Ferdinand challenges Arsenal’s Saka to show he’s world-class in Champions League

By on February 14, 2024

Bukayo Saka

On Vibe with Five, Premier League legend Rio Ferdinand says Arsenal’s Bukayo Saka isn’t world-class as he’s yet to prove himself in the Champions League knockout stages.

There’s no disputing how fantastic Saka has been for Arsenal over the last few seasons. The Hale End graduate has improved every game, season after season, since his debut, and he’s cemented his place in this Arsenal team.

The 22-year-old began his career as a left back, but his versatility and technical ability led to him being moved to Arsenal’s right wing, where he has since established himself as one of the best wingers. He can play right wing like no other Arsenal player can. He is outstanding; he is dependable, plays in practically every Arsenal game, and has a significant impact.

When Arsenal played West Ham, he reminded us of his brilliance. He scored in both halves to help Arsenal win 6-0. Alphonse Areola fouled him in the box, and he scored his first goal from the penalty spot. He scored his second in the 63rd minute, increasing his tally with a powerful shot into the bottom corner. These two goals bring his total for the season to 13 goals and 13 assists in 31 games; which is incredible given his young age.

Saka is arguably one of the best right wingers in Europe and Arsenal’s top player, but Ferdinand isn’t convinced that he’s world-class just yet.

Is Bukayo Saka world-class?

The Manchester United icon believes Saka needs to prove himself on the big stage, in the Champions League knockout stages, before he can be considered world class. On his Vibe with Five Podcast, Ferdinand said:

“Not yet. Listen, I think Saka’s been unreal. I actually think he needs a bit of a rest, so many games for a young kid. But I think it’s almost like, What is world-class? He hasn’t done it in the Champions League, has he? I’m talking in the nitty-gritty stages. Saka’s top; don’t get me wrong. He’s not world-class yet.”

Ferdinand’s claim makes sense to some, but I don’t agree with what he says. Yes, Arsenal havn’t played Champions League football and managed to reach the knockouts in a few years, but they qualified this season, and in his first five Champions League games, Saka has scored three goals and provided four assists. With seven Champions League goal contributions so far, I believe Saka is already a standout in this Champions League campaign.

Is he ‘world-class’? Maybe not. But if he isn’t world class, it’s not because he hasn’t shone in the Champions League knockout stages yet. Saka is still young and has plenty of time to develop his game even further.

Doing well on the big stage will of course help his case. Arsenal have a good opportunity to do well in the Champions League this season, and if Saka can help fire them to glory, perhaps then pundits like Ferdinand will change their mind.