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Is the world’s third best striker at the Bernabeu today? Robin van Persie is pretty good, too

Feb 13, 2013, 9:31 AM EST

Manchester United Training Session Getty Images

The debate of best forward in the world begins and ends at Leo Messi; most of us agree on that.

Cristiano Ronaldo looks like the clear No. 2 to many of us. Fair to say the Real Madrid man would land there on most lists.

But who is No. 3?

More to the point, are Nos. 2 and 3 paired up scrumptiously for today’s huge match, Manchester United’s sensational visit to Real Madrid. (It’s “the match the world is waiting for,” you know.)

Another of the fascinating subplots entwined in today’s titanic Champions League Clash in Madrid is Robin van Persie’s attempts to bang his way into the conversation of world’s best striker. Manchester United’s first-choice sniper has 19 goals in 26 matches this year. That puts the Dutchman just a bit behind pace (although not too terribly far) in matching last year’s stunning totals, 37 goals in 48 appearances in his last year at Arsenal.

Is there anyone else who can insert his high-scoring feet into the conversation?

Paris Saint-Germain’s Zlatan Ibrahimovic? Brazil’s Neymar? Anybody for Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, a latecomer to the conversation, now 29 years old?

For most of us, it’s van Persie. The simplest way to break down Manchester United’s gallop away from the field in this year’s Premier League race – about as much of a “race” right now as me facing Usain Bolt – is van Persie’s extraordinary proficiency near goal.

Hand the Dutchman to Manchester City, this thing would likely look much different. Maybe you could even say the same for Chelsea or even Tottenham, dare say. (The Premier League table is here.)

Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson, who had Ronaldo for six years at Old Trafford, said van Persie is getting close to the game’s gold standard in goal scorers:

Robin is approaching the level of Ronaldo and Messi. His arrival at our place has been nothing but sensational. He has been a breath of fresh air to the young players and also a good coach to them. Twenty-three goals tells you everything.”

  1. cdhoeger - Feb 13, 2013 at 11:55 AM

    What about Radamel Falcao? My list would be Leo Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, RvP, then Falcao, but the gap between 3 and 4 is pretty razor thin.

  2. mdac1012 - Feb 13, 2013 at 12:15 PM

    I think based on performance vs. level of completion, cdhoeger has the four guys. The first two are a non argument, the only debate is van Persie vs. Falcao. Ibrahimović and Drogba might have been on some people’s list prior to this year, but based on where they are playing they are not facing the level of competition day in and day out that the other four are.

    Drogba would have been better off in MLS, at least his paychecks would have cleared.

  3. wfjackson3 - Feb 13, 2013 at 1:38 PM

    It is hard to argue against RvP. He has been incredibly consistent for years, at least when he isn’t hurt. And his array of abilities is very wide. Not nearly as wide as Ibra, but I think you take the consistency in this case.

    On a sidenote, I just watched a replay of Dempsey’s goal against Honduras, and it reminded me of a goal RvP scored last season. It was a truly world class strike.

  4. doublezero74 - Feb 13, 2013 at 2:06 PM

    Falcao es número tres. Estupido

  5. liamj55 - Feb 13, 2013 at 11:56 PM

    I would say the 3rd person is Gareth Bale. It is hard to argue Falcao & RVP but I think in a very short time it won’t be close and we will be talking about Bale possibly passing Ronaldo.

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