Talk To Pies: Which Specific Player Made You Fall In Love With Football?

Chris Wright

20th, January 2015

77 Comments

By Chris Wright

Soccer - Barclay's League Division One - Wolverhampton Wanderers Photocall

The Wolverhampton Wanderers 1992/93 squad, from hell’s heart I stab at thee!

While there were kick-abouts on tap over the road on the park, growing up in the pre-Sky Sports-saturated era meant that actually watching proper football on television was a rare thing – principally because there wasn’t much to go at.

For a child in the Nottinghamshire suburbs in the late 80s/early 90s, your basic choice as far as weekly televised football was concerned was either Central Match Live on ITV on Sunday afternoons (which, if memory serves correctly, was Leicester versus Wolves at a depressing, marsh-like Filbert Street/Molineux every single sodding week) or, as of 1992, Football Italia over on Channel 4.

Being a lad blessed with an impeccable aesthetic constitution (even if I do say so myself), I always opted for the foreign elegance of Serie A – instantly falling head-over-heels for these debonair new teams, their fancy nicknames that always sounded as if they were written in Italics, James Richardson, his pink newspapers and ornate breakfast pastries, the sound of Peter Brackley’s voice and, of course, the beautiful, beautiful players themselves.

Nobody ever seemed to get muddy in Italy.

ac-jimbo

AC Jimbo back in his halcyon days

Mindful that I might be coming across as some bratty little proto-hipster, I’m almost reluctant to admit that my first ever “proper” football shirt was a cheap knock-off AC Milan shirt with “Boban, 9” on the back.

Pride and, indeed, joy.

I wasn’t consciously trying to be different: I didn’t go about spouting the superiority of disciplined catenaccio over the agricultural English 4-4-2; I was nine years old for Christ’s sake! I just loved Italian football – y’know, back before it all went to hell in a handbasket.

Anyway, these misty, water-coloured memories are about to sound slightly skewiff, seeing as though the player I’m about to wax lyrical about actually left Serie A in 1989, three whole years before Football Italia GOOOOOOOLACCIO-O-O-O‘ed its way onto our television screens.

Allow me to explain.

laudrup1

I first encountered the man that was (unbeknownst to him) about to become the object of my adoration when a short retrospective clip of him in action was featured on an episode of Football Italia.

Flitting about in Juventus’ beautiful bianconeri strip, there was this lithe Danish gentleman manoeuvring the ball like Andy Mutch and Steve Walsh never did over on the other channel.

The seed was planted.

A few years later I happened across a VHS in the bargain basket at Makro. It was called “Michael Laudrup: A Football Player” – an incredibly pithy title, I’m sure you’ll agree!

As well as a copy of the vastly underrated animated yarn The Pagemaster, I pestered my mum to buy it for me for a couple of quid and I wore that thing out, watching it start-to-finish, day after day, for months and months and months – marvelling, wide-eyed, at the sheer artistry on show (it had all his Barcelona and Real Madrid stuff on it too).

All killer, no filler. Back-heels, flicks, dainty chips with the outside of his foot. First touch like a velvet cushion.

Measured, silky and well-lubricated like a titillating football eel.

Soccer - World Cup Mexico 86 - Group E - Denmark v Uruguay

Sure there were other players I idolised as a young Calcio devotee: Gabriel Batistuta, Enrico Chiesa, Enzo Francescoli, Dejan Savicevic, Alvaro Recoba (briefly), Alessandro Del Piero, even Brian Laudrup wasn’t half bad – but none really came close to usurping Michael in my affections after the magic spun on that tape.

I immediately began attempting to emulate his style and technique on the park, the playground, the pitch – to almost imperceptibly minute success.

But it stuck. I still think Michael Laudrup is the finest footballer I’ve ever seen play the game. It’ll take somebody incredibly special to change that.

Offered as evidence of his talents, here’s 1 hour and 20 minutes video compilation of Laudrup’s sublime passing and interplay.

I challenge you to watch just five minutes of it – any five minutes chosen completely at random – and tell me you don’t feel yourself falling for the man…

*Sigh*

That’s my truth, now tell me yours…

Posted in Featured, Newsnow, Opinion, Retro

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77 Comments

  1. Paco says:

    The original Ronaldo, at the 2002 World Cup when I was nine, what a player. Got a fake Brazil jersey with his name on it when I was on holidays only for the dog to rip it to shreds the day we came home. Aced an English exam nine years later by writing about him retiring from football.

  2. Steve L Biles says:

    Extremely articulate. An exceptional read which portrays an intelligent and well educated background. I was therefore very surprised to find an error:

    “But it stuck. I still think Michael Laudrup is the finest football I’ve ever seen play the game. It’ll take somebody incredibly special to change that.”

    Sorry, but I retain my bad habit of proof reading.

  3. Greg says:

    Without a shadow of a doubt it has to be Gianfranco Zola.

    I too was an advocate of Football Italia (I still believe that it is the first live football I ever watched on TV) and although I don’t remember following Parma too much on the program I do remember having some sort of fascination with the little Italian. He wasn’t particularly great in Euro 96 even but my affection didn’t wain.

    Then he arrived at Chelsea and every dream I had came true. He took the Premier League by storm in 96/97 and even destroyed England at Wembley during a World Cup qualifier. He was easily the best player in that Chelsea squad and single handedly won them the Cup Winners Cup in 1998 (a tournament my and my Dad watched in its entirety when shown on Channel 5). He could score all sorts of goals, was lightning quick, could easily run rings around any back four and wasn’t afraid of mucking in when his teams had to defend. And he did all that with a smile on his face.

    I would never claim to be a Chelsea fan but for a number of years I was a loyal Gianfranco Zola supporter. I yearn for a player of his enthusiasm, talent and happiness to return to the game soon.

  4. Geraldo says:

    George Best. The reason I fell in love with football, the reason I became a Manchester United fan. I would have supported whichever side he had played for when I was a kid.

  5. barf says:

    Giggsy-wiggsy, isn’t it? Mmm? I’d just moved from Cardiff to Essex at the age of 6 and never kicked a football in my life, or watched it as everything was rugby at my school. It was 1993 and Giggs was the pinup boy, but just watching him run rings around the defenders or dropping a shoulder and rounding the keepers on what seemed a weekly basis. Plus, at that time, I had a very distinct valley-boy lilt which was not the easiest thing in Essex, but people then made the Wales/Giggs connection and it somehow made things easier.

    And of course football Italia, where I became a massive Del Piero fan. Mainly due to the facial hair.

  6. John ledo says:

    Iv been a west ham fan since 1964 but it was johan cruyff the captain of holland at the 74 world cup who really made a massive indelible mark on my love for football, alongside, rep, haan, krol, rensenbrink, van hanagem and the rest they blew me away with there glorious total football philosophy, got loads of dvds of that team and the 1978 team, in my opinion the greatest international side ever and cruyff is only bettered by the great maradona as the greatest in history.

  7. guanaco says:

    Zinedine Zidane. I was 9 when the 98′ World Cup came about, when I first saw him play & he changed my football life. Growing up in Central America, I saw him as a sensei, his surreal relationship with the ball & his natural ability to manipulate a ball was second to none. Majestic control, elegant technique, supreme vision, graceful accuracy… he made anyone fall in love in the the game. Even at 42 he’s STILL better than a third of current active players. He’s up there with Charles DeGaulle, Louis Pasteur, Victor Hugo, Marie Curie, etc. as greatest French ever.

  8. Zachary says:

    Paolo Maldini
    Absolute legend and role model

  9. Alanzinho says:

    Lothar Matthaus, 1990 World Cup, particularly his one man destruction of a very good Yugoslavian team.

    I spent the entire next day’s lunch-time trying to replicate his goals in that game. Helped that I’d bought an Inter Milan strip when we were in Italy on holiday the previous day.

    It’s easy to forgot just how damn good a footballer he was at his peak, sensational.

  10. Jimjam says:

    I have two and as a Newcastle fan, I am biased but there you have it.

    David Ginola.
    Magic on the ball. I can still envision Dennis Wise coming in for a two-footed tackle on Ginola only to have the ball dinked between his legs and Ginola skipping off down the touchline. One of my favourite footy moves/clips of all time.

    But I was never really Ginola-esque…

    Gary Speed.
    As a box-to-box midfielder myself in my playing days (I think I was the only one willing to cover box-to-box ground and so got the gig on enthusiasm rather than merit) Speed was my idol with his drive and aerial prowess. What a player, huge desire and heart. Deeply saddened by what was to come for the man and his family, but I now remember the joy he brought to me (and many others I believe) as a kid.

  11. Jimjam says:

    Oh! I forgot to say this was a great article Chris. Thank you and the other commentators as well, nice to read something positive on the interwebs. =)

  12. yankee manc says:

    For me growing up in the good old USA, I was not exposed to soccer until my early teens. We had back to back TV programs on a sports channel on saturday mornings at 6 and 7am. One was highlights from the EPL and the other from Serie A. My brothers and I would get up religiously to catch all the highlights and i have been a big fan ever since. I will always love the class of Rui Costa and the thundering goals of Batistuta. Those are great memories. Cantona and young Ryan Giggs are by far my favorite and i am a big UTD fan to this day. Dennis Bergkamp 94′ is also burned into my mind!

  13. Patrick says:

    Marc Overmars in his pomp. A small australian child was instantly hooked at 5 years old.

  14. Stubb says:

    2 words for ya ‘Emule Heskey’

    Made me truly believe I can also one day live out my dreams and become a professional footballer. I’ve since given up again because I were born without arms or legs but I know that wouldn’t have stopped Heskey.

  15. Ange says:

    1968/69 – When Tony Currie signed for Sheffield United from Watford#youcandomagic

  16. Phillip Meintzer says:

    Has to be either Zidane or Ronaldinho for me, both had magical first touches and made the game beautiful to the eye. Two of the best footballers with the ball at their feet and could create moment of brilliance that nobody would have ever expected.

  17. Captain Spinmove says:

    can’t believe no one’s mentioned Thierry Henry. Best of the Best for me and what really got me into football. Hell, I even supported Barca while he was there (still don’t know how I managed that).

  18. Ron says:

    This is a nice, and thought provoking, piece. As an American growing up in the U.S. in the late 1980s/early 1990s I had absolutely no access to European futbol. (It is currently blowing my mind that any ol’ U.S. household with “basic” cable now has NBCSports and a ton of soccer matches.) If a teammate got their hands on a 4-4-2 or any European/British soccer magazines, it was a coveted, magical thing. Therefore, I didn’t really have a player that made me love the game. I played from a very young age and at 12 had the luck to travel to Italy to play. Wow, that was fun. The stadiums! The soccer culture! The ability of the Italian players to keep the ball in the air, we played mainly on the ground.

    On top of having very limited access, putting up with being called a “soccer fag” was pretty great too. You lads thought you had it rough…Plus always having to listen to the reports that “soccer is growing in the U.S.” yeah right. I still have not summoned the ability to watch an MLS game.

    Anyway, any/all European football players made me fall in love with the game. I played year-round and we couldn’t watch any pro soccer. It stunk. I remember racing home from lawn mowing jobs to watch the WC ’94. Too bad those U.S. kits were embarrassing.

  19. drags says:

    World cup ’94 was my first real moment of falling in love with football as a whole, painting out faces for the final. Watching Baggio miss that penalty, it was absolute drama. I just couldn’t get enough of Rivaldo, he was just so silky smooth. Went on to really enjoy watching Batistuta play as well. But ultimate player for me has always been Ronaldinho. The skills, control, vision and finishing were magical, but he always played the game with a smile on his face, the true spirit of good football. Sadly emulating anything he ever produced is nigh on impossible, but hey a guy can try.

  20. Original Lamester says:

    Robbie Fowler. An ugly scouser who had an incredible natural ability to score goals. I mean, when you look at him, you don’t think footballer. He didn’t have the elegance of Henry, the pace of Shearer (at least in Blackburn) or the muscle mass of Rooney. He just knew how to put the ball in the back of the net – not through simple tap-ins, by no means; in fact, if you go through his goals, the amount if times the ball nestled in the side net is quite staggering.

    And @Chris:
    If not Fowler then it’s Michael Laudrup for me too, seeing as I’m Danish. It’s a little known fact that in 2000 he was voted the best foreign player in Barcelona in the past 25 years, beating people like Romario, Koeman, Stoichkov et al.

  21. yngwie says:

    It has to be Andrea Pirlo for me. A beautiful man who played beautiful football.

  22. Haywired says:

    Roberto Baggio. Even though I had been alive for the ’86 and ’90 World Cups, I was too young to have really paid much attention, but by the time USA ’94 came around I was 9 years old and ready to be fully absorbed by football. And I was (and England hadn’t even qualified). Baggio (along with Romario) was the star of the tournament and pretty much dragged Italy to the final. The fact that in the end, after all that, it was he that missed the crucial penalty and lost the trophy broke my heart. Though it did made for an amazing story (I guess sometimes a brutal ending is more interesting). Soon after I got my first pair of football boots which were Diadoras with Baggio’s signature on them.

    • Scottazzurri says:

      I totally agree. Roberto Baggio was magical. Him and Paolo Maldini were the two stars of that side. When Channel4 started showing ‘Football Italia’ this coincided with Serie A being THE best league at this time (around 1994-95) and I fell in love with Juventus. Baggio was mesmerizing and I used to wish that Maldini would swap AC Milan for Juve….Alas……..

    • Lanza says:

      Has to be Roberto Baggio for me as well. I’m not sure there’s a player who scored as many beautiful and varied goals as him. Could do it all with such ease. True magician.

  23. yeahyeah says:

    Dennis Bergkamp made the game look so easy. Great first touch, never scored regular goals, and single-highhandedly personified his team. The reason I love the Gunners, the reason I love football.

  24. TravisKOP says:

    Zinedine Zidane, was a God with the ball at his feet

  25. EdemKorsi says:

    I was born in 91 with a Dad who didn’t mind which team his kids supported…as long as it wasn’t Man Utd. But the sight of this King amongst men standing boldly with his collar up and a middle finger to authority…It had to be Eric Cantona. I would trade 100 Ronaldos (either) for that Legend. His ego and poise were magnetising.

  26. Frank says:

    Uwe Bein with Eintracht Frankfurt in 1992. The man with the “deadly” passing accuracy.

  27. Adam says:

    Steven Gerrard. As a Canadian, I never had the luxury of having European football available on TV. However, for whatever reason a certain 2006 FA cup final was televised mid-day while I was home sick from school. I was hooked from then on.

  28. German Ortiz says:

    Faustino Asprilla, he was the first Colombian player to play in Europe and succeed. I remember watching him on weekends as a kid and just being memorized by his dribbling and speed. He was also a maniac so to an impressionable young boy like I was, he was the man!
    Also really love Lothar Matthaus, watching him in Italia ’90 just blew my mind. The way he could single handily destroy an opposing team was amazing to see.

  29. Red Dan says:

    Kenny Dalglish. I grew up in a city in which played Europe’s best and I had the supreme fortune to watch him play (and could he play!) right in front of me, with me mates, every fortnight.
    Even romantic snippets of foreign skills on channel four couldn’t shift my firm belief that the king is still the best.

  30. RobbieC says:

    John Barnes in the 1987/88 season. The beautiful art of beating players without sprinting.

  31. Gabe says:

    Mine has to be Juan Roman Riquelme. The occasion? 2000 Intercontinental Cup – Boca Juniors vs Real Madrid. I could remember every single time Riquelme touched the ball, dribbled past one, two players with such ease! It was just the way he rolled the ball with his foot and the little pauses he made that struck me. He made it look so pleasing to the eye! And to do that against one of the best midfielders in the world at that time (Makelele) was even better, they couldn’t get anywhere near him. The rest is just history: the nutmegs.. the free kicks, the golazo in the Libertadores final against Corinthians.. I could go on. What I loved most of all, was this piece of art he left for the Boca fans in his last match at La Bombonera https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dsPWEBb5jRU

  32. Colin says:

    Great article, Chris. Very hard to pick just one… I will say I owe a big thank you to my grandmother (rest in peace) for taping Champions league games and mailing VHS’s to me in the late 90s early 2000s. I was not fortunate enough to have the requisite cable channel #847… In a pre-men in blazers world that’s all there was. This kept the spark of the 1998 world cup alive which had just managed to hit the periphery of my consciousness. I am sure I won’t be alone here, but Watching Zidane glide around the France, Juventus, and then Madrid midfield was unlike anything I’d seen before. This inspired me to buy predators despite the fact that Adidas shoes do not fit me well (congratulations marketers). This almost inspired me to dropout of high school and stowaway for Japan/Korea. Fortunately I didnt, and watching france implode from afar did nothing to reduce my adoration. As far as the headbutt goes I still question whether it actually happened or was just a hoax like 9/11. If Zidane still played… even only with his kids…if it were televised I would watch. First love can be irrational.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hf9b23BSeos

  33. Dogg says:

    Dennis Bergkamp, without a doubt. When I used to go to Highbury I would often just watch him, he made everything look fascinating, brilliant, and crucially, easy. Unbelievable player, my favourite of all-time.

  34. Nick says:

    Definitely Brazilian Ronaldo, was 7 when the 2002 world cup was on that launched my absolute obcession with the game. Watching him score in every game apart from against England and smiling and playing so well made the sport look beautiful. Even wanted my haircut like his but thankfully my mum didn’t let me

  35. Flemming says:

    It probably would have been Laudrup if I were a couple of years older. He retired the same year I started watching football.
    Ronaldo in the world cup of 1998 was the one for me.

  36. Soccer Steve says:

    Inzaghi. An argument can be made that he had no business being a footballer and yet there he was; setting scoring records and winning Champions Leagues. The way he celebrated after scoring…goosebumps.

  37. Jarren says:

    Kennet Andersson, playing for Sweden at USA ’94.

    Awesome goals, and epic celebration.

    Oh, and of course the mighty Batigol every time Fiorentina were on Football Italia!

  38. Gerd says:

    The only proper football on tv growing up in St. Louis was Football Made in Germany on PBS. It was the late 70s, so for me it was Der Kaiser. He pulled all the strings seemingly without any effort. I guess that’s why I’m a huge Berbatov fan today.

  39. Gerd says:

    The only proper football on tv growing up in St. Louis was Football Made in Germany on PBS. It was the late 70s, so for me it was Der Kaiser. He pulled all the strings seemingly without any effort. I guess that’s why I’m a huge Berbatov fan today.

  40. Mitchell says:

    Oliver Kahn. 5 year old me loved the fact that he was allowed to yell and lose his shit at everyone and get away with it. The reason I play goalkeeper.

  41. Vasko says:

    Dimitar Berbatov. I fell for football rather late and so had only the most shockingly basic understanding of which teams were good and which weren’t. So before I get labeled for being a glory hunting United fan, when I first started watching Manchester United at the start of the 08/09 season, it was because of our national treasure Berbatov, not because of the shiny silverware. For Christ’s sake I didn’t even know we’d just won the double the previous season. But as I watched every beautiful touch, every exquisite assist, the sheer maverick audacity of everything he did (that spin against West Ham) I fell in love with football and United. Maybe it was the fact that I was a Bulgarian kid growing up in America and Berba provided a connection to Bulgaria, but every goal he scored felt like mine and every criticism about his ‘work rate’ was leveled at me. He was the gateway to my passion for United. Pies did him justice in the best way I have seen to date with their tribute to him after his move away from United. I credit him with showing me United (although I acknowledge I came dangerously close to being a City fan), and all the dismal lows (City v. Qpr 2012, Liverpool at home 2009) and stratospheric highs (4-3 against City 2009, and seeing them live in my hometown of Denver this year. Long after he has languidly strolled into retirement, I will always be thankful of what Mitko has done for me.

  42. Anonymous says:

    Peter Beardsley

  43. Mairbeer says:

    Kennet Andersson was amazing in USA 94! That whole tournament made me a football fan.

  44. gamblino says:

    Totally agree with the football italia thing and it was Del Piero for me. He played for so long that I’ve thought about it a couple of times and had to check myself to make sure it was really when I was that young! Would have been early teens when he really started making waves. Everything about him was exotic! All finesse!

  45. Irshaad says:

    Born in 1991 that makes me 23 at the moment and I started following and watching football when I was around 4 or 5 and that’s when I understood the game properly and knew different positions on the pitch and that’s when I came across a young Ryan Giggs and he is the reason why I became a Manchester United fan (by the way my dad is a Liverpool supporter). I’m from South Africa so coverage of the Premier League was not too great in the early 90’s, but every opportunity I got I use to watch a United game and always stayed in touch with the results, news and transfers. Over the pass 13 years coverage of the Premier League has been amazing with at least 10 premier league fixtures been shown every week. I don’t miss a single game and when it comes to International Football I support Italy so with regards to an Italian player I would say Filippo Inzaghi and Francesco Totti where the two stand outs for me but mainly Francesco Totti.

  46. Irshaad says:

    At Captain Spinmove I’m a United supporter and yes I agree with you Thierry Henry is the best player to grace the Premier League thus far but he is not the reason why I fell in love with Football.

  47. Dave says:

    David Beckham is the man for me.

    The 1999 treble winning season when I was 7, I sat with my Gramps watching as many matches as we could that year. Partly because Becks is so charismatic but I loved every time he stepped up to a free kick and that sense of anticipation, you just felt a goal was coming. Because of him I spent endless days whipping a football in between 2 trees in my back garden, and to this day the only thing I’m good at with a ball is taking a free kick.

    Honorable mentions to Brazilian Ronaldo at the 2002 World Cup, and Becks successor Cristiano Ronaldo they took my love of football to another obsessive level.

  48. Ubietz says:

    “There are only two Christs; one plays for Barcelona, the other is in heaven,” so it has to be Hristo Stoichkov.

    The first world cup I watched from beginning to end was 1994 and it was magical. The qualifier in 1993 against France was incredible (seeing Platini’s sour face frown was even better) but to get to the WC and beat Argentina and Germany was unreal.

    Stoichkov not only had pace, determination, power and a ferocious left foot but he could also dribble, use finesse if needed and lead. You’d follow him into the depths of hell as a teammate.

  49. John says:

    Thierry Henry scoring goals at Highbury is my earliest memory of top-flight football. It wasn’t easy to watch English football in New Jersey but when I saw his touch, the way he could score from anywhere, his stride, and the overall rhythm he had I fell in love. Watching him score at Highbury was unlike anything I’d ever seen. That ground was incredible and the fans we’re rabid, especially after an Henry goal. I’m not even an Arsenal fan

  50. Kingsland101 says:

    Everyone should buy ‘Matt Le Tissier – Unbelievable’ on DVD. I used to watch my original VHS pretty much every weekend for 3 or 4 years before I went to play football back in the 90s.

    How it’s possible for one man to score so many incredible goals, all so very different, still amazes me. Who else flicks up a free kick and volleys it into the top corner, scores from 45 yards with the keeper on his line after beating 4 players at 1mph, slaloms probably the best Utd defence ever before chipping Schmeichel from outside the box? No-one!

    The man was incredible! If only England had recognised he was possibly our best player ever to play the game then maybe more people would realise it.

  51. up44 says:

    Luc Nilis, playing for PSV.
    Premier League fans might not know him that well since he only played three matches for Aston Villa before breaking his leg (which ended his career), but I urge them to look up his beautiful league debut goal against Chelsea! The fact that both Ronaldo and Ruud van Nistelrooij have referred to Nilis as one of the best (if not the best) strikers they ever played with, says enough for me.

  52. Nathan says:

    Ronaldo, the original, had never seen anything like him. My earliest football memories are watching him for Inter and Brazil and then going to school to unsuccessfully copy everything he did. For me I imagine will always be the greatest striker I have ever.

  53. Keano says:

    Roy Keane.

  54. EDub says:

    Easy – Thierry Henry. He’s the reason why a Yank follows Arsenal and the FFF religiously.

  55. PetrovskyKSC says:

    God, i loved slaven bilic, sergej kyriakov and thomas haessler playing for the mighty Karlsruher SC back in the mid 90s. It was huge. I was about six and completely out of my head every weekend. I was friends with them in my dreams and i still am

  56. Kundan says:

    Gabriel Batistuta.

  57. Miguel says:

    Mexico 86: Enzo Francescoli (finesse, class) and Diego Maradona (genius, magic).
    After that it was seeing Holland win the Euro 88 with that goal from Marco Van Basten.

  58. LukaModerlyRich says:

    More articles like this please. Mine has got to be King Eric, flamboyant, free and looking capable of absolutely anything on the pitch. I just had to see more of this world…and that how I cannot spend one day without knowing whats going on in that world.

  59. Ed says:

    King Eric.

  60. sam says:

    Scholes in midfield; i’ve never seen someone strike the ball as true as he used to (Middlsbrgh goal) and his vision and range were stunning. A player’s player.

    For defense, since that’s what i played growing up, the cohesion of the French 98 back line was the best i’ve seen collectively. But as an individual player, Maldini was the best defender i’ve ever seen. There may have been better centerbacks and wing/fullbacks but unquestionably, nobody played both as well he did. Poise, athleticism, professionalism, mistake-free, and a leader. A crime he didn’t win World Player of the Year in 94 or 95. Of course FIFA also saw fit to put Dani Alves over Phillip Lahm in it’s ‘Team of the Year’ for a couple years…

  61. Bob says:

    Matt Le Tis! Le God. Amen.

  62. Chris says:

    John Barnes and Paul Gascoigne. They’re only ones who didn’t get mentioned.

    BTW If you get a chance watch the WC90 qualifer at wembley against sweden. John was embarrassingly better than everyone.

  63. Colin says:

    Football Italia was a fantastic showcase of the game to me as a 12 year old in Ireland with their weekly round up of highlights on a Saturday morning and a live game on Sunday. Seeing George Weah pick up the ball from inside His own box & run through the Verona team to score was jaw dropping.

    The next season Ronaldo joined Inter milan after a sensational year with Barcelona. But Serie A was the proving ground, the toughest league (Bergkamp was constantly getting donkey of the week in the papers when he was with Inter two years earlier)

    Ronaldo Il fenomeno thrived, his acceleration, dribbling, balance, ball control, quick feet, power & finishing ability he was just incredible. on another level. Terrible knee injuries took a lot away from him later but he successfully adapted his game at Madrid.

    Inter milan became my team, seeing Moratti make huge signings & Inter under achieve hugely endeared them to me in a strange way. They were a crazy, unpredictable & exciting club. Glad you mentioned Álvaro Recoba. El Chino was capable of sheer brilliance at any moment, his ability doesn’t get the credit he deserves.

  64. Yehhanyos says:

    Roberto Baggio at the 1994 WC (I was nine years old as well)

    He scored late and important goals, was just too skillful and influential. He basically lift the team on his shoulders and helped them reach the final.

  65. Nathan says:

    I was born in 91, being a rangers fan I’d have to say Ally Mccoist and Brian Laudrup but I give a special mention to Luc Nilis, one of those players who make football look simple. Then after that it was Ruud van nistelrooy and of course Ronaldo9. Oh and Francesco Totti!

  66. Dan says:

    It’s gotta be Adel Taraabt. Jokes. Starting following football (and Arsenal) at about the same time Fabregas started to break into the first team. Just about the best passer ever. Is always absolutely aware of where his teammates are, and how to find them. I love an intelligent footballer – the kind who makes everyone else in the side play better, and I don’t think there’s any modern footballer who matches Fabregas on that front.

    I was pretty cut up when he moved to Barca, but it absolutely destroyed me when Arsenal turned down the chance to re-sign him. For that decision alone, Wenger should be fired.

  67. Felipe says:

    I feel like narrowing it down to one player is just not fair. It has to be more than one. Different players influenced different aspects of how I came to fall in love with footy.

    As a late newcomer to this beautiful sport (organized-wise, aged 9), it was initially Ivan Cordoba or Mario Yepes. The two Colombian centrals (yes, I am from Bogota) were at the peak in their careers and had just come off a Copa America victory – a very controversial win indeed.

    As I developed my skills and by age 11, it was possibly Brazilian Ronaldo who influenced in every way how I played on the pitch. The fakes, the cut-backs, the stepovers, everything.

    You may argue that because I am going to bring up Cristiano Ronaldo, that I am one of those fanboys who knows nothing about football. That might be true.

    Nonetheless, watching him play in Euro 2004 changed entirely the way I looked at football. Street skills could be applied on a real field, watching football which up until this point was boring to me changed entirely, thanks to a young star who would sadly turn into a no one.

    The passion kept growing every year and it was the 2008-09 Genoa squad who made me fall in love with the understanding of tactics, build-up play and counter-attacks.

    Sorry for the long post. Basically the following made me fall in love with football:

    Ivan Cordoba, Ronaldo (Brasil), Ronaldinho, Cristiano Ronaldo, Alessandro Nesta, Zinedine Zidane, Andrea Pirlo, 2008/09 Genoa & Barcelona, 2010 Inter, Carlos Valderrama.

    Cheers Pies.

  68. joshua says:

    lee dong-gook.

  69. DC says:

    Giggsy. Growing up I played as a left-sided midfielder, nowhere near the wispy, winding class of that man. But that’s what dreams are for. Dreamed about being as good-looking as Beckham too but I think I got closer with the Giggs one.

    Honorable mention, (no laughs) to Martin Petrov. I remember watching him charging down the flanks and cutting inside onto his right for no good reason, and me trying to imitate that in my own play.

    Judging by everyone’s Italian picks, I guess I must have been born in the era where Italian football was awful because those were some of the only feeds we could get regularly in the US and I hated it for so long.

  70. Deano says:

    Nice MSP link there.
    Maradona for me and the 1986 World Cup in general for getting me into footy in the first place. But it was Maradona that really got me hooked, watching his skills with the ball, his creativity, cheekiness, superb. That second goal against England is one I can’t get enough of seeing even now and it really encapsulates the beautiful game for me.

  71. Jirka rotoped says:

    EDGAR DAVIDS – he was the first, truly BEAST.

  72. Inno says:

    As a Celtic fan discovering football in the late 80s, early 90s you can imagine my choice is immense; the halcyon days of Anton Rogan, Derek Whyte, Mike Galloway, Pat McGinlay, Tony Cascarino, Stuart Slater, Martin Hayes and Ian Andrews… but the one that stood out was undoubtedly Paul McStay. Simply known to most as The Maestro, he was immense.

    People talk about managers and players being ahead of their time, well McStay was light years ahead. His style of getting the ball, driving forward and keeping possession, letting loose an occasional defence splitting through ball or unleashing the odd 20 yard thunderbolt into the net would have seen him hailed as the second coming of Zinedine Zidane today. Or possibly even had him spoken about as a possible £5m signing for Hull, given how the English media sees the Scottish Premier League. Hi, Virgil van dijk…

  73. Bruno says:

    Romário and Marcelinho Carioca (brazilian)

  74. Víctor says:

    Andriy Shevchenko, deadliest striker in early 2000´s

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