APEX Insight: Football instills fervor among fans, particularly when they opine how good a particular footballer is. Variables to determine the best player may include goals, assists, tackles, interceptions and blocks. Online travel agency Kiwi.com has devised a new method of determining football’s high flyers, using air mile data as a point of comparison.
Bill Shankly, a former Liverpool FC manager, famously said that football is “much more serious” than a matter of life and death. While such talk may seem like hyperbole, arguments among friends over whether Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo is the world’s best footballer have occasionally ended very badly.
Online travel agency Kiwi.com has devised a new method of comparing the “beautiful game’s” high flyers by looking at the amount of air miles top players rack up throughout their careers. “We decided to have a bit of fun with the data and looked at the miles traveled by a selection of footballers over their professional careers,” says Kiwi.com. Could this data be used as a barometer of footballers’ success on the pitch?
Professional footballers travel not only for their domestic leagues and cups, but also internationally for annual continental club competitions and official national team games. The logic behind air miles as a tool of comparison is that players who have played regularly and have won knockout tournaments such as the World Cup, the Champions League and European Championship will have had to travel by air to play in games around the world because of their team’s progression in such competitions. “It’s interesting to see just how far players have to travel in order to compete at the highest level,” noted Stephen Davis, Kiwi.com’s chief marketing officer. “On top of this are the millions of miles that fans clock up when they follow their teams across the globe. We can often track which team is playing where by flight searches made on Kiwi.com.”
Kiwi.com’s findings confirm football’s big name players are also the sport’s most frequent flyers. It’s no surprise that strikers in the final stages of their career dominate the list of the 15 most well-traveled, which includes Robert Lewandowski, Wayne Rooney, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez, Neymar and Cristiano Ronaldo. But topping the list is 35-year-old Spanish goalkeeper Iker Casillas, who has racked up a combined 564,379.76 air miles in his 21 years as a professional footballer. Among retired players, Raul Gonzalez is the most well-traveled, having flown an impressive 679,424.82 miles.
The company acknowledges that its analysis could have been more extensive: “Other footballers could have made the list, however the players here were chosen based on number of appearances and career success with a focus mainly on strikers and scoring midfielders, with the exception of two goalkeepers.”