Food for thought before I get started: the official dictionary definition of the word legend is an extremely famous or notorious person, especially in a particular field.
There is a cliché that exists stating “the word legend is thrown about a lot these days” but there’s always an element of truth in these clichés, otherwise they wouldn’t be so widely used. This thought occurred to me as I read through the line ups for a Barcelona Legends v Manchester United Legends friendly match.
I’m not going to run through the full list of players and assess whether or not they deserve the moniker but let’s pick out a simple few from each side.
Firstly, let’s acknowledge those that have earned the right to be called a legend.
From Barcelona – Juliano Belletti, Edgar Davids, Gaizka Mendieta, Ronaldinho, Rivaldo, Patrick Kluivert and Ludovic Giuly.
From Manchester United – Karel Poborsky, Dimitar Berbatov and Dwight Yorke.
Each of these players have done something in their careers to elevate them to legend status – whether that is at the club they were representing on this day or in World Football as a whole.
Let’s have a look at a few of the more tenuous selection.
Francesco Coco – 23 appearances while on loan at Barcelona. Won two league titles at AC Milan despite only making 56 appearances over a 7 year period.
Jesus Mariano Angoy – 9 La Liga appearances for Barcelona in five seasons. Most famous for marrying Johan Cruyff’s daughter. Yes, really.
Frederic Dehu – who? 11 appearances for Barcelona before being sold on after just one season at the club. One league and two cup medals in a 16-year career.
Russell Beardsmore – 56 appearances over seven years at the club. His last appearance on a team sheet was as an unused substitute in the 1991 European Super Cup final.
Jesper Blomqvist – A man who made only 25 appearances for Manchester United and his biggest impact was being replaced by Teddy Sheringham in the 1999 Champions League Final.
Danny Webber – the proud owner of 3 senior appearances for Manchester United, two in the league cup and one from the bench in the Champions League.
Legend or Cult Hero?
Some may feel I’m being a bit harsh here but I think it’s important to distinguish between a legend who has earned their status for their ability and a cult hero who won over the hearts and minds of the fans. Then there are those that are neither and were simply ex-players, or more pertinently formerly involved with the club.
The Cliché of a Legends Match
In the immediate aftermath of a legends match you’ll always see references to a player who has let themselves go. A bit of needle between two players who are taking the whole thing a bit too seriously. A humorous stumble over a ball form a completely unchallenged position and then, of course, BBC Sporf or LadBible will send out a 7 second clip of a recently retired player skinning a 50 year old veteran with the caption “OOOF, he’s still got it!”
Bring Back Masters Football
Of course, the occasion was all for a good cause. I don’t wish to rain on that parade, I just like a good moan sometimes! I can’t be the only one who misses Indoor Masters Football though, can I? No one was kidding themselves there, it was all good-natured fun and we all knew half of them only turned up for the fully paid corporate piss up afterwards!