Wednesday, September 25, 2013

As almost ever when the world cup finals are played, the best players of the year were selected from the finalists. Such selections always look a bit suspicious, for they ignore those who did not play at the world cup no matter how good or steady they were. 1978 was no exception of course – Dirceu (Brazil) was voted third in South America. Since the world cup was also the largest and most dynamic market, Dirceu started the year with one club and finished it with another – in the yearly list, he represented America (Mexico City), where he moved after the World Cup, after a few years with Vasco da Gama (Rio de Janeiro). Second was voted Ubaldo Fillol (River Plate) – deservingly so, for he was rock solid at the world cup. And number one was Mario Kempes (Valencia, Spain).
Kempes was the most talked of player in 1978, his pictures everywhere, the hero of the world cup. But was he really the best? Yes, he led Argentina to victory, scoring the most important goals. Strikers traditionally get most attention, even become over-exposed. It has been 'Kempes, Kempes, Kempes'... after June. Unlike Fillol and even Dirceu, Kempes really shined in the second half of the world cup finals. On club level, he had a strong year, but hardly was the top player in Spain. In Europe, he was not overwhelming – there were at least ten players ranked higher than him. In South America – hard to tell, for those who did not played at the world cup were ignored. It is impossible to really compare after all – to s point, winning the world title is the highest achievement. Kempes was instrumental when really mattered, he was in great from, showed very strong character and determination. Not a player to be ignored surely. One of the best players in the world of the time. He got the most votes at the end and this cannot be disputed. So, a new top South American player, after seven years of same names (Figueroa, five years in a row, followed by Zico, voted best twice).