It’s hard for me, as a very partisan football fan and avid hater of all things Manchester United, to give credit where it is due. But one man has always been capable of extracting such emotion from me, and that man is Paul Scholes. Along with Eric Cantona and Peter Schmeichel, he is among the hand full of United players who I think aren’t overrated. In light of his retirement at the end of this season, I’ve been inspired to offer a few words on why I feel he deserves the recognition he has received, and probably more.
All the talk over the last few weeks has been about the retirement of Satan himself Sir Alex Ferguson. Yes, this was big news. But there have been a host of big name English players who have also decided to call it a day this year. They are Micheal Owen, David Beckham, Jamie Carragher and Paul Scholes. Each of them have achieved success in varying levels. They have all represented their country and clubs with pride. But who achieved the most success, and who was the best player of the four? The BBC asked people for their thoughts online, and some of the responses were so ridiculous, they fuelled me to write this post. I’m gonna take a look at the four myself, and let you know why Paul Scholes was by far the best.
I’ve never been a big fan of this guy. He had a very impressive opening chapter to his career. He possessed pace, guile and finishing ability. His success while playing for Liverpool was unquestionable, and helped him carve a reputation for himself on the international scene. However, since those early days, the player has been plagued by injury. His spells with Real Madrid, Newcastle United and Manchester United were forgettable. But his choice to end his career with a meaningless pay-day at Stoke City questions the very character of the man.
He hasn’t been at the top of his game for a long, long time and instead of finishing on top (like Paul Scholes), he chose the undignified route of not knowing when to admit that injury beat him. He was a good, quick forward in his early spell, but even then he was a little overrated, and pumped up merely for a couple of particular memories (like the goal against Argentina) – In his later years, he has fully shaken off any gloss of a top player, and now is just a shell. This was a retirement long overdue, and not because of age.
Chris Waddle had the cheek to suggest that Becks wouldn’t make it into his top 1,000 Premier League players. This interview must have been as hilarious as Bret Hart’s shoot on Triple H for Wrestle Talk TV. An irrelevant man who never really made it poking at a seasoned veteran because of his own pathetic jealousy. David Beckham is one of those guys. He has looks, money and talent, and so is hated. He scored some of the most impressive and most important goals in Premier League history, not to mention on the international stage. His dedication to fitness and technique are unquestioned. As a set piece taker, he laid the groundwork for people like Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale to follow in his footsteps. A true great!
Unlike Owen, he had a largely successful stint at Real Madrid, and then went on to take his global brand to experience football in Los Angeles, Milan and Paris, where he won championships galore. His number of trophies and individual accolades are as impressive as most other top stars. The big difference about him is that he has a lot of extra-curricular responsibilities aside from the game. When Micheal Owen will be lucky to get a spot covering the game on Sky Sports, Becks will be jetting around the globe spreading the gospel of football, while being adored by millions. You can see why he is the subject of a lot of envy from a lot of people.
I would advise people to just take a step back and look at the facts. The man would die to represent England, and is the most capped outfield player in history. His exclusion from the Olympic squad was an abomination after he secured the games for London almost single-handedly, with his popularity. His long range shooting, range of passing and phenomenal crossing ability made him the star he is. His determination and work ethic helped keep him there. No matter how much jaded people like Chris Waddle would like to believe otherwise, those are the facts.
There isn’t too much to say about Jamie. He can be summed up in a few words: loyal, dedicated and hard working. As a strong, physical centre back he played a most vital role for Liverpool over a career spanning almost two decades . He stayed loyal to his club all the way through, and now his son is in the kids team. He is red through and through, and the perfect example of what you want in the heart of your defence. Unlike Owen, he spent his whole career with one club, which is very rare these days. He produced some game changing performances when his team really needed it, and even towards the end of this season, he had re-established himself in the starting line-up at Liverpool. He will be sorely missed by the Kop faithful, and held in much higher regard there than the likes of Michael Owen (Man, I really do hate this guy, don’t I?)
Now for the man who inspired me to write this post in the first place. I have already laid out some of the reasons why I rate this guy so much, but why listen to me? In my opinion, the best footballer of all time was Zinedine Zidane. What did he think? The French dynamo described him as “the complete midfielder” Dutch legend Edgar Davids said “Every one of us should emulate him” and even Xavi Hernandez of Barcelona and Spain declared that “Paul Scholes is a role model. For me – and I really mean this – he’s the best central midfielder I’ve seen in the last 15, 20 years”
Some of the best players to have ever played the game, and who have been lucky enough to share the pitch with Scholes have heaped praise on him at every given opportunity. His cultured style screams Spain or Brazil, more than it does England. We were very lucky to have him, and I could even admire his brilliance when he was playing for United. When it comes to choosing between this illustrious group of 2013 retiring stars, it’s an easy choice. Paul Scholes has been one of the best players I’ve seen in my life, and it really is a shame to see him gone. He wasn’t a media icon like Beckham. He was and still is just a normal guy, who wants to stay out of the spotlight and work on the game he loves. I hope we see him do that in a coaching role soon, preferably away from Old Trafford.