The adage ‘form is temporary, class is permanent’ tends to be overused but how else can you explain the resurgence of many a sporting great in the twilight of their careers. Ryan Giggs (Manchester United), Paolo Maldini (AC Milan), Zinedine Zidane (France) Sachin Tendulkar (Indian cricket team) come to mind as legends that have seemingly defied age and reinvented themselves time and again. No matter what the sport, you always have legends who you learn never to write off..
English football over the past couple of years has ensured Ryan Giggs has had his due. He has scooped a couple of awards that are well deserved, of course. And now, he seems to be rewriting records week in week out. Appearance records, goal records, longevity records all seem to be going his way. There is a clear parallel to cricket legend Sachin Tendulkar’s career as well – he also seems to be racking in accolade after accolade week in, week out. ‘Legend’ is an adjective that tends to be overused but both these men have ensured that they fully deserve the praise.
While Ryan Giggs and a host of other footballers are in the spotlight however, there is one other footballer who often goes unnoticed. For the 11 Premier League medals and 4 FA cup medals that Giggs has to show for, Paul Scholes has 9 and 3 in addition to the 2 UEFA Champions League medals they both have. And of course, while Giggs has been taking defences apart for 20 years, Paul Scholes has been the virtuoso conductor of the Manchester United orchestra for a good 17. And one might argue that his greatest fault may have been to play in the same generation as Ryan Giggs.. as he has never quite gotten the recognition his genius deserves.
What is genius though? Is it measured in the number of medals? Is Wayne Bridge, as a result, a greater player than Alan Shearer? To this blogger, true genius elevates complexity to simplicity, true genius makes the game look ridiculously easy and true genius gets you torn between two impulses – first, to go on to the pitch and try what you see on TV yourself and the second stronger one that just urges you to clap and enjoy the artistry on show. For it is artistry that makes Federer the undisputed tennis great of the generation, not the grand slam count. The grand slam count is but a statistic. And statistics cannot never measure the joy Federer’s artistry has brought to the life of a fan. Statistics are incapable of measuring a moment of Zidane magic, are unable to sense the pulse of a connoiseur when Tendulkar hits a picture perfect straight drive that races to the boundary, when Kobe Bryant effortlessly sinks a 3 pointer when the Lakers most need it..
And that is why statistics can never do justice to the genius of Paul Scholes. The joy of watching Scholes completely control a football match with his mastery is unparalleled. Nouveau Barcelona fans will point to their ultimate pass master Xavi who is genius in his own right. Paul Scholes, however, is the complete football midfielder. After all, it was Xavi who said of Scholes in February this year ‘A role model. For me, and I really mean this, he’s the best central midfielder I’ve seen in the last 15, 20 years. He’s spectacular, he has it all, the last pass, goals, he’s strong, he doesn’t lose the ball, vision. If he’d been Spanish he might have been rated more highly. Players love him.’
And yes, I can heard many cry out about his pretty horrendous tackling. Genius, very often, tends to have a dark side. Zidane did, George Best did among others.. and Paul Scholes does as well. It’s his way of showing us that he is mortal as well. This blogger’s only regret as a Manchester United fan has been not being privileged enough to have seen more of Paul Scholes. Having followed United since 2002-03 and week in, week out since 2006, Paul Scholes has never ceased to enthrall. The joy of a perfectly weighted Scholes pass that splits a defence open, the mastery behind a perfectly placed 60 yard ball that lands at the feet of the receiver, the raw power behind a perfectly placed volley at the back of the net – transcends clubs, fans, supporters. Genius tends to render rivalries irrelevant.
And yet, it is not for football reasons that this blogger looks up to Scholes. It is for the simple fact that Paul Scholes has stayed true to his goal – ‘To enjoy football, and not the life of a footballer’. During a time when multi millionaire sportsmen seem to live in an alternate universe, Scholes’ ideal day is spent training, followed by time with his kids and maybe some television. And Scholes being Scholes is probably even thankful to the almightly for the presence of a teammate like Giggs who has ensured he does not have to bother with the media and the limelight. No, Paul Scholes is a football man. That is what he loves doing. Simple. No nonsense.
If we are lucky, Scholes will decide to play on for another season before he hangs up his boots. If Ryan Giggs retires at the same time, the media will be all over Giggs showering one accolade after another and Scholes will be written about as another one of those greats who probably never got the credit or praise he deserved. People will speak of his eye catching passes, his spectacular goals and they will move on. News stays fresh only for a few hours after all.. But, football will be poorer for it. Football would have lost an artist, a role model for many a youngster, a humble family man, one of its few remaining ‘one club men’ – all rolled in one.
This blogger is reminded of an article written ages ago by a leading journalist on Sachin Tendulkar accusing the Indian media of taking him for granted.
‘It is unlikely that the tourist guide loitering on the perimeters of the Taj monument would have appreciated its timeless beauty — and even if he did, it is less likely that he might have pondered its historic value to a civilization.’
It is much the same with Paul Aaron Scholes. We know not what we will miss..
‘My toughest opponent? Scholes. He is undoubtedly the greatest player of his generation’ | Zinedine Zidane
A Paul Scholes moment – UEFA Champions Leagues Semi Final 2007/08 – Manchester United vs Barcelona
And Paul Scholes – he makes goals..