Saturday, July 25, 2020

10 + more footballers that have made a lasting impression

Someone recently nominated me on Facebook to post pictures of ten footballers that have made an impression on me. It was not easy, and got me thinking about the many footballers that I admire and respect. Although I posted ten, there are so many more, so, here is an expanded list of fantastic footballers:

  • Diego Maradona: for me he remains the best there ever was; he was largely the reason I fell in love with the game. I moved from Argentina to Mexico in 1986, and the 1986 World Cup was thus very special for me, and he shone for the team that I supported.
  • Michael Laudrup: The greatest footballer Denmark has ever produced was a young man during the World Cup in 1986 when I also became a fan of him. I moved to Spain some years later, when he was playing in FC Barcelona, and being from Denmark immediately led to comparisons to Laudrup, who was deeply admired and respected. Besides his qualities, he was also considered a gentleman as a player, although he seemed out of touch, for instance when he changed to Real Madrid
  • Ronaldinho: Perhaps the best footballer I have seen play; I saw him in Barcelona against Zaragoza in 2006, in a match where he scored two goals. He was splendid in everything he did and was hugely entertaining to watch in any team that he played.
  • George Weah: In the 1990s I had barely heard about Liberia. And suddenly there was this fantastic footballer from Liberia scoring amazing goals in Serie A for AC Milan! I particularly remember a goal he scored against Verona. Many years later I moved to Liberia, and the first thing I thought about was not its awful civil war, but as the country that created such a fantastic player!
  • Ruud Gullit: I first became a fan of Gullit during Euro 88, when he led the Netherlands to a fantastic triumph. He then moved to AC Milan which became a fantastic winning side with him, alongside players such as Rijkaard, Van Basten, Baresi. That Milan side was for me one of the most memorable teams I have watched, and Gullit, with his characteristic dreadlocks, the best.
  • Jorge Valdano: Jorge Valdano was one of the players alongside Maradona in the 1986 World Cup triumph, and I also became a fan of him, despite him playing in Real Madrid (I am not a fan). But besides his skills, Valdano is one of the greatest thinkers about football in the world.
  • Kim Vilfort: In 1989 I watched the Danish Cup final between Ikast and Brondby. I supported Ikast, but as the team ceased to exist and I moved, Brondby became my team. And Kim Vilfort was one of the pillars of the team. He was not brilliant, and a bit slow, but he was humble and hard working, the two most important qualities. In 1992, on the Danish national team, he scored the second goal in the legendary Euro victory against Germany, something I will always be fond of remembering!
  • Marta: Until Marta came along I was not a fan of women's football. I found that they lacked skills and were too focused on the physical part of the game. But Marta changed that, bringing Brazilian skills and flair into the game. She was a spectacular player with skills far above most men, and changed women's football, despite all the discrimination she has had to endure from a male chauvinistic sport.
  • Didier Drogba: Since I first heard about Drogba, while he was playing in Marseille, I became interested in following his career, which became glorious, both at his time in Chelsea and also with the Ivorian national team. The reason to support either side was basically Drogba, who besides his goalscoring abilities also was a man committed to improving things in his country.
  • Peter Schmeichel: In my view the greatest goalkeeper there ever was, but of course, I am also biased, as he started in Brondby and was so important in Denmark's 1992 Euro triumph! 
  • Carles Puyol: Puyol captained two of the best sides in history; Spain's 2010 World Cup winners and FC Barcelona's Champions' League and La Liga winners. And in both teams he was the solid and talented defender that provided the space and confidence for the teams to be victorious. He is likely one of the best defenders of all time. 
  • Wayne Rooney: He was not the best player ever and he played for England and Manchester United (two teams I do not support), but I realized that I had closely followed his career, and had few bad things to say about him. 
  • Zinedine Zidane: Although he played for Real Madrid I am only full of admiration for Zidane.  I got to know him from his time in Juventus, but he went into history when he led an incredible French team to the World Cup title in 1998. I cannot even blame him for his famous headbutt in the 2006 World Cup final! And his perfect 2002 Champions' League final goal against Bayer Leverkusen is legendary!
  • Gaizka Mendieta: In 2001 I went to study in Castellon. That year I became fan of Valencia, who made it to the Champions League final as I was among the spectators cheering, and they were led by a splendid Gaizka Mendieta, who happened to be from Castellon!
  • Carlos Valderrama: The first time I cheered like crazy for Colombia was in 1990 when Colombia played West Germany, and Valderrama leading the Colombian midfield with his characteristic hairstyle. He had a glorious career with a Colombian side that sadly underperformed for years, but also had a good career in Europe.
  • Ronaldo: I am talking about Ronaldo Nazario, the prolific Brazilian goalscorer who in the 1990s and 2000s scored goal after goal for Barcelona, Inter Milan and Real Madrid. I remember watching him so often on TV, scoring again and again, that it seems that period of my life was defined by his goals! While his 1998 World Cup was a memorable disappointment he belongs in the history book with Brazil's 2002 World Cup victory, when he also became the most scoring player of all time!
  • Miroslav Klose: Not the most memorable striker, but after the 2014 World Cup he became the most scoring player of all time in a World Cup. But more than this, he was always a gentleman, one of the most fair players at a time when one saw this less and less.
  • Eric Cantona: I admired him because he was an outstanding individualist in a team sport. A personality like his can be problematic in a team, but people like him are necessary for football.
  • Zlatan Ibrahimovic: Basically for the same reason I admire Eric Cantona, I admire Zlatan Ibrahimovic. I watched him play for Sweden against England in Euro 2012, and although Sweden lost, Zlatan was the best of the match.
  • Xavi: The midfield general of FC Barcelona and for Spain's World Cup winner was the brain behind both winning teams. In my view he should have been the FIFA World Player of the year at least once during those years!
  • Iker Casillas: Any brilliant team has a great goalkeeper and so did Spain in 2010. Iker Casillas was a gentleman and a fair player who was marginalised from the club he gave it all for, Real Madrid. I feel he is one of the most underrated goalkeepers in history.
  • Nadia Nayim: When Denmark did well in women's football at the 2017 Euros, Nadia Nayim was an outstanding player, but also an admirable person who has excelled in and outside the pitch despite the odds of her being a woman and a refugee.

The list is getting long, and there are in fact more footballers to whom my little homage here is a small gratitude to the joy they have given me.

No comments: