Amongst the millions of football fanatics around the globe, there are also those who believe our beloved sport is nothing more than 22 overpaid, overpriced, and altogether ridiculous men kicking a ball around a pitch for 90 minutes. However, football – in the eyes of many others including myself – is in fact a performance; an art, if you will.
Just take a look at some of the best players to grace our televisions and stadiums at present:
1. Cristiano Ronaldo
A master of a man, the Portuguese forward stands at six-feet-one-inch tall and dazzles teammates, opposition, and fans alike with his fancy footwork and terrifically awesome strength.
Search his name into Google (be sure not confuse him with the equally talented, now retired, Brazilian Ronaldo) and an abundance of videos showcasing his immense movement, vision and rocket of a shot will appear before your eyes.
In any other era he would surely be heralded the best of his generation; second to none.
However, there’s one man that some think could top him...
2. Lionel Messi
A record breaker if ever there was one. This man has won the inaugural Ballon d’Or four times consecutively (a feat never achieved before), and was the youngest player to score 200 La Liga goals at the age of just 25.
It is almost impossible to reel off a list of the seemingly never-ending accolades that Messi has acquired over his career, and it would be extremely boring for you.
So let me just say: he is considered one of the greats; up there with the likes of Pele, the legendary Puskas, and his fellow countryman Diego Maradona. And he encapsulates exactly what fans of the beautiful game want – a performer, an artist, of the very highest calibre.
For anyone not convinced by two of the greatest players ever, what about a midfield maestro to tickle your taste buds?
3. Xavi Hernandez
Now into his 30s, Xavi is considered one of the greatest central midfielders of all time (although I am sure the likes of Iniesta, Scholes, and Zidane would have something to say about that).
Economic or expansive in his passing style, the Spanish genius dictates the tempo and rhythm of almost every game he plays. The beauty of the small Barcelona man is that he has the vision to pick a pass and execute it flawlessly; which is a major talent, especially as he makes it seem so simple.
4. Not everyone appreciates the grace and beauty of a raking cross-field ball, a cheeky yet stunning rabona assist from Angel Di Maria, or a dazzling, dizzying run from the halfway line to the opposition goal. So here’s one for them:
4. Nemanja Vidic
The six-feet-two-inch Serbian is a rock at the heart of Manchester United’s defence and has been for the past seven years.
Footballers are often criticised for going down too easily and feigning injury. However, Vidic has never bought in to that. He can stand up to any player, no matter how strong, and is willing take a blow and get back up for the good of his team.
His most recent injury occurred during Manchester United’s game against Arsenal, during which his head collided with David De Gea’s thigh. Almost knocked unconscious, Vidic was substituted at half time and taken to hospital for scans.
This may contradict my earlier statement that he gets back up for the good of the team, but if it had been his choice I don't think he would have gone off.
Now time for a legend of the game. He’s still plying his trade at the age of thirty-nine, going on forty, and he’s still as fit as ever. This man is the evergreen, ever-present, never-aging
5. Ryan Giggs
The Welshman from Manchester United is the only player to have scored in every single Premier League season, and is the only player in the league who also played in the old First Division over twenty years ago. In 2003 he was elected into the Premier League team of the decade, in 2007 he found himself also in the PFA team of the century.
The Manchester United man is truly amazing; he may not have the speed of a fit and firing Ryan Giggs who could turn an Arsenal defence - including Tony Adams, Lee Dixon and Martin Keown – inside out during extra time of a 1999 FA Cup semi-final, and his stamina may not be quite what it was. However, he remains a great player, an iconic figure of the game, and a true example to all young footballers around the globe.
It was difficult to choose the Welsh winger over so many other legendary players, either recently retired or still playing, such as Paolo Maldini, David Beckham, and Francesco Totti - in the end his grace and superb ability ensured his inclusion in this article.
So there you go; football really is a beautiful game.
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