Defending in football has become harder and harder over the years, the increased emphasis on ball retention in youth systems have resulted in making getting the ball back for an opponent, harder. This has lead to the decline in tackles completed over the past decade. So apart from tackles, what other statistics could be used to define a ball winner? Interceptions is one of them and statistically, there is currently no one better at it in the top five divisions of European football than Javi Fuego.
Even with the naked eye it is obvious that ultra attacking, high pressure systems have risen to the forefront all across Europe. This of course has lead to the increased amount of interceptions as teams aim to win the ball back as quickly as possible higher up the pitch. Using the statistics of whoscored.com from the 2011/2012 season, Javi Fuego was by far the best interceptor around, making on average an incredible 7.1 interceptions per game, 1.5 more than any other player. Not only is Javi Fuego an excellent interceptor of the ball but is also a good tackler, making 4.4 a game which although isn't perhaps as outstanding of some of the more big names in Europe , it still isn't one which should be ignored as the combined total of interceptions and tackles made by Fuego beats anyone.
Of course there would be opposition to this claim, He perhaps isn't as good a passer as others in Europe and with Rayo playing such a high pressure system last season it does enable Fuego to have more opportunities to win the ball back, meaning that others could do just as well if not better given the chance. However, a player who can make 7.1 interceptions a game alongside 4.4 tackles should surely result in a transfer move this summer? Particularly with Rayo's current debt problems and the fact that he's currently only worth 3 million euros (according to transfermarkt.co.uk). He does what a ball winning midfielder is meant to do, and as of the 2011/2012 season, there is no one better in Europe at it.
Who do you think is the best ball winning midfielder in the world? Is the interception stat one which should be considered more seriously? Do you think your team should sign him? Leave your comments below.