Eddie's Football Blog

A bizarre look at the world of football, since 2008

Archive for the ‘Eddie’s Greats’ Category

My favourite players from my lifetime, profiled here!

Eddie’s Greats – Hristo Stoichkov

Posted by eddiev18 on February 22, 2009

“Some write that I’m a genius, others say that I’m disrespectful towards their country. Just like they were towards mine. If you remember in 1993 I squatted to tie my shoe during the French national anthem. I don’t care what they write about me.” Hristo Stoichkov

Having recently written a piece about what a horrible little wanker Craig Bellamy is, it was only natural to follow with a homage to Hristo Stoichkov. The above quote is just an example but, seriously, this guy could start an argument with his own reflection and, throughout his career, could frequently be seen having a go at the referee, his opponents, or his manager.

However, aggression can be a very good attribute and, in Stoichkov’s case, is what drove him to become one of the best players in the world. I’ve always thought that it was such a shame he never played in English football, as his style was a perfect match to that of the English game. He fought for everything, chased back when he lost the ball, and a high tempo bought the best out of him.

‘So, the same style as Craig Bellamy then?’, I hear you say. Yes, but unlike Bellamy, Hristo Stoichkov was world class. Great as a support striker, the Bulgarian played at his best as an attacking left-winger, mainly because his crosses had an uncanny ability to find their targets in the penalty area. With the sort of pace a greyhound would be proud of, he never had a problem beating his man either, and when he wasn’t setting goals up, he was scoring them. His career record reads 220 goals in 455 games, including 83 goals in 175 games in one of the best Barcelona teams ever to have graced the Camp Nou.

Dubbed the ‘Dream Team’, Johan Cruyff’s side were unstoppable as they won La Liga four years in a row, and the Champions League in 1992. Stoichkov was the fans favourite, and remains a legend in their eyes today, having won everything he possibly could have with the club, and frequently stating his hatred for Real Madrid.

Standing at a modest 5ft 10in, the Bulgarian looked in no way a powerhouse, but that didn’t stop him producing explosive left-footed pot-shots from distance, which would have Popeye wondering what his diet consisted of. This ability also extended to sublime free-kicks, which most goalkeepers would simply have to watch as they sailed into the top corner.

The best way to remember Stoichkov is to think back to the phenomenal World Cup he had at USA ’94. That tournament was a showreel of his brilliance. The world couldn’t believe its eyes as the Bulgarian led his country to the semi-finals against all the odds, and scored some absolute beauties along the way, to clinch the golden boot. This culminated in him being crowned European footballer of the year, and earning global admiration.

Fine, his career did tail off slightly after leaving Barca, and he was last seen breaking a kid’s leg in the MLS, but who cares? Stoichkov is a true modern great, and that kid now has a story for his grandkids. Anyway, is Dimitar Berbatov the best Bulgarian player in history?

Not in my book…

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Eddie’s Greats – Rivaldo

Posted by eddiev18 on June 28, 2008

Rivaldo BrazilIn his heyday, playing for Barcelona, there wasn’t a player in the world as good as Rivaldo. If that is disputed, it shouldn’t be.

Despite carving out a very successful career for himself, in which he won the World Cup, two Spanish La Liga titles, the Copa Del Rey, along with the 1999 European and Fifa World player of the year awars, the early days of his career were not so easy. Coming from an empoverished Brazilian family, his thin, bow-legged appearance initially put coaches of his native country off – many of them claimed he was too weak.

Appearances often flatter to decieve though, and a talent so natural as his was eventually impossible to ignore. At 21 years of age, after 3 years of flirting with the lower divisions, Rivaldo eventually got his big chance in the Brazilian top flight, signing for Corinthians. It got better though as, after one successful season and 17 goals, Palmeiras snapped him up. It was here, and with Brazil in the 1996 Olympics, where the rest of the world started to take notice.

A move to Deportivo, and then to Barcelona a year later, and he was in his prime, playing at one of the best clubs in the world. He excelled.

A left footed forward, Rivaldo played his best stuff operating in the hole behind the strikers. He had exceptional technique that allowed him time to pick out team-mates with pin-point passes, and gave him space to unleash left-footed piledrivers from outside the penalty box. Giving himself this extra space by means of his technique was vital to his success, as he was often man-marked which would have usually disabled players with lesser levels of skill.

The left footed pile-drivers, many of them superb free-kicks, were one of Rivaldo’s trademarks. The remarkable thing about many of these strikes was that, on first viewing, a spectator could easily think that he had just hit the ball as hard as he possibly could and hoped for the best. However, replays often showed that, despite the venom of the shot, Rivaldo had actually found the corner by expertly sidefooting the ball exactly where he knew the keeper could not save it.

The other Rivaldo trademark was the bicycle kick. I honestly believe I’ve never seen anyone execute this skill better than him. On numerous occasions in his career he would have his back to goal at an impossible angle, or from a ridiculous distance from goal, only to launch himself into the air like a gangly daddy-long-legs., and expertly volley the ball into the back of the net.

For me, although not a trophy winning moment, the best showcase of the great Brazilian’s skills was a game he played for Barcelona in the 2000-01 season. Needing to win the game to qualify for the following season’s UEFA Champions League, Barcelona found themselves at 2-2, running out of ideas, and in need of something special. They got it from Rivaldo in stunning fashion. With his back to goal, 25 yards out, he produced an unstoppable bicycle kick that flew past Valencia’s goalkeeper, and into the onion bag. Rivaldo scored all three of Barcelona’s goals, each one of them a beauty. In my mind it is the greatest hat-trick of all time.

I could go on, but i’ll just let you watch the clip, and you can decide for yourself if he’s worthy of the ‘Great’ tag. I don’t think you’ll disagree.

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Eddie’s Greats – David Ginola

Posted by eddiev18 on June 12, 2008

David Ginola

The guy is an absolute legend to me. Not only because he played some of the best football of his career at Spurs, but because he embodies everything I love about watching football.

Ginola was widely percieved as a show pony, and was the sort of player that managers nowadays would deem a luxury – the sort of player that may stand on the wing for 89 minutes, do nothing defensively, but then produce a moment of sheer brilliance to win the game.

I can understand the frustration of cetain coaches who would try to train him to work harder, play deeper so that he could help out the full back but, honestly, there was no point. The only place you need a player like Ginola is the final third. I remember the crowd at Spurs getting to their feet, and urging him to run at his marker as soon as he got the ball. Quite simply, everyone just knew the damage he could do to another team.

A right footed winger, Ginola played on the left as his technique was esquisite with either foot. At 6 feet 2 inches and of muscular build, he could’ve been mistaken for a traditional number 9 rather than than a winger, but this was probably the most extraordinary thing about him. His tecnique and excelleration meant he glided past players with ease, yet his strength meant he was able to hold the ball up well, and deal with the very physical English Premier League.

Certainly at Paris St.Germain, Newcastle and Tottenham Ginola had a point to prove. Gerard Houllier, and a lot of the population of France blamed him for Les Blues not qualifying for the 1994 World Cup, and Ginola was seen as a player who couldn’t be depended on.

Goals, mazy dribbles, superb touch and technique, there are so many memorable moments and goals to write home about. Whilst this video showcases a lot of the skill of the great Frenchman, here’s a list of my favorites:

  1. Ginola (Newcastle), goal vs Ferencvaros
  2. Ginola (Tottenham), mazy run vs Leeds
  3. Ginola (Newcastle), goal vs Man Utd
  4. Ginola (Tottenham), solo goal vs Barnsley

Daveed… we salute you!

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Eddie’s Greats

Posted by eddiev18 on June 12, 2008

Pele

Greats is going to be a regular feature on this blog. I want praise the skills of the players I have enjoyed watching in my lifetime. This means that players from 1988 onwards will be profiled here, and not always the most obvious ones.

To me, football is about entertainment, pure and simple, and the top level is all about demonstrating your talent, playing without fear. There have been some true entertainers in the modern game, and here is where they will be championed.

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