My Perfect Player #10
And we reach number 10. Thanks to all who have helped get the series this far; contributors and readers alike. This edition is brought to you by Maxi Rodriguez. No, I didn’t manage to get a celebrity for the 10th Perfect Player. He’s just an average Maxi. Although he’s really quite a good writer, as you can find out on Futbol Intellect, his website.
Brain – Carlos Valderama
The game always seemed to slow for Carlos Valderama. While the pitch was overrun with the rabble of players jostling for space, Valderama was always an image of composure in the center of midfield. Right foot on the top of the ball, head held high, unconcerned with the charging defenders in the present, he always looked to the future. A lofted pass, a cross-field ball, a slight tap to a teammate making a diagonal run, Valderama was the fulcrum of the successful Colombian sides of the early 1990s. So absurd was his ability to control a game, that it always seemed a bit of charity when he allowed other players to touch the ball. The definition of a field general.
Head – Chicharito Hernandez
Although it seems that Chicharito is fully versed in using any part of his head to knock one in, this selection is based more on having his head in the right place, than any goal-scoring prowess. Flush with multi-million dollar contracts, sponsorships, and adoring fans, footballers nowadays seem a bit more self-serving than I remember in my youth. Players like Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Mario Balotelli dominate the media to such an extent with their egos, that it’s refreshing to hear of a player who attributes his success to everyone on his team, save for himself. Humble, unselfish, and hard-working, Chicharito Hernandez is fully dedicated to his teammates, willing to sacrifice his ego for the betterment of the squad. The “Ultimate Player” would have to know when to share the spotlight; something Chicharito strives for every time he enters the pitch.
Eyes – Michele Platini
I distinctly remember my father launching into a story about someone he called a “French Magician” when I was about 10 years old. “Right foot, left foot, chest, head, it didn’t matter. He’d put put the ball over the opposition, through them, around them. No matter what you did, he always managed to find someone running to goal.” At the time, I was young, and a bit naive to the fact that football fandom required a history degree. My qusetion of “who?” was met with a shocked stare, and I was quickly subjected to a 20-minute lecture on one of my father’s favorite players whose name I haven’t forgotten since, Michel Platini. Single-handedly responsible for the success of Nancy in the late 1970s, Platini was a master passer, who as Bobby Charlton once said, could “thread the ball through the eye of a needle.”
Mouth – Paolo Maldini
Il Capitano. Seven Serie A championships, five Champions League Cups, one Coppa Italia, five Supercoppas, five UEFA Super Cups, two Intercontinental Cups, one FIFA Club World Cup, a symbol of Milan, and a symbol of Football. What more needs to be said? An inspiration on and off the pitch, Paolo Maldini led Milan for two decades with a dedication, professionalism, and work ethic rarely seen in the world of international football. Never one to buckle under the stress of expectations, nor to be overawed by crucial matches, Paolo Maldini was the perfect captain. I felt honored every time I watched him lead Milan onto the pitch.
Lungs – Ji-Sung Park
It must be frustrating for the opposition. While matches tend to slow as time expires, as players begin to feel the toll of 90 minutes of running, lunging, and the resultant knocks, there goes Ji-Sung Park, pressing the opposition and steaming past defenders as if he had just been subbed into the game. But he wasn’t. In fact, if one looks in his direction when the final whistle comes, you’ll find a slightly disappointed expression seeming to say, “Already?! And I was just getting started!” The hardest-working player in the Premiership.
Left Leg – Roberto Carlos
The memories may have faded by now, but Roberto Carlos was a terror with his left foot in the late 1990s. With absurd dribbling skills inappropriate for his position, Roberto Carlos undid opposition squads with his 80-yard passes that always managed to find Ronaldo, the driven shots as he cut inside from the left side of the pitch, and the free kicks that defied gravity. The Free Kicks! A recent MIT study found that 50% of all the videos uploaded to Youtube are duplicate copies of Roberto Carlos’ wondergoal against France in 1997. I think. Around the wall, around the referee, around the world, and into the net. Ridiculous. How could you not choose his left foot?
Right Leg – David Beckham
I had the pleasure of seeing David Beckham score from a free kick a few months ago, and it was just as you’d expect. Thankfully, a player was taken out with a horrific tackle just outside the box, and immediately, eyes lit up around the stadium. I screamed, I’ll admit, like an 8-year old girl. “BECKS IS GONNA TAKE A FREE KICK!” As he stepped up, the fans, the opposition players, and even the referees craned their necks to get a better view of the impending majesty. Hit with his right, the ball curled around the wall and past a goalie who seemed so entranced by the thought that he was facing a David Beckham free-kick, that he neglected to move and instead, stared at the ball as it nestled softly in the upper right corner.