• Sunday, 4 December 2011

    The Languid XI

    You know the sort. The player who looks like football is just a bothersome task that gets in the way of looking effortlessly cool. Like exerting oneself is the worst thing a person can do. Like they could take to the pitch with a cigarillo and a brandy, do something amazing without spilling a drop or knocking the ash off the end.
    Here's our Languid XI, lining up in the formation of languidity, 3-4-3:

    Vitor Baia
    Goalkeepers are normally highly strung individuals, bawling and shouting a lot, flinging themselves about and blaming everyone but themselves for their failings, which made our search for a suitable custodian difficult. But the former Portuguese number one gave off such an air of calmness that he was the obvious choice. No histrionics, no pretending he was really a midfield general but was just helping out by going in nets, economy of movement and stylish hair.

    Paolo Maldini
    Mats Hummels
    Gerard Pique
    All three of our defence exude casual brilliance. It's one thing to be brilliant, quite another to be brilliant while looking like you just don't care, like the fact you're better than the rest is actually quite banal. Hummels being flagged for offsides is not uncommon, and we all love a centre-back being offside, though his obvious delight in the Netherlands falling apart in front of him betrayed his lack of inner languidity. Pique is very similar - a midfield stroller trapped in a centre-back's body.
    What else is there to say about Maldini? Just look at him...

    Andrea Pirlo
    Juan Sebastian Véron
    Rui Costa
    Sócrates is the coolest person ever to pull on a pair of boots and the captain of the coolest team the game has ever seen. His grace of movement was completely at odds with his gangling frame, but it was off the field that he became cooler still with the drinking, smoking, philosophising and democracy activism. What a guy.
    The renaissance in Pirlo's career since leaving Milan has been quite staggering. The movement has become even more economical with age, but if anything that's made him more dangerous as a player. Feared, respected, admired, bearded. It doesn't get much better than that.
    The latter pair exemplify the archetypal midfield stroller. Socks half-way down shins, pads flapping, cruising around the middle of the park like they owned it and spraying passes around for fun. Those are the guys young lads aspire to be, the players that make you fall for this often stupid game in the first place.

    Giorgios Samaras
    Dimitar Berbatov
    Bryan Ruiz
    Sleeves down below hands? Check. Lank-haired (or formerly lank-haired) masters of the stroll? Check. Routinely shouted at by fans for not doing enough and then go and do something totally bloody amazing? Check. If you want any more than that from your front three, you have a heart of stone. Of course, Ruiz and Berbatov are now team-mates, regularly competing for the award for doing the most brilliant thing while also looking a bit bored by it all. And they have that dreamy away kit - the black with the white and gold sash. All properly languid teams should wear the sash, the kit of cool.
    Samaras is a lot better than people give him credit for. Like many of our team, his apparent lack of effort weighs against him in terms of image, but he's alright, y'know, and stylish with it which is, of course, far more important.

    Would this team win many games? Who cares.

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