2 May 2012

England's ten most gifted footballers of the last 50 years: Number 3, Paul Scholes

Where to begin? The evidence is still on show week after week, and has been now for almost 20 years. If you are a gifted footballer and wish to prove it, then being a mainstay for the most successful club side in the country for almost two decades, seeing any number of upstarts come and go in your time, is as good an indication as any, and Scholes has experienced everything in the club game there is to experience. Initially a centre forward and always a fearless finisher, he quickly became a cool, measured, ruthless attacking midfielder, who could and can place passes on an instep from the middle of the park to either flank, or make room for himself where there apparently is none to thread divine low balls into the path of many gratefully prolific goalscorers. His first touch has always been immaculate - witness how extraordinary his volleying ability is - and his absolute reliability (rarely do you see him play badly) means he has had at least two entire Manchester United midfields built around him while the world's greatest players queued up to laud his abilities. His England career was curtailed by his misuse on the left flank, prompting this quiet homeboy to sack it all off at the age of not yet 30, and his tackling is notoriously suspect, but nobody of the modern era of English football has been more influential or more praiseworthy.

Two to go...

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