Pass masters and a purchase
© AFP

FIFA.com’s latest stats review features milestones for a Barcelona trio, Rivaldo’s latest move, Loic Remy’s aerial ability, a record-breaking Juventus run and the success of Swansea’s passing philosophy.

400

 Liga appearances was the milestone Xavi marked in style on Sunday with the opener in Barcelona’s 4-2 win over Real Betis. The 31-year-old became the first player in the club’s history to reach such an impressive tally, and he wasn’t the only man at Camp Nou celebrating a landmark. Indeed, Xavi’s goal helped secure the 100th league win of Pep Guardiola’s tenure as coach, enabling the 40-year-old to follow in the footsteps of Johan Cruyff (179), Frank Rijkaard (112) and Rinus Michels (105). Lionel Messi, who will make his 300th Barça appearance in this evening’s Copa del Rey showdown with Real Madrid, struck twice against Betis and has now scored 86 times in 85 competitive appearances for the Catalan giants since the start of last season. The only cloud on the horizon for the European and world champions was the ending of their 12-match run of home clean sheets, leaving them one short of the club record.

85.2

per cent is the passing success rate that has established Swansea City as the sixth-most accurate distributors in Europe’s five major leagues. Only Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Manchester City, Real Madrid and Chelsea have been more successful at keeping the ball than the newly-promoted Welsh side, who on Sunday outpassed and outclassed Arsenal to inflict the Gunners’ 100th Premier League defeat under Arsene Wenger. The Swans are also one of only three teams – Arsenal and Manchester City being the others – who have completed over 11,000 passes in the Premier League this season, with title challengers Manchester United, Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur among those left trailing in their wake. No-one better personifies Swansea’s philosophy than midfielder Leon Britton, whose personal passing success rate of 93.3 per cent this season leaves him ahead of even the world’s foremost playmaker, Xavi (93 per cent during 2011/12). As merited as it was, Brendan Rodgers’ side’s 3-2 victory on Sunday was truly remarkable; after all, it’s only nine years since Arsenal were to be found at the top of the Premier League, and Swansea at the bottom of England’s fourth tier.

18

matches without defeat have given Juventus their best-ever start to a Serie A season. It is six decades since La Vecchia Signora enjoyed such a lengthy unbeaten streak, and no other team in Europe’s top five leagues can compete, with Borussia Dortmund’s current 11-game run coming closest. The Italian league leaders did, however, drop points in Saturday’s 1-1 draw with Cagliari, continuing the unbeaten record of Rossoblu sides at the Juventus Stadium, with Bologna and Genoa already having escaped with draws. Elsewhere, Inter Milan won their sixth game on the trot as Claudio Ranieri maintained his unbeaten record in eight Italian derby matches – spread across Turin, Rome and Milan – with a 1-0 victory over AC Milan.

13

clubs across four continents have now had Rivaldo on their books after the 39-year-old this week put pen to paper with Angola’s Kabuscorp. The 1999 FIFA World Player of the Year, who won 74 Brazil caps, makes the move to the Portuguese-speaking African nation just three months before turning 40. Despite announcing in 2006, while with Greek side Olympiacos, that he would not play another season, Rivaldo has gone on to enjoy spells with AEK Athens, Uzbekistan’s Bunyodkor and Sao Paulo before completing this latest, unexpected switch.

6

headed goals, the most recent of which came in Sunday’s 2-0 win over Lille, have established Marseille’s Loic Remy as the joint-most prolific scorer of such goals in Europe’s top five leagues this season. Only Wolverhampton Wanderers’ Steven Fletcher has proved as potent in the air, and Remy’s headed opener emanated from a predictable source: Mathieu Valbuena. The diminutive schemer has set up half of Remy’s ten goals this season, and leads the Ligue 1 assist chart with ten already in 2011/12. Elsewhere, Dijon’s Brice Jovial scored the 500th goal of the current French league season – the first time this milestone has been reached as early in a Ligue 1 campaign since 1984/85.