, but leave a mark on the history of football too. Undoubtedly those three were part of a bunch of players who exemplified the higher planes of the sport.

Zidane overshadowed legends such as Didier Deschamps, Thierry Henry, David Trezaguet and Marcel Dessaily in the French national side. Only the completely and utterly lost in bias failed to notice he was the most important player in the team. The event that showed his importance was the 2006 World Cup when, having come out of retirement, Zidane drove his country to the final, earning the competitions Best Player award.

If Bergkamp was a leader amongst leaders in an unlucky Netherlands national team, he was a humble god at Arsenal. With his arrival at the club in 1995, Arsenal transformed from a boring 1-0 side to one that played the most attractive football in Europe. Coincidences have little to do with his man’s career. Since his retirement in 2006, Arsenal have not won another Premier League. 

Before Messi, Barcelona was dancing under the tune of the samba king. Ronaldinho stood head and shoulders above everyone else during his five years at the Catalan club. But he also won trophies in every club he played.

Winner: Zidane

Goals and assists

The players’ positional differences played a role here, with Bergkamp and Ronaldinho being more offensive players than Zidane.

The numbers:

Zidane – 144 goals and 92 assists,

Bergkamp –202 goals and 155 assists.

Ronaldinho – 179 goals and 141 assists.

Winner: Bergkamp

Number of accolades won

Zidane won trophies in every single club he played – 15 trophies during his career. But he was the absolute king on the individual accolade front – 49 among which a Ballon D’or in 1998 and three times FIFA World Player of the Year.

Bergkamp stashed away 16 trophies during his career while he did not receive as much recognition on the individual front – 18 accolades – perhaps due to his fear of flying which caused him to miss many away games.

Ronaldinho won 18 trophies with clubs and the Brazil national side and 33 individually. He won the Ballon D’or once in 2005.

Winner: Zidane

What did their contemporaries think of them?

About Bergkamp:

“Played football like it was a dream – you couldn’t even imagine some of the things that he was capable of doing with a football.” Peter Schmeichel

“A genius and a pleasure to play with because he would always find space in which to receive the ball.” Emmanuel Pettit

“I have always said Dennis Bergkamp will remain the best partner I have ever played with.” Thierry Henry

About Zidane:

“He played like a ‘general’ in midfield. He has technique, tricks, passing and also had the ability to score some of the best goals.” Marco Van Basten

“When Zidane stepped onto the pitch, the 10 other guys just got suddenly better. It was magic.” Zlatan Ibrahimovic

“A true artist.” Marcel Dessaily

About Ronaldinho:

“You cannot compare anyone with Ronaldinho. He made history at Barcelona. He made history in the Brazil national team and he continues to make history.” Neymar

“Ronaldinho is a total class – a great player. He’s quick, powerful and has extraordinary technical qualities.” Zidane

“It is always a difficult talk to pick out the best player, but, for me Ronaldinho has been the player who played for the longest at the top of his game.” Pele

 

0

Add comment

Load More

Manchester CityAvram Grant: English football is ‘good education’ for Guardiola

LiverpoolLiverpool to break club transfer record on defender

ArsenalHenry reveals tricks of the goal-scoring trade

ArsenalWenger explains why he won’t sell Sanchez

ChelseaConte shows his paranoid side amidst Costa speculation

Arsenal EPL: Arsenal vs Leicester City preview

ArsenalArsenal: Does the formation change mean Wenger surrendered his values?

Tottenham HotspurLloris: Our identity remains intact after Chelsea loss

Tottenham HotspurManchester United want Tottenham star

ChelseaLuiz on why players tick under Conte's 3-4-3 and his critics

Manchester CitySane aims to disappoint Gunners again in FA Cup clash

LiverpoolKlopp urges Anfield crowd for support

 

Premier League

P GD Pts
1 Chelsea 33 40 78
2 Tottenham 33 47 74
3 Liverpool 34 28 66
4 Man City 33 28 65
5 Man Utd 33 26 64
6 Arsenal 32 24 60
7 Everton 34 23 58
8 West Brom 33 -3 44
9 Southampton 32 -5 40
10 Watford 33 -17 40
11 Stoke 34 -13 39
12 Crystal Palace 34 -8 38
13 Bournemouth 34 -14 38
14 West Ham 34 -15 38
15 Leicester 33 -13 37
16 Burnley 34 -16 36
17 Hull 34 -31 33
18 Swansea 34 -29 31
19 Middlesbrough 34 -19 27
20 Sunderland 33 -33 21
Subscribe
23,424 Subscribers
Select a reason...
Report   Cancel
Select a reason...
Report   Cancel
Select a reason...
Report   Cancel

Delete Post

Deleted posts are gone forever. Are you sure?

Изтий   Откажи

Discard

Discard edits to this post?

Discard   Откажи

Cancel Changes

Your changes will not be saved. Continue?

Yes   No

Reblog Post

Reblog this post to your followers?

Изпрати   Откажи

Undo Reblog
EditDeleteReport
MuteUnmuteReport

Mute Topic

This will prevent any content posted to this Topic from displaying in your feed.

Mute   Откажи

BlockUnblock

Block Member

Are you sure?

Block   Откажи

DeleteReport

Delete Comment

Are you sure?

Изтий   Откажи

Delete Account

All content will be permanently removed from the site. Are you sure?

Изтий   Откажи

RemoveUnbanPermissions




Update   Cancel

Unban User

Remove User

Remove Moderator

Remove yourself as a moderator

Are you sure?

Submit   Cancel

Leaving Moderation!

Are you sure you want to stop being a moderator?

Yes   No

Select a reason...
Submit   Cancel
Select a reason...
Submit   Cancel

By opting in to see NSFW content you certify that you are 18 years of age or older.

Yes   No