Whether it is back-page headlines, huge transfer fees or general public adoration, goalscorers are a natural focus of attention in the world of football. Today, FIFA.com turns the spotlight on the providers, the men who have earned praise and plaudits this season because they create the opportunities for others to finish off.
Gunners trio going strong
Arsenal boast no fewer than three stars at the top end of the Premier League’s provider ranking. Robin van Persie, renowned as an unselfish forward with an eye for an opening, has played the final ball for nine goals so far. The Dutch international heads a list also featuring two more of coach Arsene Wenger’s squad: Cesc Fabregas and Denilson are both on seven assists at present. Spain international Fabregas is blazing a trail in Europe too, as he has contributed five assists to his club’s UEFA Champions League campaign.
In Spain itself, the provider rankings are topped by one of the game’s true superstars. Barcelona maestro Xavi has played the killer final ball on 12 occasions in this season’s La Liga campaign. On the European stage, the 29-year-old Spain regular is level with Bayern’s Franck Ribery at the top of the assists rankings – and there could be more to come, as Xavi’s team are still in the competition.
Starlets to the fore
The seasoned Barcelona midfielder aside, two promising youngsters have shot to prominence as providers during the current campaign. Sevilla’s 23-year-old Jesus Navas and 20-year-old Juan Manuel Mata, a Real Madrid youth product who switched to Valencia in 2007, have both shown great perception and awareness of their team-mates’ positions, conjuring up ten and eight top-flight assists respectively.
Perhaps the least familiar of the names at the head of the provider charts is Pedro Leon. The Valladolid player, already with his third La Liga club but still a mere 22 years old, clearly feels at home with the Blanquivioleta, as his eight assists confirm.
Misimovic tops Bundesliga rankings
Bosnia-Herzegovina star Zvjezdan Misimovic is currently setting the standard in the German Bundesliga. The former Bayern Munich and Bochum schemer, who fills a classic playmaking role for leaders Wolfsburg, has laid on no fewer than 18 goals in his 27 league appearances so far this term. His fellow countryman Edin Dzeko (16 goals) and the league’s top scorer Grafite (22) have profited in equal measure from Misimovic’ creative ability. The Bosnian has chalked up seven further assists in the German and UEFA Cups.
Two Germany internationals have also proved prolific as providers this season. Borussia Monchengladbach winger Marko Marin is up to 12 assists, with Bastian Schweinsteiger of champions Bayern just behind him on 11.
Lefties lead the way in France
There is a slightly curious tenor to the situation in Ligue 1, where top three providers Michel Bastos (OSC Lille), Wendel (Girondins Bordeaux) and David Hellebuyck (OGC Nice) all favour their left foot. What's more, Bastos is skilled enough to hit the headlines for more than one reason. The Brazilian not only sets them up, he puts them away too, as his 13-goal tally testifies.
Moving eastwards, Cagliari lie eighth in Italy’s Serie A and are battling to remain in touch with the UEFA Europa League qualifying places, but they do boast the best provider duo in the section with Michele Fini (11) and Andrea Cossu (nine). Antonio Cassano from 12th-placed Sampdoria is also on nine assists this term.
Luis Suarez’ outstanding season
Looking at scorer points for goals and assists combined, the eye is drawn inexorably to the extraordinary stats posted by Uruguay star Luis Suarez. Plying his trade for Amsterdam giants Ajax in the Dutch Eredivisie, the front man currently boasts a prolific 21 goals and 14 assists. As if that were not enough, Suarez is also joint top of the provider rankings in South American qualifying for the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™, where he shares the lead with Salvador Cabanas of Paraguay.
Have your say
Which players spring to mind when you think of creators and providers? Who has impressed you most with their ability to play the decisive final ball, both in the past and at the present time? Just click 'Add your comment' to share your opinion with fans from all over the world.