Diving is either football’s worst crime or its darkest skill but whichever side of the debate you fall on it can be collectively agreed some are far better than others.
The feigned fall has been a topical debate of late with examples across Europe and on the international stage bringing it back into discussion.
After Cristiano Ronaldo‘s pathetic attempt to deceive the referee in Portugal’s 3-0 loss to the Netherlands, we examine five current footballers with a reputation for diving.
Rochdale, Huddersfield, Watford, Liverpool and Crystal Palace are just five clubs to have witnessed the exploits of “Divey Alli”. The 21-year-old Tottenham midfielder has been booked three times this season for simulation, burgeoning his reputation as a serial diver. The personal nadir no doubt was against Palace when he laughably collapsed to the ground despite non-existent contact from goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey.
No, this is not an agenda against Spurs or English players but Kane has also faced several accusations of simulation this season. He’s better than his teammate Alli at it, however, earning a penalty against Liverpool and avoiding punishment in the Champions League win over Juventus. Kane is a little more subtle, deliberately looking to attract contact before going to ground, as opposed to decking it with no touch.
The Arsenal forward is prone to naturally falling over, albeit from aired shots rather than an intentional bid to con referees. However, his blatant dive to earn a penalty in the Europa League second-leg tie with AC Milan was one for the ages. It was the latest evidence in the case against Welbeck with two other incidents – one against Wigan and the other against Spurs – occurring during his Manchester United career.
Level with Alli on three bookings for simulation in the Premier League this season is Crystal Palace winger Zaha. “Zaha is a wonderful, exciting player but diving is his biggest flaw,” said Chris Sutton after the controversial penalty he won against Manchester City. He won another under dubious circumstances against Bournemouth but was retrospectively cleared on both occasions by the FA.
And to our most obvious target. There is a playlist on YouTube dedicated to Ronaldo dives and while new camera angles suggested his effort against the Netherlands wasn’t quite his worst, it’s not the first time he’s stood/fallen accused this term. Against Celta Vigo a poor attempt went unpunished and in the trip to PSG in the Champions League he was felled by minimal contact. In recent years, the Real Madrid star has been equally prolific in front of goal as he is at finding the ground.
Step aside, attacking midfielders and flying wingers, and make room for the defenders who can’t help but set up goals.
With the way modern full-backs operate, there’s no surprise that there are several defenders across Europe’s top five leagues edging towards double figures for assists in their domestic campaigns this season.
What will come as a surprise though are a couple of the names included in this top five list for defenders with the most league assists in the 2017/18 campaign.
JOSHUA KIMMICH | BAYERN MUNICH
Minutes Played: 1883
Most Assisted: Robert Lewandowski (5)
Filling the boots of the legendary Philipp Lahm was always going to be a gargantuan task but Joshua Kimmich has gone about attempting to do so with aplomb.
Along with continuity in that right-back role, he’s also brought loads of assists, leading the way among defenders in Europe with nine in the league this season – five of which set up Robert Lewandowski.
JORDI ALBA | BARCELONA
Minutes Played: 2189
Most Assisted: Lionel Messi (5)
The pacey Spanish full-back has a reputation for being more of an auxiliary winger than a defender.
Never resisting the opportunity to venture forward, Alba has done so even more often this season with players like Andres Iniesta and Philippe Coutinho occupying the left flank and drifting inside, allowing him to bomb down the outside and pick out forwards – usually Lionel Messi – with his cut-backs.
ALEKSANDAR KOLAROV | ROMA
Minutes Played: 2399
Most Assisted: Eden Dzeko (3)
The former Manchester City player’s hammer of a left foot has held him in good stead during his spell at Roma.
Apart from powering in efforts from range, he’s also capable of picking out a team-mate and that has only added to his repertoire despite the fact that he isn’t as quick any more at the age of 32.
CHRIS BRUNT | WEST BROM
Minutes Played: 1293
Most Assisted: Ahmed Hegazy, Craig Dawson, Salomon Rondon (2 each)
Definitely the shock inclusion on this list. Why? Well, he’s hardly first choice – for a team doomed for relegation at that – and all but one of his assists have come in defeats.
A portion of his assists have come when he’s played in midfield, but considering he usually provides from set-pieces, that doesn’t really make a difference.
AARON CRESSWELL | WEST HAM
Minutes Played: 1293
Most Assisted: N/A (six separate scorers)
The Englishman’s crossing is among the best in the Premier League and when the Hammers signed him in 2014, many expected him to strike up a partnership with chief aerial threat Andy Carroll.
Despite, the striker failing to enjoy any sort of fitness or consistency, Cresswell has kept whipping in delicious crosses, served up for any takers waiting inside the box.
“I know you are tired. I know you are psychologically and emotionally exhausted. But you have to smile and continue,” Sanchez posted in Spanish on Instagram below a photo that showed him with a huge grin as he trained with Chile in Stockholm ahead of friendly with Sweden on Saturday.
Sanchez told reporters earlier in the week he had initially asked to skip friendlies with Sweden and Denmark on Tuesday before reversing his decision.
The 29-year-old joined United from Arsenal in January on a reported salary of £500,000 ($695,000) a week to become the top paid player in Premier League history.
He became one of the fall guys as United were dumped out of the Champions League by Sevilla last 16 last week and was dropped by United manager Jose Mourinho for an FA Cup quarter-final win over Brighton four days later.
Sanchez has scored just once in his first 10 games for United.
“It was a bit rough for me because it’s the first time I’ve changed a team in January,” said Sanchez, who added he had “expected something better” from himself during his first months under Mourinho.
Chile have not qualified for the World Cup in Russia, so Sanchez should get a prolonged summer break for the first time in five years.
Sanchez was a key member of the Chile team that won the Copa America back-to-back in 2015 and 2016, as well as the side that reached the last 16 at the 2014 World Cup and the 2017 Confederations Cup final.
Provided by AFP Sport