Having a player in the team who possesses an engine and the mileage in his legs to endure 90 minutes at full pace can be a valuable asset. In fact, some football experts claim a player can forge a successful career on work rate alone—citing former Manchester United and PSV Eindhoven midfielder Ji-sung Park as an example.
But at the FIFA World Cup, which player can lay claim to the biggest engine? France’s Franck Ribery is certainly a candidate, as is Cristiano Ronaldo. Also, Opta Sports believe “Bayern Munich's Javi Martinez, AS Roma's Daniele De Rossi and Paris Saint German's Ezequiel Lavezzi” fit the archetypical box-to-box footballer who covers every blade of grass and displays relentless energy from the first minute to the final whistle.
Let’s not forget England’s Wayne Rooney who, according to the BBC Sports Academy, “covers around 11.82km during a match.” Few would argue with Dutch International and former Anfield terrace hero Dirk Kuyt taking the number one spot should he get the nod for the Netherlands. Nicknamed the “Duracell Bunny,” Kuyt's work rate is practically unmatched in world football, and he averages “13 kilometres per game” according to ESPN.
However, in spite of stiff competition, the award for the player with the best stamina has to go to Brazilian right-back Dani Alves. Dubbed a “sonic hedgehog” of football by The Guardian, Alves is renowned for covering every part of the pitch both in attack and defense. To put his footballing omnipresence into perspective, Zonal Marking claim in “the group stage of the Champions League, he completed more passes in the attacking third of the pitch than any other player in the tournament: 276.”
Granted it helps playing for what many consider to be the best passing side in Europe, but it’s still amazing considering he’s a right-back. Soccer Bible also offer some further insight into Dani Alves’ performance claiming,
“During 90 minutes Alves covered almost 9km, of which 1.2km were high intensity—either a sprint or a high-speed run. Alves embarked on 48 sprints, which is around one every two minutes, with a top-speed of 29.25kmh.”
So, despite not covering as much distance as Rooney and Kuyt, it’s Alves’ combination of speed, stamina and intensity which makes him almost impossible to track for a full 90 minutes and is the main reason he takes the number one spot.