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Michel Kane

My Favourite Footballer...

20 posts in this topic

Some excellent articles from different football bloggers/analysts on their favourite players.

Taken these from The Equaliser which is a sick blog.

I'll share a couple now. Especially like the Maldini & Xavi articles.

Paolo Maldini

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“Thank you, Skipper. On the pitch you were an infinite champion, but you failed to show respect towards those who made you rich.” The Curva Sud’s final farewell to one of the greatest defenders Italian football has ever produced was an unedifying insult from AC Milan’s ultras and one that helped to expose the fact that the only way to truly get them onside is to routinely kiss their arses.

Franco Baresi, whose name was chanted during the unveiling of another banner stating that “There is only one captain”, was as good a central defender as I’ve seen in my lifetime and the preferred icon of the ultras. But me? I’ll take the number 3. My favourite footballer, give or take the occasional Maradonian flirtation and my huge admiration for Paul McGrath, is Paolo Maldini.

Let’s get the facts out of the way early. Maldini, the son of Cesare, played his first game for the Rossoneri in January 1985 against Udinese, aged 16. He retired in May 2009 at the age of 40. Between 1988 and 2002 he picked up 126 caps for Italy (74 of them as captain) to become the Azzurri’s most-capped player until Fabio Cannavaro overtook him. Maldini won seven Scudetti, five European Cups and a whole host of other club and individual honours.

This is not a player who played until 40 on his last footballing legs. Almost until the end, Maldini was at the very top of the world game, an incredible testament to his wonderful athleticism and the famous Milan Lab. But the thing about great players – genuine, best-of-the-best great players – is that their achievements are matched by an aura, some non-statistical story of class, like Bobby Moore, or freakishness, like Diego Maradona. Even then, world class players are ten a penny.

Favourites are different, and Maldini qualifies emphatically for such elevated status. He was the ultimate one-club man from the ultimate one-club family. Paolo’s father, Cesare, won four Scudetti and one European Cup with Milan. His sons are both in Milan’s youth system. Paolo never played for another club despite being one of the best players in the world for most of his career. How often do the greatest players today not circulate between Barcelona, Real Madrid, Chelsea, Manchester United, Milan and Inter? Those who stay loyal are rightly revered and Maldini is their king. His number three shirt, retired at the same time as its long-term wearer, will be brought out of retirement should Christian or Daniel make the Rossoneri first team.

As a player, the best word with which to sum up Maldini is ‘elegance’. He had everything one could ask of a ball-playing defender. His positioning and reading of the game were second to none and his passing marked out a sophisticated full-back who was years ahead of the position’s development. Although it would be a stretch to describe him as an attacking full-back in any sense, Maldini’s cultured style and inimitable swagger on the ball meant that he appeared as comfortable in the opposition’s half as his own. Given his outstanding quality and clear natural ability, Maldini arguably could be disappointed with his goal return despite his position of choice. But at the tasks he got paid for, he was probably the best of his generation.

Here’s the over-emotional, gloating personal involvement bit. What would you do if, by some miracle, you ended up as the proud new owner of a pair of football boots that had been worn by your favourite player? Stick them in a glass display cabinet? Find some way to get them signed? Punch anyone who touched them? After Maldini’s appearance in a TV advertisement for a well-known sportswear manufacturer, that’s exactly what happened to me. And I’ll tell you this much: I got more joy and pleasure from playing in those boots until they fell apart, knowing whose feet had been in them immediately before mine, than I would ever have taken from showing them off in pristine condition.

That is what being a favourite means. It also means that visitors to my flat are greeted in the living room not by a picture of Maradona, McGrath, Cowans or Mortimer, but one of Maldini in the famous red and black stripes of Milan. A wonderful player, a dignified man and a true captain.

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Maldini>>>

Total badman

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Lol @ anyone coming in this thread and arguing that he isn't the greatest defender of all time.

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Guys talents are undeniable.

leadership, good temperment, well respected, Loyal, and not a bad defender either,

remember when we were away to Milan a couple years ago and he kept Rooney and Ronaldo at Bay when he was plying his trade when they were in Nappies, truly timeless.

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Ronaldo

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Karim Benzema has hardly gone out of his way to make himself popular since arriving in Madrid. He arrived at the Bernabeu with his foot in his mouth, but his first faux pas was an endearing, as well as a memorable, one. Asked in his exit interview at Lyon if he was looking forward to playing alongside the second generation of ‘galácticos’ – Cristiano Ronaldo, Kaka etc – Benzema said, “I would have loved it if Ronaldo, the real one, the number 9, was still there.” The real one! Stick that in your CR9-branded marketing pipe and smoke it.

Admirable as Cristiano is, there has never been any debate for me – there is, was and will only ever be one Ronaldo. Of course, he wasn’t always as big – as a 17-year-old squad member of Brazil’s 1994 World Cup-winning squad, he was Ronaldinho, the junior to São Paulo’s Ronaldão.

But it was to be without the suffix that he started to make his name globally. Though he scored at nearly a goal-a-game for PSV, his repetition of the feat at Barcelona after being bought to the Camp Nou by Bobby Robson in 1996 was unprecedented. The 20-year-old’s 47 (!) goals in all competitions saw Barca win a Cops del Rey and Cup Winners’ Cup double and Ronaldo jump ship to Inter and win the 1997 Ballon d’Or.

Much of his legend is self-evident; he was the greatest finisher of his generation, but cruelly stymied by illness (the fit which saw him first withdrawn, then returned to the Brazil XI which lost the 1998 World Cup final) then injury. The horrendous knee tendon injuries which limited him to 68 Serie A appearances in his five seasons at the San Siro would have finished off a lesser man.

I nearly spat out my cornflakes recently reading a message board poster listing Ronaldo as “one of Brazil’s great unfulfilled talents.” This misses the point; of course, he could have been even greater had injury not dogged him, but that he still managed to be arguably the greatest striker of the last 50 years tells you more about his mettle than any nit-picking over statistics ever could.

His comeback in the 2002 World Cup was not just one from chronic injury, but from crushing disappointment. Propelled to the brink of their first Scudetto in 13 years by a late season Ronaldo burst, Inter threw it away on the final day with defeat at Lazio. Still Ronaldo made the Japan and South Korea World Cup his, winning the final – and the Golden Shoe – with a brace in the final against Germany to finish with eight goals for the tournament. The £180 I picked up post-final, for a tenner staked on the great man to be top scorer at the most generous of odds, is still the sweetest bet I ever won.

Ronaldo ripped up La Liga all over again after moving to Real Madrid post-World Cup, even though he attracted more and more criticism for his weight. It was hard to ignore – even the great Guillem Balague never really convinced when insisting “honestly, it’s all muscle!” on Revista de la Liga. But it didn’t matter that he was a bit porky. While Ronaldinho’s ‘party lifestyle’ has contributed to permanently robbing him of the accelaration which made him the world’s greatest, Ronaldo never lost his, defying science and nature.

I had the joy of catching him in the flesh at the Bernabeu once, in March 2004, while I was researching a book on the Champions League. El Real battered Sevilla 5-1 and big Ron didn’t disappoint, scoring twice and setting up another. Watching the greats in the flesh is always an education – unlike with TV, you’re the director, and you choose which players to watch and how often.

There’s no doubt Ronaldo was somewhat off his physical peak. When he didn’t have the ball, he plodded around, puffing like a man who’d just given an all-you-can-eat buffet a proper caning. But when he got the ball? The control, the quick change of feet, the pace over ten yards shone as brightly as ever.

And the finishing. Ronaldo’s first was a header from a David Beckham cross. The second was scored deep into injury-time; he burst clean through, and delayed for what seemed like an age before stroking home. What was the hold-up, a journalist in the press area afterwards asked? “I asked the ‘keeper which side he wanted me to put it. He said left, so that’s what I did,” he grinned.

The essence of Ronaldo – despite the jibes about his fitness and the injury setbacks (of which there would be more at Milan) – as someone who purely loved to play the game, enjoy himself and be the best he could be still remains intact. That, as much as his trophies, and his club and international personal record breaking, is what made him a true champion.

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Roberto Baggio

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Paul Simpson, former editor of FourFourTwo wrote that “We all have a World Cup that feels less like a tournament than a rite of passage, introducing us to idols, emotions and intrigue we will remember for the rest of our lives..” For me that World Cup was Italia 90 and the idol I was introduced to was ‘Il Divin Codino‘, Roberto Baggio.

As a player, Baggio will be remembered as one of the all-time greats in Italy. Following his controversial transfer from Fiorentina to Juventus in 1990 the Viola fans rioted on the streets in Florence and anyone that witnessed his performances for the Azzurri during Italia ‘90 can see the reasons for the outcry in Florence. His solo effort against Czechoslovakia was perhaps goal of the tournament and demonstrated to the entire world exactly why Juve broke the world transfer record to sign him.

His performances for Juve justified his hefty price tag and one of my fondest memories of Baggio as a Juve player was his performance in the first leg of the UEFA Cup Final against Borussia Dortmund in 1993 which led to Juve lifting the trophy after the return leg in Turin. The beauty of Baggio was his ability to make everything look so easy, especially his trademark move of rounding the keeper at the last second and slotting the ball home, a skill that is rarely seen nowadays. Every time he received the ball you got the feeling that something special was going to happen.

This was no more evident than at USA ‘94 when he almost single-handedly carried Italy to the World Cup Final. Following a disastrous start to the tournament which included him being substituted against Norway after Italy were reduced to 10 men, Baggio returned to save Italy’s blushes against Nigeria and consequently scored the winner against Spain in the quarter-finals before his man of the match display against Bulgaria in the last four. When Baggio pulled his hamstring in that game Italy’s heart sank. Sporting a heavily strapped thigh he did go on to play in the final only to have the misfortune of being the man whose tragic penalty miss led to Brazil’s triumph in a game that he was never fit to play in.

During Baggio’s rollercoaster career which included a career-threatening knee injury at a young age, winning various titles with Juventus and Milan, the heartache of missing that World Cup Final penalty, being crowned European and World footballer of the year and becoming a legend with provincial club Brescia (a club that in his honour retired the number 10 jersey), Baggio always remained a very humble man and a true role model.

Outside of football Baggio led a very normal life. He avoided the limelight that so many footballers choose to become a part of. He married his childhood sweetheart, remained a real family man and spent his spare time enjoying hobbies such as hunting – on occasion with his good friend Gabriel Batistuta. It is hard to believe that someone capable of producing such magic on the pitch remained such a modest and normal person. A veritable legend of the Italian game, Baggio is truly deserving of the ‘Il Divin Codino’ moniker.

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Ian Rush

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Thanks to growing up with boys – I’ve got five brothers – I started watching football out of boredom as I didn’t want to spend the whole time alone by myself. That was how it all began. I wasn’t even born when he was at his peak with Liverpool but, thanks to the genius invention of video recorders (and my brothers) I was able to relive the unseen action later in life. He is the reason why I became a Liverpool fan, “he” of course being the unstoppable Ian Rush. The legendary Welsh number nine who wrote history at Anfield.

He is my favourite footballer to have ever worn the red shirt. There may have been more skillful Reds like Kenny Dalglish or Robbie Fowler, but I admire Rush not only as a player, but also as a man.

When you think about Ian Rush you first think: moustache. Then you think: goals, dozens and dozens of beautiful goals – 346 to be precise, a Liverpool record.

Though I don’t like him only for the sheer number of goals he scored, but for how he used to score them. Out of nothing he’d turn his body, move quickly to the left or right, slightly stretch his leg and the ball was in the net yet again. Watching Rushie it all looked so simple.

I admire him for his commitment, his love for the beautiful game and for always just being himself. He never tried to act, he never tried to pretend. He always has been just Ian Rush, a simple-lad-from-the-neighborhood type of player. Even during his peak years he stayed modest, kind, and with his feet firmly on the ground.

He should also be revered for his great loyalty to my club. He left Liverpool in 1987 and went to Italy to play for Juventus. It was a massive challenge for him and he struggled to integrate himself in the dressing room and adapt to Italian football. His time in Turin wasn’t very successful and, after just one season in the land of dolce vita, he returned to Liverpool for £2.7m – a record signing for an English club at the time.

Rush’s second spell for the Reds was hugely exciting and, together with Robbie Fowler, he was part of one of the club’s greatest ever strike partnerships. He kept on scoring and scoring at an unparalleled rate and always celebrated in that endearing manner of his.

After his retirement from professional football Rushie stayed loyal to Liverpool FC and to the fans who loved him, who still love him, and admire him greatly. From a personal standpoint, he is the reason why I’ve got a number “9” tattoo on my arm. Every time I look am reminded of the great history Liverpool has got and about his incredible contribution to this history.

There is only one Ian Rush.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4PonZZ12ziE&feature=player_embedded

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John Barnes

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I grew up and got into football at an unfortunate time. The mid 90’s seems like the misty connection period between the romanticised 80’s and the modern-day, homogenous Premier League times we see today.

I look back at that period and witness football in a new and unexplored direction, there were foreigners entering the game, resulting in a change in the style of football. Whilst at the same time, the game seemed to contain the typically English steely personalities and ‘hard-man’ images that were seen in by-gone eras. Looking back on it, it was a very perplexing time in football, the direction of the new game was not clear as the Premiership changed the backdrop of the English game. It was in this era in that I found my favourite player.

The John Barnes of the mid 90’s was a strange player, for all I knew at the time, he was just a slightly porky central midfielder who looked uncomfortable in the middle of the park. There was something mesmerising about the way he passed and moved with the ball. It was intriguing watching such a naturally stylish player look so uneasy in that position. The problem was, I didn’t know about his past, I didn’t know that he was a winger that helped produce some of the most entertaining football England has ever witnessed.

It’s the process of the re-definition of John Barnes that makes him my favourite player – from a portly midfielder with a stomach like an oak barrel to the lean, balanced and harmonious winger of the late 80’s. It was the search for the old, true John Barnes that led me to watching, downloading, enquiring with my Dad about Liverpool during that period. John Barnes was the catalyst for my craving to understand football further.

On the pitch, “Digger” was the archetypal Liverpool player. He was hard working and a definite team player; it is these characteristics that are needed to be popular by Liverpool standards. Barnes however, twinned those fundamentals with the finesse that would nowadays still be remarkable. Added to this, he was as quick as a whippet whilst maintaining superb balance and poise when running with the ball.

To top it all off, he was not a ‘head down and run’ sort of winger, he was intelligent. Always keeping his head up, always looking for something different and always looking to create as well as score goals. His wing-play was extraordinary, but his movement in-field was striking – his fondness for one-twos with Peter Beardsley is a move sewn into the footballing tapestry of Liverpool Football Club.

His willingness to move inside and join up with Beardsley was a move that separated him from other wingers of the time. Instead of looking to shift the ball to one-foot and cross it, Barnes was more than comfortable looking to pass inside, then run between centre-backs and full-backs, looking to receive the ball and score for himself. In his first season at the club he scored seventeen goals, second only to John Aldridge. Two years later however, in the 1989/90 season, he managed to score 22 goals in the league, four more than Liverpool returnee Ian Rush. A frightening record for someone traditionally classed as a standard winger.

Sadly, Liverpool have never come close to replacing him after a series of injuries forced him to move into the centre of midfield. The upsetting thing is, people who remember him first-hand as a central midfield would have never felt the anticipation and buzz as fans who saw him on the wing felt as he received the ball, with the full-backs already backtracking to protect themselves from a skinning. It’s even more distressing to think that children getting into the game now may think the game exists currently is the way it has always been, ‘retro’ (I mean that term loosely) football evokes different emotions to the football we watch on the TV now.

From a personal point of view, John Barnes was the player who made me connect with the Liverpool teams of yesteryear, making me realise how football isn’t just about the here and now, it is about stories and players of the past – it is these characters that we will not get to read about when books are published about the ‘Premier League years’. John Barnes was the player who pulled me out of the modern Premier League ‘bubble’ – something that really adds value and worth to the game of football.

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Dimitar Berbatov

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To criticise him, it seems, requires nothing more than a pocket thesaurus. Languid. Lackadaisical. Lethargic. And to be honest, to admire him goes against my every instinct.

I’m an admirer of system, of tactics, of the subjection of individual talent to the collective. I am also immersed in a footballing culture where the willing runner is lauded over the technically adept, where the crunching tackle wins a greater roar from the terraces than the perfectly-weighted pass. There is little room in English football for the forward who commits the cardinal sin of “Not Tracking Back”. And yet I find myself unashamedly, occasionally joyfully, a fan of Dimitar Berbatov.

It’s not, as you can imagine, an easy position to maintain. Often, during the hideously protracted heartbreak that has been Berbatov’s spell at Manchester United, I’ve found myself exasperated as I explain for the nth time that he is a genius, as I elaborate in detail (and in vain) why I consider the man generally referred to as “that lazy Bulgarian” to be – whisper it – better than Wayne Rooney.

Perhaps I cannot adequately describe the essence of Berbatov’s appeal, but for me there is a single moment that encapsulates it. It isn’t any of his goals, or even the moment he memorably twisted James Collins inside-out. Instead, cast your mind back to the 2008-2009 season. Manchester United are playing Chelsea. Berbatov, just inside the Chelsea half, receives a pass at shoulder-height. Instead of bringing the ball down, he nonchalantly – even casually – performs an immaculate bicycle-kick, cushioning the ball perfectly into the path of Rooney who, from what five seconds ago was an innocuous situation, is suddenly through on goal.

Remember it? Didn’t think so. Thing is, the player who passes Berbatov the ball was offside – the flag goes up while Dimi is in mid-air. Silence from the commentators. Not a single replay of the incident. One of the most singularly pristine and unexpected displays of technical proficiency I’ve ever seen, and I’ll likely never see it again. And it is precisely because these breathtaking moments are fleeting that they are so captivating.

In an instant he can lift an entire stadium out of their seats, none quite sure what he’s actually done but all knowing that it was brilliant. He plays at such a pace that at times the English game seems to pass him by, yet in fact he has an understanding of tempo – and how to quickly change it – that is rarely seen in the Premier League, endowing him with a mastery of the unexpected.

The elegance, the poise, the guile and craft and beauty is wasted on the turgid functionality of Manchester United and the breakneck tempo of the Premier League. He is simultaneously too good and not good enough for English football. The genius is at once vindicated and undone by its futility. The effortlessly breathtaking is wrapped up in the eternal incompatibility – that is the unique majesty of Dimitar Berbatov.

Potentially a sick topic.

I'm going to read all of these.

http://equaliserfootball.com/category/my-favourite-footballer

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Pos

gnna email these out to the man dem

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Read all the ones for players I like.

I find a lot of these bloggers though no more about writing articles than they do about football. But still, decent I suppose.

Xavi

Del piero

R9

Riquelme

Taarabt

Dimi

>>Life

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Liked the Barnesy one. Would love another Digger at Liverpool.

Some very good profiles.

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Dimi >>> __________________

If Zidane ever played upfront, he'd play like Berbatov.

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Del Piero

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I feel in my thirties I can say this, knowing whole-heartedly that I will feel no greater affection or appreciation for any other player, past or present.

I have seen better footballers, such as Maradona, who’s skills were truly breathtaking. I have seen better goalscorers, Marco Van Basten, even the eternally frustrating Fillipo Inzaghi.

My appreciation of Del Piero transcends sport. I admire him greatly as a player, believing him to be both more effective and more consistent than many of his peers such as Zidane and Totti.

I also admire him as a man, his dignity, loyalty and professionalism are sadly lacking in most current players. His contributions have changed, ranging from being “the man” in the years 1996 to 1998, to being only a squad player by 2005 under Fabio Capello. However there are two actions that stand out from the many in his glorious career.

Firstly is his role at the 2006 FIFA World Cup. Ale accepted his role as a substitute with a wonderful sense of professionalism and a firmly held belief that his chance would come.

This was typified by two incidents. Francesco Totti’s winning penalty, late in the second round match against Australia is the first.

Ale ran fully 50 yards to be the first player to celebrate with the scorer: the very player in his starting slot, and beloved No. 10 shirt.

The other was the semi final match versus the hosts, Germany. Upon being told yet again he would not be starting, he responded in the greatest possible manner.

After being thrown on for the central midfielder Perrotta, he covered the defensive role perfectly, then in an Azzurri counter attack, ran the length of the pitch to hit a first time curler into the top corner. Two nil Italy, game over.

Lastly is the example he set as captain during the Calciopoli scandal later that same summer, never once complaining at all he had lost, never bemoaning former team mates for abandoning la vecchia signora at her most vulnerable moment.

When other high-profile players demanded transfers, Ale remained silent. At just the right time, when Juventini across the globe despaired at the demise of our illustrious club, up stepped our captain.

He pledged his undying loyalty to the club, and its tifosi. He told stories of his first bianconeri shirt as a child and of the sense of belonging it gave him. Here was possibly our greatest hero, a World Cup & Champions League winner, talking as one of us, a fan.

For these selfless acts, for these two instances of loyalty, love and devotion, I can say this man, this player is, as Muhammed Ali would have it, “The Greatest of All Times.”

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Read all the ones for players I like.

I find a lot of these bloggers though no more about writing articles than they do about football. But still, decent I suppose.

Xavi

Del piero

R9

Riquelme

Taarabt

Dimi

>>Life

what about roberto baggio

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Read all the ones for players I like.

I find a lot of these bloggers though no more about writing articles than they do about football. But still, decent I suppose.

Xavi

Del piero

R9

Riquelme

Taarabt

Dimi

>>Life

what about roberto baggio

Read it as well cos it was posted in here but he wernt one of my fav players. I missed most of his best years due to only being 8 by the time he left ac milan

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good topic, after watching the Maldini compilation you realise how soft football is getting. I know for a fact if you was to dish out some of them tackles that Maldini was doing say 10 years ago, even though he was getting the ball fairly, you'd still be getting refs in this day an age blowing for a free kick

smh

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For me its difficult to choose between Ronaldo and Ronaldinho.

Favourite XI

Buffon

Thuram

Cannavaro

Baresi

Maldini

Makelele

Zidane

Iniesta

Figo

Ronaldo

Ronaldinho

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