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Is Defoe Jer-main Man?

“HE’S an amazing finisher. Wayne Rooney’s fantastic – a complete all-round player – but as a finisher, Defoe is the best out there.” – Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp on Jermain Defoe (22.11.09)

After his five goal haul against Wigan, Jermain Defoe is being touted as England’s most lethal finisher ahead of the World Cup. Harry Redknapp described him as the “best finisher” in the English game, however, can he be considered best finisher in the world? In short, the answer is a resounding no.

The benchmark to measure a finisher is simple, his goal scoring record. A top striker will not have a touch of the ball in 89 minutes and then pop up with a goal from nowhere at the death. World class finishers lurk around in the 18-yard box waiting for their chance to unleash a shot, shadowing the defender like a lion, waiting to pounce on its prey.

Ruud Van Nistelrooy is an example of a truly ‘world class’ finisher. He has scored 233 goals in 385 games giving him an awe inspiring games-between-goals ratio of 1.6. Ronaldo has an even more impressive 1.4 ratio after 331 games. Defoe has scored 153 goals in 362 games giving him a ratio of 2.4. Though this is still a good return, it shows you the fact that Defoe is ‘not in the same league’ as these hotshots. To be the world’s best finisher you must have a ratio below a goal every 2 games, it’s an unwritten requirement.

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These statistics are reinforced by the fact that in top flight football, in Defoe’s best scoring season, he still only netted 13 times (back in 2004/05). Though he seems almost certain to smash that record this year, it only compounds the fact that a player who is ‘the world’s best finisher’ would be averaging at least 20 goals a season, season after season – a la Thierry Henry.

Labelling Defoe as the world’s best finisher could also be looking far too much at short term form and current media praise. In 1999/2000, Kevin Phillips won the European Golden Boot, netting 30 league goals for Sunderland. You would struggle to find someone who would ever have labelled Phillips ‘the world’s best finisher’, even during that glory season. Yet he has achieved far more than Defoe ever has in front of goal, so why is Defoe worthy of such praise in comparison?

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Perhaps Defoe is simply a late bloomer, beginning his peak aged 27 rather than at 23 or 24. Maybe Jermain has finally found a club and system which can get the best out of him. Whatever the reason, he certainly has time on his side to become a great in modern football.

Defoe may soon flood the Premiership with goals, allowing him to establish himself amongst the best forwards in the world. But until the day when the trophies and individual accolades sit proudly in the cabinet, there is no basis for considering Jermain Defoe the ‘world’s best finisher’.



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