By Don McMahon
It is pointless to compare our youth and reserve players to known superstars like Messi and Ronaldo. These two men are the exception to the rule, the one-offs who will likely never be repeated again. for example; Alfredo DiStefano or Puskas were such exceptional players for their time, BUT they played in exceptional teams. The Real team of the early 60’s was one of the most gifted teams in the world and the Hungarian team of the early 50’s could probably play and win today as easily as they did back then, they were so exceptional.
My point is that comparing kids today to superstars and established champions like Zidane, Henry, Iniesta etc. is pointless and a cheap, lazy media mechanism to avoid actually highlighting their special talents. I watched Paul Pogba during the Euros and he certainly moves well, is fast and can be a real threat in attack BUT he’s totally different from Zidane or Beckenbauer or for that matter Platini and imho, not close to their level.
I had the privilege of refereeing Pele when he visited Canada, and he didn’t really stand out in the game, played against a semi-pro Toronto team. However, he did play at a consistently high level, that is, consistently high for the opposition he was facing.
I also was an assistant referee for two games when Beckenbauer played for NYC, and he DID stand out for a number of reasons, one of which was his in-your face attitude he took to being captain and his attitude towards the referee. He was a true leader, scoring the winning goal in both games AND getting on people’s backs if they weren’t pulling their weight (a common phenomena in the NASL back then).
I also was an assistant when the late George Best played, but he wasn’t in his best form then, got dismissed and tore up the official’s dressing room in retaliation. I actually refereed a few professional sides playing exhibition games with local teams and saw the spectrum of abilities, talent, discipline and lack of it. And I came to the conclusion that being a champion requires a very complex and intertwined set of skills and attitudes. This set of skills and attitudes is UNIQUE to each player and the likelihood of finding them replicated exactly or even approximately is extremely unlikely.
Will Iwobi be the ¨new Henry¨? Will Ramsey be the ¨new Zidane¨? Will Coquelin be the ¨new Vieira¨?
This is all nonsense speculation and totally pointless, they will be the player they can develop into or have become, no more or no less. Here are some reasons why such idle prognostications are counter-productive, unfair and ultimately disappointing;
- These statements (¨new this or that¨) assume the player will NOT be better than the target model he is supposed to imitate.
- Setting the bar so high can discourage and distract any young player from the real goal of being the BEST he or she can be, regardless of what others say or compare them to.
- IF the young player doesn’t reach such heady heights, he can be discouraged, even depressed and lose interest, motivation and drive needed to achieve HIS best.
- Conversely, young players’ egos can be over-inflated and since they lack maturity, they can do stupid things on and off the pitch that only serve to injure their careers or even lives.
- This form of commoditizing players is unfair, unjust and in many ways inhuman. Almost every club always looks for the ¨new Messi¨ and in their efforts to find that gem; they have become involved in some shady human abuse with youth players OR actually stockpiled players who need to be managed more humanely and fairly.
I love the Arsenal way (and that of certain other clubs as well); train the kids up, let them have their heads but ensure that they understand what is expected of them and NEVER compare them to an established superstar.
Wenger has the skills to encourage, mentor, discipline, guide and develop young players into who they can be at their best. Some achieve that dream, others never do, BUT it isn’t because they weren’t given the chance or because they were ripped away from their families and friends at an early age and used like commodities to achieve trophies.
So let’s please drop the ¨new___¨ moniker and just let the player prove WHO they are and want to be!
- L’Equipe suggests new signing imminent, Morata to Arsenal, Tottenham for England
- Comparison of fouls across the years
- How Arsenal could buy the next Messi or the next Ronaldo
Untold Arsenal has published five books on Arsenal – all are available as paperback and three are now available on Kindle. The books are
- The Arsenal Yankee by Danny Karbassiyoon with a foreword by Arsene Wenger.
- Arsenal: the long sleep 1953 – 1970; a view from the terrace. By John Sowman with an introduction by Bob Wilson.
- Woolwich Arsenal: The club that changed football. By Tony Attwood, Andy Kelly and Mark Andrews.
- Making the Arsenal: a novel by Tony Attwood.
- The Crowd at Woolwich Arsenal by Mark Andrews.
You can find details of all five on our new Arsenal Books page
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