19 April 2012

"Oh that's a *beautiful* turn..."

On a recent Hull City away trip of many hours' duration, a pal and I got into a discussion about what makes a good footballer.

With various different roles on the pitch, ultimately some professionals make it principally through their strength, their height or their positional sense, and in fact some only have rudimentary knowledge of how to pass the ball when in possession of it. Look at most lower division central defenders. They make a living from football despite their dominant facets being ones that don't always include having a ball at their feet.

When we think of the greatest footballers, we refer to their positions. Franz Beckenbauer was a class act on the ball, especially for a deep-lying player, but he couldn't turn on a sixpence like Johan Cruyff or weave through players like George Best. The key to finding the greatest of great footballers must, therefore, come down to three things: touch, vision and distribution (be it distribution of the ball to another player, or distribution of the ball to the back of the net).

To my mind, this still makes Diego Maradona better than Pele, and for that matter, it makes George Best better than Pele too. Best is the greatest player from the British Isles to kick a ball, ever. This is hardly an original viewpoint, but that doesn't make it any less true.

Therefore, going back to the initial discussion on the long trip, it would be much more interesting to assess the greatest English players for those three attributes of touch, vision and distribution. English players of the last three footballing generations have taken much stick, but we've had some good ones in there. The ten best of the last 50 years, in reverse order, have been handpicked by a committee of one, and we'll commence the countdown with player number ten on Monday...

Don't be ridiculous. He's here for illustrative reasons only.

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