I count myself very fortunate to have been born in a time, where I’ve witnessed the footballing exploits of some massively talented players; from Eric Cantona to Lionel Messi. But, only 3 have truly captured my heart – the Spaniard, the (Non-Flying) Dutchman and the Frenchman.
Ever since Villa retired from the world stage, the Spanish national team has never quite been the same. I was especially affected seeing him play (and then cry) in his very last game for Spain at the 2014 World Cup. Yes, I ended up bawling my eyes out too.
The nation wasn’t just losing their top goalscorer. They were bidding goodbye to an era. Villa was THAT influential. He has been pretty influential in my life too. By that, I mean he’s inspired an email address, a bunch of random passwords and my on-field moniker, ‘Dariel Villa.’
Banter aside, El Guaje was and still is such a joy to watch, whether he was playing for Spain or Barcelona or now, for New York City FC. He carries himself with this quiet swagger that’s so unique, you could not replicate it even if you wanted to.
He doesn’t go begging for attention. He doesn’t need it but he still attracts quite a bit anyway. Mostly from me. Minus the height and the once-very-questionable soul patch beard, the former Valencia man has everything you could possibly want in a modern day centre-forward: ambidextrous, accurate, powerful and clinical.
That’s not all. Villa can operate as a winger, supporting forward and attacking midfielder. Talk about versatility. Oh, and can we talk about how hardworking he is on the field? Johan Cruyff once waxed lyrical about Villa.
“Villa is not only there to finish plays. Villa is synonymous with depth. It means always being ready to open passing lanes, to draw defenders and thus freeing space for others.”
Inspiration comes in many forms. Mine just so happened to come in the form of an Asturian boy with big dreams – David Villa.
Arsenal’s Dutch playmaker and a part of the legendary Invincibles side, Bergkamp was the epitome of elegance and beauty. And no, I am not referring to his blonde hair nor his blue eyes, though I must agree they are beautiful.
Every touch of his was pure brilliance. Bergkamp’s mind had always worked and mapped out each precise touch of the ball even before he’d actually touched it.
I may have been a little too young to remember all of his goals and assists but boy, I sure do remember that sickeningly brilliant goal against Newcastle United.
The touch, the swivel, the flick, the goal. Everything about it was sublime. And, Bergkamp, if you are reading this, Nikos Dabizas called. He wants his dignity back.
I was riveted by the Dutchman that hated flying (probably still hates it), as a five-year-old. I still stand in awe of the man today.
Truth be told, I watch Bergkamp’s highlight reels on YouTube pretty much week in and week out. Can’t blame me. Heavens, I would climb Mount Everest (and possibly die) just to see him don an Arsenal shirt again.
94 assists and 120 goals for the Gunners. 37 goals for the Netherlands. Statistics that, alone, would not tell the full story but enough to give you a picture of his influence and magic. Bergkamp belongs in a class of his own. As millennials like to put it, do not @ me.
When you walk past the Emirates Stadium in North London, you can find Bergkamp’s bronze statue, depicting him in action against the Magpies (poor Newcastle).
Nice to know he has been immortalised and enshrined in Arsenal history. He’s already immortalised in mine. Just as any true legend, icon and hero should be.
If Bergkamp was the magician from behind-the-scenes, Henry surely must have been the headlining act. Henry was made for the spotlight. He revelled in it. He thrived on it.
The way Henry moved on the field, the way he swatted the opposition aside like flies, the way he bore down on goal and the way he coolly finished each goal all point to a man of panache and a man renowned as Arsenal’s greatest marksman, with a ridiculous haul of 228 goals.
Any fan, no matter the allegiance, can surely remember Henry’s stunning flick + volley against Manchester United, his long-range bullet against Manchester City and an array of other spectacular goals that would have you trying to find the superlatives to describe them.
He really did strike fear into the hearts of the opposition. Bless the Manchester clubs. Beside his exploits and talent on the field, one must acknowledge his presence on it as well. His leadership abilities and strong character all very apparent from the moment Arsene Wenger signed him from Juventus.
It takes some strong character and charm (and plenty of goals) to remain remembered and revered, long after your departure, by the Arsenal fans, who aren’t an easy lot to please.
I remember arguing with my pal over who gets to be Henry when we were having a kick about at the park as kids. As expected, I won the argument and got to “be” the Frenchman.
He was and still is my dream player. And, let’s be honest here, every football fan wishes to see a Thierry Henry play at their club. I’m so lucky to have been that fan.