Michael van Gerwen is undoubtedly the greatest darts player on the planet at present, and has been for at least the last five years. The Dutchman is number one in the PDC Order of Merit by some distance. The current World Champion is only 29, yet he already has three world titles, along with a host of other majors. With earnings of over £7 million, ‘Mighty Mike’ has already had a glistening career and will go down as one of the best players in the sport’s history.
However, whether van Gerwen is the greatest ever his hotly debated, and for me, he’s behind one man: he still has never been as dominant as Phil ‘The Power’ Taylor. The Stoke-on-Trent tungsten icon, who retired after the 2018 World Championship aged 57, won an unprecedented 16 World titles and 16 World Matchplay titles, along with hundreds of other titles. No sportsman has dominated for so long, and it is almost impossible for MVG to match Taylor’s longevity due to the sheer number of world class players today, and the fact that the Dutchman himself has said he may not play professional darts past the age of 40.
Not one player through Taylor’s entire career had a positive head-to-head record against him. Van Gerwen, however, has negative head-to-head records against nine players, including Phil Taylor. The two met on 62 occasions, with Taylor winning 34 to van Gerwen’s 26 and two draws. Taylor even in the very latter stages of his career managed to beat him several times, and with the two players at their absolute peak, ‘The Power’ would surely come out on top. Taylor’s final major tournament victory came in Blackpool in 2017 at the World Matchplay, where he won his 16th title, smashing van Gerwen 16-6 in the quarter-final. The trophy has since been renamed the Phil Taylor Trophy, as the Matchplay was Taylor’s favourite tournament.
Van Gerwen is dominating a world of darts where it is much harder to win tournaments. No player could really challenge Taylor regularly in the late 1990s and early 2000s, but nowadays, despite MVG winning the majority of titles, the majors are a little more shared around, evident in this year’s UK Open in Minehead, where rising star Nathan Aspinall clinched his first TV title. MVG is an unstoppable green machine at times, but there’s only one Phil Taylor.