Bukayo Saka: Top Attributes of World Class Players After Rio Ferdinand’s Comments

Bukayo Saka: Top Attributes of World Class Players After Rio Ferdinand’s Comments

Martin Moses
updated at February 29, 2024 at 7:35 AM
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  • Rio Ferdinand recently ruffled a few feathers after he claimed Bukayo Saka was not yet world-class
  • The Arsenal winger has been the leading light of Mikel Arteta's side, registering impeccable numbers
  • Sports Brief delves into the divisive online topic of what key attributes make any player world-class

Rio Ferdinand recently sparked a massive debate on social media after he sensationally claimed that Bukayo Saka was not a world-class player.

The comment took many people aback, including Arsenal legend, Ian Wright, who fired back at the retired defender, calling his remark 'needless'.

Bukayo Saka, Rio Ferdinand, world-class players, Erling Haaland, Phil Foden, Premier League, Kevin De Bruyne, Mohamed Salah
Bukayo Saka celebrates after scoring for Arsenal against Newcastle United on February 24. Photo by John Walton/PA Images.
Source: Getty Images

To prove that it wasn't a temporary memory loss, the Manchester United icon reiterated his comments while on a flight to Portugal with Arsenal fans for their Champions League match against Porto.

The question brought about a heated debate about who world-class players are and what attributes one needs to have to be considered as such.

Ferdinand's explanation was immediately vindicated after Saka failed to star in a drab Arsenal performance in the Champions League.

Rio Ferdinand on Bukayo Saka

"He hasn't done it in the Champions League, has he? I'm talking in the nitty-gritty stages. Saka's top, don't get me wrong. He's not world-class yet," he said on his VIBE with FIVE podcast.

Saka's growth has been phenomenal over the years since Unai Emery handed him his debut on November 29, 2018, in a Europa League match. He has been used as a left-back and a wing-back before nailing his position as a right-winger and a leader of Mikel Arteta's attack in recent seasons.

Bukayo Saka's incredible numbers

His goal involvements have also seen him become Gareth Southgate's second pick in England's attack after talisman, Harry Kane. This season, the 22-year-old has 13 goals and seven assists in the Premier League alone.

The same numbers have seen him get compared to other greats in the game like the aforementioned Kane, Liverpool dangerman Mohamed Salah, Wayne Rooney, Kylian Mbappe, and even a five-time Ballon d'Or winner in an analysis done by Sky Sports.

So, Rio, if this doesn't make a player world-class, then what does? Supersport TV's sportscaster and Homeboyz Radio presenter, Lotan Salapei, agrees with Ferdinand.

"I know people will argue that Saka has been carrying Arsenal for the last couple of seasons, but his lack of major trophies is a big concern. He wasn't the X-factor in the FA Cup Arsenal won in 2020. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Nicolas Pepe won the trophy for the Gunners. Saka shouldn't be credited with that win," Lotan told Sports Brief.

The Manchester City fan also drew comparisons between Saka and his national teammate, Phil Foden.

"If I am being objective, both players are phenomenal, but Foden is always going to be a little bit ahead by virtue of what he has won."

At only 23 years of age, Foden has already racked up five Premier League titles, a Champions League, and a host of other cups.

What makes a player world-class?

Lotan then shared what he felt makes a player world-class and why he believes Saka is yet to hit those levels.

"One, you have to be clutch in key moments. You must step up in the moments defining a season, especially if that moment gets you silverware. You look at the number of goals Erling Haaland scores that helps Manchester City win titles; definitely makes him world-class."

He also threw a subtle jab, comparing Saka to other brilliant players at other clubs who haven't won anything yet.

"You can be a local lad like Andros Townsend, Eberechi Eze, or Michael Olise, where people love you at your club, and they think you are world-class, but you aren't."

Which Premier League players are world-class?

Lotan's list of world-class players in the Premier League is more or less the same as Ferdinand's. After obvious picks in Manchester City's Haaland, Kevin De Bruyne, Rodri, and a more surprising one in Josko Gvardiol, he also went for Liverpool players like Mohamed Salah, Alisson, and Andrew Robertson.

"I don't think Arsenal have a world-class player at the moment. Declan Rice is good, but the trophy he won with West Ham is the Carabao Cup version of UEFA. I need to see more."

He also reserved a thought for Tottenham Hotspur's captain, Heung-min Son, and Chelsea's Thiago Silva as the other world-class players in the Premier League. The latter's longevity and ability to keep putting in top performances at 39 years makes his case easier to argue.

Saka has kept silencing his naysayers in the Premier League but will need to do more in the Champions League. The Gunners have a do-or-die second-leg encounter on March 13 against a Porto side leading 1-0.

The Big Ears trophy and the Premier League are the two trophies Arteta's boys are chasing this season. Should Arsenal win one, then perhaps guys like Ferdinand and Lotan would change their minds about him.

Saka answers Ferdinand

Sports Brief had earlier reported that Saka responded to Rio Ferdinand's controversial comments on him not being world-class.

The 22-year-old scored a breathtaking goal against Newcastle United a few days after Ferdinand said he wasn't yet at that level.

That strike was Saka's 13th of the current campaign as the Gunners maintained their pressure on both Liverpool and Man City.

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Martin Moses
Martin Moses is a sports journalist with over five years of experience in media. He graduated from Multimedia University of Kenya (Bachelor of Journalism, 2017-2021)