Every talented, promising young player dubbed the next Maradona, Pele or Zico when young, but only a few come close. As the Gemini duo, it is our job to debunk the impostors and discuss the true contenders for the greatest soccer player of our generation.
Ronaldo Luís Nazario de Lima, “Il Fenomeno” or “Fat Ronaldo” as he is more casually known, was one of the most talented players of this generation. He and Zinedine Zidane are the only players to win the prestigious FIFA world player of the year three times. Ronaldo’s efficiency in front of goal and ability to score no matter where he got the ball on the field made him a threat at all times, as well as enormously exciting to watch. Ronaldo always kept spectators on the edges of their seats with his scintillating runs, amazing skill and ball control. Whenever Ronaldo played, it wasn’t an issue of whether he would score, but rather when and how he would score.
Ronaldo’s efficiency in front of goal is underscored by the 62 goals he scored in 97 international appearances. His talent is evident in his wide range of admirers; he made it onto Brazilian legend Pele’s list of 100 greatest players of all time, and won the Goal.com award for player of the decade.
Ronaldinho – meaning “little Ronaldo” to distinguish him from his idol Ronaldo Rodrigues de Jesus – was by far the most exciting player to grace the soccer world in our lifetime. Ronaldinho’s career was characterized by Samba celebrations, Joga Bonito style of play and infectious enthusiasm on the field. This was indeed representative of the player who first caught the media’s attention at the age of 13, scoring all 23 goals in a 23-0 rout of a local team in Porto Alegre, Brazil. He caught the eye of the world with his brilliant display in the 2002 World Cup, where he helped Brazil dump favorites England out of the quarterfinals with a free kick from far outside the penalty box to beat David Seaman.
This two-time FIFA world player of the year won the hearts of all soccer lovers with his no-look passes, pinpoint free kicks, signature hocus-pocus skill moves and the ease with which he created confusion for opposing defenders. He was the perfect blend of a tactically disciplined midfielder who could take players on easily and could shoot from far out.
Although only 29, Iker Casillas has played more than 500 games for Real Madrid and more than 100 games for the Spanish national team, putting him on pace to become the most capped player in history for both club and country. As captain of both Real Madrid and Spain, he has won all possible trophies on both club and national level. What is more impressive is that he has been starting for Real Madrid and Spain since 2000, missing only five games in the Spanish League in the last eight seasons, winning every individual award a goalkeeper can in the process. He is definitely the goalkeeper of the decade because of his consistency and influential leadership.
Italy has always been known to produce strong defenders. Notable players include Giacinto Facchetti, Franco Baresi and Paolo Maldini. However, one man’s accomplishments have overshadowed those of all other great players’: Fabio Cannavaro. The charismatic captain guided Italy to a World Cup win in 2006 and was honored with the player of the year award by both FIFA and UEFA that same year. His influence and contribution to the game is made even more significant by virtue of the fact that he is the only defender in the history of the game to win those awards. For most defenders, Cannavaro’s height (5-foot-9) would be a major disadvantage, but the Italian had the skill to overcome it with his agility, quickness and determination. He is the most capped Italian player in history and was part of one of the most famous defensive duos in modern soccer with Alessandro Nesta. With his determination, leadership and winning attitude, he will always be remembered as one of the best players of our generation, as well as one of the best defenders to have ever played the game.
Arguments can be made for many more players to be the player of our generation, but none of them have stronger basis for argument than the magnificent Zinedine Zidane. His outstanding career earned him three FIFA world player of the year awards, two World Cup finals and three Champions League finals, setting him above all other players. In the past 12 years, France has failed to win a World Cup game without Zizou, leading to group stage eliminations in 2002 and 2010. This is a clear indication that Zidane was behind France’s advance to the World Cup finals in 1998 and 2006 – he scored during both games – even helping France win in 1998. He is best known for his high soccer IQ, vision and great passing and dribbling skills. He is one of the smartest players the soccer world has ever seen, and that, combined with his determination and ambition to win, creates the best player of our generation.
Zinedine Yazid Zidane, a Marseillais of Algerian descent who also managed to change the perception of immigrants by the French people. It is a shame how the greatest player of our generation will be remembered in this country: for his infamous head-butt of Marco Materazzi in the 2006 World Cup final. No matter what others remember him for, soccer fan’s will remember the greatest player of our generation for his two headers against Brazil in the World Cup final in 1998 and his amazing volley against Leverkusen in the Champions League final in 2002.
The Gemini have spoken.
Michael Appau is a sophomore in the College. Cem Yolbulan is a sophomore in the School of Foreign Service. GEMINI SPORTS appears in every third issue of THE HOYA.