We all knew that Luis Suarez has been having a special season. His twenty goals and ten assists in just fifteen Premier League matches attests to that plenty well, but now we have further evidence to support that.
The International Center For Sports Studies (CIES) works with FIFA to "encourage continual progress and sustainable development in the management of sport around the world". The Switzerland-based outfit takes what appears to be a diverse and multi-tiered approach to sports analysis and is trying to improve analytical methods around the game.
Earlier this week, they released the results of their ongoing statistical analysis to determine the best players at each position in Europe. For the striker position, Suarez was found to be at the top of the dog pile for the season so far, with Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo and Barcelona's Neymar coming in second and third, respectively. Lionel Messi was left off the list, as a pair of injury spells have limited his playing time.
The methodology behind the rankings isn't explained in detail, but CIES did say this about how they came to their conclusions:
The rankings compare players according to key performance indicators exclusively developed by the CIES Football Observatory academic team using data provided by our partner Opta Pro. The indicators measure both the production and efficiency of players in six complementary areas of the game: shooting, chance creation, take on, distribution, recovery and rigour (see explanation below).
All the indicators are perfectly comparable at international level as they were developed by taking into account the differences between leagues in both the style of play and game intensity.
While there's no trophy or official honors to go along with this, it does serve as a confirmation for Suarez, the club, and the fanbase that Liverpool has one of the best players in the world. The form the Uruguayan has been in is ludicrous to try and comprehend, and to see it acknowledged by the sporting world at large is good to see.
It seems especially poignant with the Ballon d'Or results fast approaching, with the big ceremony coming on Monday. Suarez faces steep odds to even finish in the top five, but this is an indicator that, should he be able to carry this form on for as much of the next calendar year as he can, he might have a shot as a dark horse candidate next year.
It is worth noting, though, that some of their other results are a little... odd. Sergio Aguero has been out with injury for the last month, but to leave him and his 19 all-comps goals off the list is bizarre. Marco Verratti has had a breakout season of sorts with Paris Saint-Germain, but to call him the best central mid of the season so far seems a bit much, particularly when Juventus' Arturo Vidal has been astounding, yet finds himself in third place in the same category. That, to me at least, was the standout oddity, though if you look at the full listing a few other names stand out as strange.
Liverpool was represented by only one other player on the full list, with Steven Gerrard coming in at seventh among European central mids. CIES rated him at second in England at the position behind Aaron Ramsey. Glen Johnson popped up at second in England among fullbacks, with Manchester City's Pablo Zabaleta leading the pack there. Rumored Liverpool target Antoine Griezmann of Real Sociedad came in 10th among European forwards, and fifth among those based in Spain.