Can one player make a team? Is it possible for just one man to be the difference between winning things and losing things?
The reason I ask the question is because of the possibility of Manchester United losing Cristiano Ronaldo to Real Madrid. Would United have won the Premier League and Champions League double last season without him? Obviously they would have missed his forty-two goals, but would someone else have stepped up to the mark and allowed the side to be just as successful?
Looking back at teams of the past there are many examples of where it was a commonly held belief that one man made all the difference. The Argentina World Cup team of 1986 and 1990 would certainly have missed the brilliance of Diego Maradona. Would they have been so successful without him?
Football is a team game and not an individual one. Within teams there are brilliant individuals, but it is rare for them to shine regularly if the rest of the team are not of sufficient quality to supply them with the ball in the right areas, and make the runs to get on the end of their passes.
Real Madrid seem to be desperate to sign Ronaldo. In some quarters you could be forgiven for thinking that they are saying that a Real Madrid Champions League triumph next season is a foregone conclusion if they capture the signature of the Portuguese winger. Whilst a player as good as him is bound to be a target, there is absolutely no guarantee that he will improve an existing side.
History is littered with great players leaving one club for another and not producing the same sort of results. Ask Arsenal fans if they think Sylvan Wiltord is a great player. Liverpool fans will give you an opinion on Morientes and Cisse. Manchester United might be less than forthcoming about the qualities of the world cup winning Kleberson or the previously sublime skills of Juan Sebastian Veron.
I know he is slightly past his best but there is no doubt that Shevchenko should still be a world class striker but you wonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t find many at Chelsea who agree. Real Madrid fans were never too taken with EnglandÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s own Michael Owen and it will be interested to see if Galatasaray see the great Harry Kewell that left Leeds or the average Harry Kewell who played for Liverpool.
I fully accept that not all of these players are or were in the same class as Cristiano Ronaldo but they all arrived at clubs with huge reputations and failed to live up to them. Some of it can be explained by a simple loss of form, but most of it is down to lifestyle, coaching, team-mates and many things that affect daily life outside of football.
There is absolutely no guarantee that a player who performs for one club will have the same effect at another.
Back to my original point then, I do not think that one player can make or break a team. Every team is a whole lot more than the sum of itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s individual parts. The teamwork, team spirit, style of play and understanding between colleagues is worth more than any one individual. Examples such as Greece winning the Euros, Porto winning the Champions League and several German teams getting to finals when they have been described as Ã¢â‚¬Ëœthe worst German team ever,Ã¢â‚¬â„¢ prove that there are many things that bring success rather than having one or more outstanding individuals.
If Cristiano Ronaldo isnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t the best player in the world at the moment, who is? Messi, Kaka, Xavi? How did Barcelona and Milan fare this year?
It is, of course, a major bonus to have great players in your team but it is not a pre-requisite for success. Having one outstanding individual can have the opposite affect on a team if their personality, playing style or the publicity they bring with them, damage the balance of a previously harmonious dressing room.
IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m sure Ronaldo will do well if he goes to Real Madrid because he is indeed a great player. However, I wouldnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t necessarily bet on them to lift the Champions League or La Liga. In Europe, Chelsea and Manchester United will be very strong again and we await to see if a Mourinho inspired Inter can join the battle. In La Liga, Pep Guardiola will be looking to develop Barcelona into a whole team who play together and for each other in order to exact revenge for MadridÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s title triumph of last year. If he can get that team playing to the ability of the sum of those individual parts, they will be difficult to beat.
We all love watching the great players, but they can only be effective if they are at the right club at the right time and are surrounded by players who compliment them. Before Real Madrid genuinely offer ridiculous amounts of money to Manchester United they should be very sure that the arrival of Ronaldo would provide a missing piece of a jigsaw rather than just another great player.
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