Football is a game of opinions. A manager’s linchpin will be a fan’s scapegoat and there’s always that player who everyone else seems to rate, but you can’t seem to grasp why.
In Part 2 of our monthly feature, our talkingbaws team give us their ‘players they just don’t get!’
‘Cantona may have shared Balotelli’s penchant for the odd melt down, but in my own opinion, in footballing terms, the two shouldn’t be mentioned in the same breath’ – Daniel Caw.
For me, I just don’t get Mario Balotelli. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not claiming he’s a terrible player or anything like that but I just don’t understand the exaggerated hype that so often surrounds him. He was banned for 8 matches last season, 8 potentially crucial matches, and his stamp on Scott Parker, along with his assault on Alex Song, have led to regular debates amongst ex players, fans and pundits alike. The constant defence of Balotelli is generally that he’s this super talented and extremely gifted young player who just needs a bit of time to mature.
Like I say, he may be a good player, an efficient attacker with a notable scoring ratio, but I have yet to see any evidence of this supposed mercurial talent he’s alleged to have coursing through his veins. The most wearisome observation constantly made in the media is this comparison with Man Utd legend Eric Cantona. Eric Cantona?! ERIC CANTONA?! No chance! Cantona may have shared Balotelli’s penchant for the odd melt down but in my opinion, in footballing terms, the two shouldn’t be mentioned in the same breath. Also, I know overpaying for players comes with the territory at Man City but think of all of the exciting players across the world Mancini could’ve picked from for the £24M he splashed on Super Mario and whilst we’re on Mancini, just why does he always retain so much faith in a player that seems to let him down so often? Again, last season against Arsenal at The Emirates, in a win-or-be-damned match for City, we could all see that he was a time bomb waiting to implode but his misguided manager allowed him to remain on the pitch with his late red card always a certainty. Of course, Balotelli is a character and stories of fireworks in his bathroom and trips to female prisons are great entertainment but I think we should all get into perspective just how super Mario really is.
‘I’d currently rather face the wrath of the chuggy-mad Scotsman than pretend I think Darren Fletcher is a top class player.’ – Marc Eadie.
Scotland captain. First team Manchester United player. Drawn out face like a heroin addict. I have tried so many times to watch a game that Darren Fletcher is a part of to see why he is so highly regarded, but nothing impresses me. I’m not saying he is terrible but I just don’t rate him as highly as so many others do. He frustrates me. I don’t believe he has any real strengths, he is just average all round, and yet is one of the players who are automatic picks for club and country.
His defendants will often say that when playing for Scotland that there is too much pressure on him and the other players rely on him to do much of the ‘work’ (bollocks), and his opposers will say that he is made to look better than he is at United because of the quality around him. I desperately want to see in him what others do and realise that, as is always at the back of my mind, ‘Fergie is right’ but I’d currently rather face the wrath of the chuggy-mad Scotsman myself than pretend I think Darren Fletcher is a top class player.
‘…accentuated by that ridiculous haircut that makes him look like Sideshow Bob lunging for Bart Simpson.’ – Xander Friedlander.
Not sure if this is incited by my dismay at Chelsea being earmarked as ‘a big club’ following a few years of buying success, his €25million transfer fee (that is a lot of meals and vaccinations for poverty stricken areas) or simply because his long curly hair irritates me, but what is David Luiz all about?
Honestly. Despite his anti-football and cheating (‘professional modern defending’ we say) tactics, I acknowledge that a scumbag like Carvalho has his value. But I must draw the line at Luiz. Openly arguing with the manager that he was not signed to put in any effort in tracking back or marking his man, conceding fouls and penalties with rash challenges and a facial expression that suggests he ran into his own boot, several times. Apparently he is a cult hero. But why? What is his added value? Surely the combination of ‘panic winter buy’ and ‘Chelsea’ is a proven formula for an overinflated price tag, but take that tag away and honestly, what makes him so special? Most of the time he simply just stands there, long sleeves, arms down hanging down by his side – if the Chelsea kit had pockets then his hands would be in them. Always seems to jump into action slightly too late and as a result he overzealously jumps into a challenge, accentuated by that ridiculous (lack of) haircut that makes him look like Sideshow Bob lunging for Bart Simpson. David Luiz, what is your point?
‘Patience runs thin with this melodramatic cry-baby act, regardless of how many five yard passed he can make.’ – Michael Clark.
Sergio Busquets. Ability wise, he may never receive a Ballon d’Or nomination, but he is a fundamental part of the “Rolls Royce” which is the Barcelona midfield. He compliments the quick pass and move style superbly, with a footballing brain and all around awareness far beyond his 24 years. He is one of the most technically gifted defensive midfield players on the planet; a point echoed by the great Xavi when he claimed: “Without Busquets we could never have achieved what we have achieved, he is an extraordinary player who is never wrong.” When a player like Xavi gives you that sort of reference, you must be ticking some boxes.
It isn’t so much that I do not rate him as a player; I just would rather go twelve rounds with Mike Tyson than watch this featherweight dramatically throw himself to the ground seven or eight times a match. In a sport – and particularly a league – where there certainly are no angels, Busquets has managed to gain a reputation as one of the most theatrical players in the game. Perhaps this is documented so well because of the success he has enjoyed for both club and country; his antics are widely broadcasted all over the world stage. Type the words ‘Busquets dive’ in to YouTube and you’ll appreciate how well aware the world is of his capability to con a referee. My patience runs thin with his melodramatic cry-baby act, regardless of how many five yard passes he can complete in a game.
‘There is the argument that he does a ‘job’, but is that really enough at the top level?‘ – Nicky Boyle.
There’s always one player in a team who fans never really get. For me, Gareth Barry is that player. I fail to see what he does that merits him playing for the Premiership champions and allows him automatic entry into the England squad. He rarely scores, seldom assists goals, and I have yet to see him really command a game in the way other midfielders like Gerrard or Lampard do.
Considering the money that Manchester City have at their disposal, I find it amazing that they have yet to replace him with a better all-round midfielder. There is the argument that he does a ‘job’, but is this really enough at the top level? He can pass five yards and tackles well, but this is never enough for a top midfielder. Fair enough if he was a midfield enforcer in the mould of Gattuso or even his team-mate De Jong, but he is not. He languishes somewhere in between, not very good at defending, not very good at attacking.
Comparing him to the midfield of Spain, Germany, Italy, he does not come close to any of their guys. I think he is lucky that he has guys live Yaya Toure and David Silva next to him. They allow him to sneak by, simply doing a ‘job’. Now, I could be the one in the wrong. Better and more intelligent football minded coaches seem to like him, Mancini regarding him as an automatic pick, but I am sure I am not alone in my dislike for Barry. Joey Barton branded him a ‘teacher’s pet ’ and a ‘tortoise’ last season, referring to his lack of pace, and I can’t help think that there must be some truth to his claim. He is an honest pro, works hard enough, but is really lacking in top quality. One of these guys who is made to look good by his team-mates and obviously gets on too well with his manager.
Remember, Liverpool wanted rid of Xabi Alonso in order to bring in Barry a few years ago, reportedly unsettling Alonso so much he left for Madrid not long after. Crazy, I will say no more!
Who is the player you just don’t get? Tweet us @talkingbaws or get involved in the discussion below. We want to hear from you!