Football

GMF legends: Matt Le Tissier

Premier League legend. (©GettyImages)
Premier League legend. (©GettyImages).

I'm not a particularly religious person, but I do believe in God. Not the one that most people recall, but a man of legend nonetheless.

Matthew Le Tissier, or 'Le God' as he is known on the south coast of England, is Southampton's most famous No.7. The man who carried an entire football club on his shoulders, year after year, prolonging their stay in the country's top-flight, garnering him a reputation as one of the greatest players ever to grace the Premier League.

Le Tiss' was a great goalscorer, but he was a scorer of even greater goals. His trademark was the outlandish, doing things that other players wouldn't even dream of trying.

His wizardry with the ball mesmerised opposing defenders, and earned him a host of admirers far beyond the confines of the Hampshire-based club he served with such distinction throughout a gloriously entertaining career.

A natural crowd-pleaser, Le Tissier's ability to conjure up goal-of-the-season contenders with outrageous regularity, earned him a cult status as one of the most gifted footballers of his generation.

Born in Guernsey in 1968, the attacking midfielder made his Southampton debut against Norwich in August 1986, at the tender age of 17, and immediately settled into top-flight football.

Three months later, the Saints entertained Manchester United at The Dell in a League Cup tie that saw Le Tissier score his first and second goals for the club in a memorable 4-1 victory over the Red Devils, setting him on his way to a career total of 209 goals in 540 first-team appearances.

The inception of the Premier League in 1992 coincided with Le Tissier's emergence as one of English football's outstanding performers. He scored 60 league goals in the first three seasons under the new format, and in April 2000 he became the first midfielder to join an elite band of players to reach 100 Premier League goals, when he notched a penalty in a 2-1 home defeat against Sunderland.

Le Tissier's penalty record is also remarkable, with 47 successful conversions from 48 attempts. Nottingham Forest's Mark Crossley is the only goalkeeper to save one of his spot-kicks.

One of the greatest mysteries surrounding Le Tissier's career was his lack of international recognition - the one-club man earned only eight England caps.

Handed his senior debut in Terry Venables' first game in charge of the Three Lions, against Denmark in March 1994, he failed to ever really make an impact on the international stage.

His brief England opportunity ended in disappointment following a 1-0 World Cup qualifying defeat against Italy at Wembley in February 1997, and his omission from Glenn Hoddle's World Cup '98 squad was perhaps the lowest point of his career.

Le Tissier turned down lucrative moves to both Tottenham and Chelsea, and whilst some questioned the midfield magician's lack of ambition, his chosen loyalty over prospective royalties, also afforded him the sort of adulation that is rarely found in football.

Of all the memorable goals that Le Tissier scored, his self-proclaimed best effort came at Ewood Park in 1994. Picking the ball up in midfield, he twisted and turned his way through the Blackburn Rovers defence, before unleashing a dipping 30-yard strike that left Tim Flowers floundering in the home team's goal.

Those who had the pleasure of watching Le Tissier play, know that his ability has left a lasting legacy, as one of today's modern day greats, Barcelona midfielder Xavi testifies.

"His talent was simply out of the norm," the 30-year-old Spaniard recently told The Sun. "He could dribble past seven or eight players but without speed - he just walked past them. For me he was sensational."

Le Tissier's exploits earned him high praise from numerous sources, and in the case of current Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger, a comparison to one of football's all-time greats.

"I believe that when Le Tissier was younger he was a little bit like Michel Platini," the Frenchman commented. "He could see the right pass and could finish well."

The term 'legend' is bandied around far too frequently. But Matt Le Tissier lived up to the billing in every sense of the word.


Click here to see Le God's top 10 greatest Southampton goals!!!

Topics:
Football
Southampton
Premier League

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