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Where Have the Stars Gone?

Wayne Rooney Sky TV pub signThis World Cup has had just about anything and everything a football fan would demand out of the event that arrives every fourth year.  If you want close matches then look no further then the two or three penalty shootouts that have already occurred.  If you want big upsets then look no further then Brazil, Argentina, England, France, and Italy’s early departures from South Africa.  If you want a first time champion then look no further then Holland and Spain to possibly hoist their first ever World Cup.  And if you want the sound of vuvuzelas clamoring in your ears then please turn up the volume just a bit louder.

But the one issue that has been lacking this World Cup (besides the poor officiating)  is the presence of the superstar player.   Where has the world renowned star gone this summer?

Rooney, Ronaldo, Kaka, Ribery, and Messi scored a combined total of one goal this summer in South Africa.  And although Spain is still alive for now their pre-tournament favorite goal scorer Fernando Torres is also still scoreless this summer.  The answer to such a question is simple.  The league star hasn’t all together vanished from the pitch this summer, it is just a different game on the international level then what we are used to in league play.

First off, all of these men play for an outstanding league side.  That means that the players regularly feeding them the ball are among the best in the entire world at doing so and are thus much like an all star team.  Sure many of these nations have excellent supporting staffs and great star players on paper, but few of these national teams have the true role players a side like Man U or Barcelona has and few of these national teams have a collective group of players that play together year round.  If Messi was granted Spain’s starting midfield (much like the Barca squad is composed of) or if Rooney had Scholes and Giggs to distribute him the ball then more goals would be scored simply because the players understand each other’s style even more so then the one’s playing together on the international level and therefore the league combinations work together much better then their selected FIFA squads.

Also many star players are forced to switch positions when they play in the World Cup.  Messi is more of a distributor of the ball for his Argentina side then his striker position of Barcelona, so scoring goals shouldn’t be a major concern for his international play.  Setting up goals is another story though and anybody that watched Messi knows that although he didn’t score goals he certainly was responsible for them happening. 

But these are a few of the reasons why the star has been absent of the World Cup and for each one I’m sure their is a different credible reason why they failed to impress.  For Ronaldo and Rooney it is likely because their respected national teams are not as talented overall at team-oriented football as Real Madrid or Manchester United and often the two men have to set up their own chances with their respected nation.  For Messi (and perhaps Kaka) the change in their tactical position often affects their statistical output.  And for Ribery let’s not even discuss the many failing ways of the French.

In short it is a different game on the international level and all the teams, players, and manager’s decisions affect the fate of the supposed star player. 

Creative Commons License photo credit: jontintinjordan