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Is Every Soccer (Football) Player Unique?
Comparison 1960s – 2011 (Pele)
There is no doubt that Brazilian striker Pele was the best player of the 1960s. Pele and Maradona are the two players who are always mentioned when the common question is asked, ‘Who was the greatest player to ever live?’ Pele will often be the answer. So what was Pele like? Pele was a natural goalscorer, the Santos striker was incredibly athletic and his dribbling/balance combination was unstoppable for defenders. His ability to get past defenders so quickly and maintain such balance gave him many goal scoring opportunities, which Pele would more likely than not score decisively. Pele had the technique, the passing ability of a midfield maestro, the engine of a Marathon runner and the power of a steam train. His statistics are staggering, 1281 goals in 1363 games.
No one can live up to the name of Pele; George Best of Manchester United in the 70s was a kind of player similar to Pele but more of a winger than a forward. In modern times, few have been compared to Pele but none have lived up to the reputation that Brazil’s Pele had. AC Milan’s Alexandre Pato was likely to be the Pele of this era, but he has yet to show any incredible form to even be labeled as one of the best strikers today let alone ever lived. Wayne Rooney of Manchester United is the closest of this decade that we have compared to Pele. Rooney has the same power and body that Pele does, the same ability to pick a 70 yard cross ball and the same vision and technique. The England striker, Rooney, does not have the same speed that Pele did which combines with the factor that Rooney does not particularly get past players with skill and talent.
Wayne Rooney has scored goals that you wouldn’t think were possible with the stunning volley against Newcastle and the most recent goal of the season above against rivals Manchester City. Pele scored stunning goals in the 60’s and 70’s for Santos and Brazil, one ‘almost’ goal which would have been one of the best ever. His dummy against Uruguay left the goalkeeper dead when the ball went one way and Pele went around the other way, but his shot went off balance and at a tight angle wide.
Comparison 1970s – 2011 (Johann Cruyff)
Johann Cruyff was part of an Ajax side that inherited the ‘complete football’ philosophy introduced by Dutch coach Rinul Michels. The playing style of former Barcelona and Ajax forward Johann Cruyff was influenced by his complete football approach to his game. His natural position was a midfielder but due to the tactical way the Ajax team played the game, he wandered around and ended up playing on the wing and midfield more often than not. The Dutch striker spent half of the 1970s at Barcelona for Rinus Michels, where he was crowned European Footballer of the Year during his time at Barcelona for consecutive years.
Cruyff was called ‘Pythagoras in boots’ because of his ability to choose passes from angles that looked impossible. Not only did he have an eye for a pass but he had tremendous pace and his ability to accelerate away from defenders aided by the ‘Cruyff turn’ named after the Dutch maestro is still a turn associated with football 40 years on lately.
I don’t think any striker could have the greatest impact on Cruyff’s ability to play in multiple positions so I have chosen a playmaker and pace merchant who would respect Cruyff’s technical and physical attributes to his game, Ryan Giggs. Both players in their prime had the ability to get past players with tremendous flair and speed creating goal scoring opportunities. Giggs is not as prolific as Cruyff as a finisher but Giggs certainly fulfills the playing abilities that Cruyff had. Ryan Giggs was at his best lightening up over 5-10 yards and he could maintain such an alarming speed for 40-50 yards which he shared with Cruyff.
However as football has changed a lot over the years since Cruyff’s successful days at Ajax and Barcelona, the style of play has changed and there are not many similar players of Cruyff’s caliber who could play naturally up front and drop. back deeper and still extraordinary. effective.
Comparison 1980s – 2011 (Diego Maradona)
Maradona or Messi? In today’s game, there is no doubt that Lionel Messi is the closest candidate if not the potential to surpass Maradona’s ability as a footballer. Former Barcelona striker, Diego Maradona, together with Pele is one of the best players ever to grace this planet. He wasn’t as clinical as Pele but taking nothing from Maradona he still had a very good goal scoring record for club and country. The playing style on the ball for Maradona and Messi is exactly the same. Both dribble with extreme speed and a very low center of gravity; both possess extreme dribbling skills with the ability to get 5-10 touches in seconds to make it impossible for defenders to tackle. Many have questioned whether Lionel Messi could do what Maradona did at Napoli. Maradona won what is now the Italian ‘serie A’ with Napoli with what was a very average squad, Maradona was the central part of the Napoli side and without a doubt they would not have been title winners if Maradona was not on their books . Could Messi make a similar fate at Blackburn of the English Premier League, Udinese of the Italian Serie A? Many doubt that Messi could.
In contrast, Messi has achieved much more than Maradona at this age having already won the Spanish La Liga 4 times and the Champions League 2 times. Messi is only 23 years old, Maradona at 23 won the treble with Barcelona in 1983 and the Argentine title with Boca Juniors in 1981 but that’s it. So Messi has so far had a better career on silverware success but Maradona’s achievements in Naples and on the international field have put Messi aside. Unfortunately, Maradona also has a World Cup to his name in 1986 that Maradona made his name.
There is no doubt that Barcelona winger, Messi, scores goals from all angles and all kinds of stunning runs but Maradona’s second goal against England in the 1986 World Cup has been considered the goal of the century by many people. Maradona traveled with the ball 60 meters and took on six England players in the process, rounded England goalkeeper Peter Shilton and scored from a tight angle to beat England 2-1 in the quarter-finals of the 1986 World Cup which they went on to win it. The former Napoli striker also scored the highly controversial ‘hand of god’ goal in the same game which has been talked about ever since. Messi hasn’t really shone on the international stage and if he has, that may be what takes him past boyhood hero status.
Comparison 1990s – 2011 (Ronaldo)
He was a natural goalscorer of his era and by far the best striker of his generation for scoring goal after goal alone. Ronaldo played at the highest level throughout the 90s and early 00s, representing PSV, Barcelona, Inter Milan, Real Madrid and AC Milan in a glittering career that was interrupted by serious knee injuries.
Brazilian striker Ronaldo was a born goalscorer, he had the ability to go past players with his skill and power but defiantly his threat was in the box. He scored 62 goals in just under 100 appearances for Brazil and has been voted the best Brazilian striker ever since Pele by numerous panels of judges. Former Real Madrid striker Ronaldo was unstoppable, if he got in the box he would inevitably score.
Since Ronaldo has been playing until quite recently, there hasn’t been much time for anyone to possibly replace Ronaldo’s ability to be a known goalscorer. However, some players this season in the Football world have started to develop their reputation. Manchester United’s Javier Hernandez is a striker who could have the potential to fulfill Ronaldo’s abilities in front of goal. He already has 16 goals for Manchester United in his first season and is a predator in the box similar to Ronaldo. It is doubtful that Mexican forward Hernandez will have the impact on world football that Ronaldo did, but the Mexican is a striker very similar to what Ronaldo was in his prime.
Barcelona’s David Villa is another striker known for his potential in the box. The man who had a shot from Spain, David Villa, has honed his craft in Valencia for several years and finally sealed a move to Barcelona where he already has 21 goals to his name. Villa has also lived up to Ronaldo’s international reputation, having already won the European Championships in 2008 and the World Cup in 2010 with Spain being a key member of the winning team in both tournaments with his contribution of goals.
Comparison 2000s – 2011 (Zidane)
One of the most talented players of this century was French midfielder and former Juventus/Bordeaux midfielder Zidane. One of the most natural players in the game, Zidane glided through the game in a heartless manner that saw him become one of the most composed footballers ever to grace the game. An out and out midfielder, Zidane had the ability to score a goal from midfield and also the ability to create magic in midfield to launch attacks for his team.
Zidane joined Real Madrid from Juventus in 2001 for a then world record fee of around 50 million pounds. Zidane enjoyed success at Real Madrid, winning the Champions League and Spanish La Liga in his 6 years at the club. Not to mention becoming a World cup winner with France in 1998 and runner up in 2006. Zidane was a tall and strong midfielder at 6’1 he was no fool when it came to defending and wasn’t afraid to challenge for an aerial battle but Zidane came alive in the attacking half with his deft touches on the ball and he seemed to have eyes in the back of his head at times with his awareness of space around him.
Many footballers do not have complacency as a skill to their game due to the extreme pressure placed on footballers and now with all the money at stake. However, Manchester United’s Dimitar Berbatov is one of the very few footballers who possess great motivation on the ball which is a very gracious skill to have. Bulgarian striker Berbatov and French midfielder Zidane also share the same style of control and first touch, with Berbatov having one of the greatest techniques in the world today similar to Zidane in his prime. Although ex-Tottenham striker Berbatov is an out and out striker and Zidane has never played before, the abilities of the two are very similar. Even their mental approaches are very similar, both are very quiet and don’t talk much especially when competing competitively. Both have tremendous ball control, both have the ability to get past players with skill on the ball rather than speed or strength.
Great players are easy to find; the elusive magical players. Who is going to replace Barcelona’s Messi or Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo in today’s game in a few years? Football has the ability to produce stars to show on the world stage and that is what makes football such an amazing sport to watch.
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