The Best. Hands down.

By Steve Hakes

I am often asked who is the greatest footballer I have ever seen, and in my long service as a home and away fan watching Manchester United I have seen plenty.

I saw Nobby Stiles put Eusabio in his pocket during the 1968 European Cup Final against Benfica, which begs the question: Was Nobby better than Eusabio?

I watched Ronaldo score a fantastic hat trick at Old Trafford, but I’ve seen Cristiano Ronaldo produce many wonderful displays on the same pitch.

Bobby Moore and Beckenbauer were great defenders, but nothing else.

Pele, whom many class as the greatest ever, only played for one team outside Brazil. When did you ever see Pele defend or make a tackle?

Maradonna more or less single handedly won the title for Napoli, or so they say. My opinion is no one player can win the league. They can influence others’ performance but there has never been a one man team. As good as Maradonna was, like Pele, he was only seen in the opposition half and never made a tackle of note in his life. Neither of them were complete. Pele was fortunate to play in great Brazillian national teams and Maradonna worked wonders (albeit under the influence) for Argentina. Both had amazing ability but only when going forward.

Like all those mentioned, many were great players in their own right but only in their given positions – none events when asked to do any other job. Defenders like Moore and Beckenbauer got nose bleeds if they crossed the half way line, with one notable exception, and that was the World Cup in Mexico when (for some inexplicable reason) the England manager decided to take Sir Robert Charlton off, allowing said German to wander forward and score the rarest of goals. Both were classed as great players and they were when doing their specific jobs. The same goes for Pele and Maradonna .

You name me any player and I will find a fault, which begs the question: What is the requirement to be classed as the greatest player ever?

I suggest this is made clear before raising this question with anyone. It will cut down on arguments.

I have made it clear to all when discussing this. To be the greatest player, you have to be able to do any and every job needed on the pitch, and in my many years of watching great players – which would take reams of paper to list from Jimmy Greaves to Denis Law , Johan Cruyff to Maldini , Clemence to Schmeichel – the list is endless. However, none of them could defend.

There’s only one player I have ever seen could do all things on a pitch and that is what I believe gives him the deserving title of the greatest player ever.

George Best was the most talented player in the world because he was as good in any position he found himself. He got kicked black and blue most games, played on mud heaps for pitches, was unstoppable going forward, created from midfield and was a tenacious defender. Ask Glyn Pardoe from Citeh about George’s tackling ability after George broke his leg at Old Trafford in the derby I also recall Sir Matt saying (before the days of reserves / substitutes) “If the keeper goes off injured there is only one player going in net, George Best, no one can score against him when hes larking around in nets at the Cliff”

So folks, before answering the question of who is the greatest player ever, remember to establish what criteria the greatest player ever is based on. I’ve told you my theory and answer. I can now happily sit back and watch you offer yours. That’s what makes football the game it is – opinions.

My next subject may be VAR. Is it going to eliminate the whole foundation of the game as we know it? We all saw the incident but after the game we all had a different opinion.
VAR may well remove these conversations, all in the name of creating the perfect game which was never invented to be perfect.

Football eh? Bloody hell!

One of those “you had to have been there” moments

Wimbledon FC. The Crazy Gang. Selhurst Park.

My mate Dale Wooton is a Martial Arts expert, as is John Fashanu. A chance encounter with Fash led to one of many tales that make (most) people chuckle.

John Fashanu was going for a piss and my mate Dale said he was gonna follow him in the toilets to challenge the Wimbledon striker and see who was the best.

Fash must have heard this and whipped the door open as Dale was going in. They squared up to each other and the door closed. Knowing what could ensue, I went dashing in to make sure it was still in good humour. I said to them both:

“Oi! Pack it in you two! Put your arms round each other and let me take a photo”

Fash, as quick as a light said:

“You can fuck right off! My brother has just announced he is gay and you want a photo of me with my arm round a bloke in the gents toilets?!”



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