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Sorry, what? Phil Jones ranked as the best young defender in Europe

Even the biggest Manchester United fans will be surprised to read the results of a new study.

Phil Jones tops the list for central defenders.
Phil Jones tops the list for central defenders.
Image: EMPICS Sport

ALEX FERGUSON FAMOUSLY tipped Phil Jones to eclipse the likes of Bobby Charlton, George Best, Eric Cantona, Roy Keane and Cristiano Ronaldo and become Manchester United’s “best ever player” two years ago.

The English defender, a £16 million signing from Blackburn Rovers in 2011, began his career at the club promisingly but endured a tough patch while being played in a number of different positions before showing encouraging signs again under Louis van Gaal this season.

However, it will still come as a shock to most to learn that, according to new research from the International Centre for Sports Studies (CIES), Jones ranks as the top U23 central defender in European football.

The study looks at a series of key performance indicators (KPIs) which include shooting, distribution, rigour, recovery, take-on, and chance creation and breaks players up into five outfield positions — Centre backs, full-backs, defensive midfielders, attacking midfielders and forwards.

To be eligible, players must have featured in at least 50% of their club’s game minutes since the start of the season.

And, surprisingly, Jones beats the likes of the supremely-talented Raphael Varane (Real Madrid and France), Marquinhos (PSG and Brazil), Stefan de Vrij (Lazio and Netherlands) and Jose Gimenez (Atletico Madrid and Uruguay).

Phil Jones stats Source:

Elsewhere Italy’s Marco Verratti (PSG) edges out France international Paul Pogba (Juventus) to the top spot in midfield, while Neymar (Barcelona and Brazil) is pipped by in-form compatriot Felipe Anderson (Lazio and Brazil) in the forwards.

Other Premier League stars who feature are Philippe Coutinho (Liverpool and Brazil), Raheem Sterling (Liverpool and England), Ross Barkley (Everton and England), Christian Eriksen (Spurs and Denmark), Calum Chambers (Arsenal and England), Erik Lamela (Spurs and Argentina) and Harry Kane (Spurs and England).

See the lists in full here

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About the author:

Ben Blake

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