1 May 2012

England's ten most gifted footballers of the last 50 years: Number 4, Matthew Le Tissier

Many people scoffed at Matthew Le Tissier, claiming he was a laconic, unambitious, slightly portly plodder who only looked good because he chose for his whole career to play for a mediocre team. But even if most of the Southampton sides he graced spent their time fighting relegation - and always succeeding in doing so, might I add - he was clearly something ridiculously special, and would have been so wherever he played. Chelsea went after him in his earlier days, there were overtures from other multiply decorated clubs as his reputation grew, but he cast all attempts to lure him from the south coast aside. Southampton was his club, and for it he scored some unspeakably individual goals, the kind which no other player of his generation could have concocted. He had a glorious touch, superb balance, enough presence of mind to know instantly where to take the ball upon receipt, and a stunning habit of hitting bits of the goal apparently impossible to find. Many Le Tissier goals were self-made, with the flicks and lobs (and mildly scuffed finish, which he still bemoans) of that extraordinary effort against Newcastle, to the twist and turn and shot from a stupid distance at Blackburn, to that final pirouette and shot to say an appropriate farewell to the Dell, he could do them all. He was key to the early development of Alan Shearer as a feared finisher, and as managers, players and directors came and went, to varying degrees of success, Le Tissier was a constant of 15 years. That he won just a handful of England caps is actually irrelevant, as well as typical. He loved his club, his club loved him, and few one-club men can have given his fans so many memories of his brilliance.

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