Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Puyol and Cannavaro prove a point that England must acknowledge

Graham Fisher in Editorial, General Soccer News 5 Jul 2008

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The World Cup in 2006 and the recent European Championships have gone a long way towards dispelling one of footballs great myths. This is a myth around the world, but particularly in England.

The World Cup was won by Italy who were captained by centre-half Fabio Cannavaro and, of course, the recent Euros were won by Spain, captained in all but name by Barcelona centre-half Carles Puyol.

As well as being captains, great centre-halves and championship winners, they have another thing in common. They both stand at well under six feet tall. Cannavaro is the shorter of the two at 5’9 ½” (1.76m) and Puyol is slightly taller at 5’10” (1.78m).

In England, centre-halves have to be big. It is as simple as that. From my experience around the youth set-ups at professional clubs many young defenders who are clearly talented are released at the age of sixteen or eighteen simply because they are deemed to be too small. If the lad shows no sign of reaching at least 6’1” the clubs will not entertain the thought of keeping on a young centre-half no matter how good he is. In one case known to me, such as player was retained at his club but they tried to turn him into a right back.

I truly hope that the people in charge of the youth system in England have looked at these two footballing superstars who have reached the pinnacle of their sport and realised that ability is more important than size.

John Terry is regarded very highly in England, quite rightly. He is a very fine defender and if you want someone to tackle anything and head everything and put his body on the line to protect his goal, then they don’t come much better than him. As I say, he is a great defender, but I would question whether he is a great footballer.

Both Cannavaro and Puyol are great defenders and great footballers. They win enough in the air and what they contribute to the team in terms of stopping the opposition and starting attacking moves and being part of a whole team working together, far outweighs what many English coaches would regard as their lack of height.

Carles Puyol, as well as the many trophies he has won with Barcelona and now Spain has been named in the UEFA Team of the Year three times, 2002, 2005, 2006, the UEFA Club Best Defender in 2006 and the FIFPro World XI in 2007.

Fabio Cannavaro has won trophies with Parma, Juventus, Real Madrid and Italy and on a personal level, he was FIFA World Player of the Year, European Footballer of the Year, World Soccer Player of the Year, FIFA World Cup Golden Ball Award winner, FIFA World Cup Team of the Tournament, Serie A Footballer of the year, UEFA Team of the Year and named in the FIFPro World XI all in 2006. He has been Italian footballer of the year, Serie A defender of the year and was included in the Euro 2000 team of the tournament.

The achievements of these men just go to show that if you have the ability you can make it to the top regardless of your size. Perhaps if this was recognised in England we would not be in the mess we currently find ourselves in.

For many years English football has been based on strength, power, physique, stamina and heart. All of these things are useful qualities but the lack of success we have had shows that they are not enough. Ability on the ball will always be what the winners possess more of than the losers. Being brave and full of heart makes you a gallant loser. Being a talented ball player tends to make you a winner.

For years we have been saying that English players are technically less gifted than the rest of the world. It is true and when managers of professional clubs are giving their scouts instructions to find only players who are big and quick, as I know of in one particular case, it is not something that is likely to change soon.

Puyol and Cannavaro are lucky they were not born in England. At some stage in their teenage years they would have been told, “sorry son, you’re a decent player but you’ll never make a centre-half. Come back if you grow a few inches or see if you can play on the wing.”

It beggars belief! I really hope that these two greats are changing opinions where it matters.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Graham Fisher


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I’ll still pick a defender over 6 feet tall

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