Rodri head possession but lags MLS’s Darlington Nagbe

February 7 – Statistics from the CIES Football Observatory have revealed Manchester City’s Rodri as the top midfielder for ball retention ‘under high pressure’ in Europe’s Big 5 five leagues, but an MLS player has pipped him to the worldwide top spot.

Ball retention has become a key attribute as top managers look to maintain possession in the attacking half.

The best percentage in absolute terms was recorded for Columbus Crew’s 33-year-old Darlington Nagbe at 93.4%. The Eastern conference side scored the most goals of any team in the MLS last year as they marched towards victory in the MLS cup.

Nagbe outshines four prominent midfielders in possession statistics: Manchester City’s Rodri, Barcelona’s Frenkie de Jong, Real Madrid’s Toni Kroos, and Bayer Leverkusen’s Granit Xhaka, who round out the top five in the list.

Each of these high-flying players operate within a top-performing, possession-focussed team, showing that the individual ability to keep possession also depends on the solutions offered by teammates.

The oldest member of the list is Portland Timbers’ 37-year-old veteran Diego Chara, closely followed by Corinthians’ Renato Augusto and Inter Miami’s Sergio Busquets.

In the top five leagues, Villarreal’s 34-year-old Dani Parejo is the oldest entry with Toni Kroos, also 34, close behind.

The three youngest players in the top 100 are Paris St-Germain’s 17-year-old Frenchman Warren Zaïre-Emery, Barcelona’s 19-year-old established talent Pablo Gavi and Hull City’s 21-year-old loanee Tyler Morton who will return to parent club Liverpool in the summer.

Despite his shaky start to the season following a record-breaking move to Chelsea in the summer, 22-year-old Ecuadorean Moises Caicedo is the youngest Premier League player to feature in the top 100 list.

CIES said the data only refers to the current season or the last completed one for summer leagues. Only footballers who have played at least 1,000 domestic league minutes have been included in the rankings.

To see the full data click here.

Contact the writer of this story, Harry Ewing, at moc.l1708364167labto1708364167ofdlr1708364167owedi1708364167sni@g1708364167niwe.1708364167yrrah1708364167