It’s a well-known fact that Spanish players, and by association their La Liga colleagues, are the best in the world when it comes to passing the ball, right?
Thanks to Pep Guardiola, Lionel Messi and his Tiki-Taka team-mates, possession is the latest must-have accessory in football. Kind of like soccer’s equivalent of a Mulberry handbag. Or something like that anyway…
But while all and sundry praise Spain’s pass masters not everyone is quite so confident that Pep and his former pals are on another planet compared to their peers.
A recent report in Spanish newspaper El Pais revealed that it is in fact the Premier League where you'll find teams most willing to stroke the ball around – while if it is goals you’re after then the top tier of English football is the place to be as well.
So with the Premier League stealing La Liga’s unofficial crown as the home of total football, GMF decided to investigate to see if Barcelona could at least hold on to their individual crown as Europe’s finest possession specialists. All statistics courtesy of WhoScored.com.
5. AC Milan
Struggling to make their considerable weight felt in Serie A and with a manager whose head is comfortably nestled above the parapet, AC Milan find solace in the fact that they play an attractive brand of football.
The Rossoneri have a remarkable 13 players whose pass success rate for this season is over 80%, while Daniele Bonera leads the way with a Barca-esque 92.6%
The Gunners have oft been described as “Barca-lite” in the past and it seems as though they're still living up to that tag, 16-and-a-half years on from the start of Arsene Wenger’s north London revolution.
Midfield metronome Mikel Arteta keeps things ticking along nicely in the middle of the park, attempting on average 92.6 passes per game, and completing an impressive 85%. If only there was a trophy for that…
3. Manchester United
Sir Alex Ferguson doesn’t usually deal in being second best if his glittering 26 years in charge of Manchester United are anything to go by, so lord knows how he’ll feel about his side being only third amongst Europe’s finest passing teams.
Wily veteran Paul Scholes is still showing the young upstarts how it’s done with a brilliant 92.5% pass completion rate. (Not so) young pretender Michael Carrick averages the most passes per game. Whoever said “you don’t win anything with kids” must be right…
2. Bayern Munich
Pep Guardiola’s arrival at the Allianz Arena next season may help Bayern claim top spot in the passing table, but for now they’ll have to make do with second place, - something they have gotten used to after a disastrous campaign last term in which they missed out on the Champions League, the Bundesliga and the German Cup final….the list goes on.
Midfield powerhouse Bastian Schweinsteiger is the driving force behind his side’s style, playing on average over 71 passes a game.
Of course it is those Catalan conquerors that top the pile – how could they miss out with the likes of Xavi, Andres Iniesta and Lionel Messi popping it round the park for fun?
Xavi is indeed king of the lot and attempts an astonishing 103 passes per game, more than any other player in Europe’s top five leagues. The 32-year-old is also the most accurate passer, completing an unnervingly 95% of those he attempts.
So there you have it. While La Liga lags behind the Premier League as a whole, Barcelona are still in a league of their own when it comes to keeping the ball. And passing it. Then passing it some more. Leave your comment about who you think the best passing side in Europe is below!