Today Tom‘s column looks at why so many of the stars have failed to perform on the big stage and why Sneijder, Schweinsteiger and Villa have flourished.
In marketing terms the World Cup is a four year Christmas bonanza, new stars are born and made into Galacticos and usually signed by over zealous chairmen in Madrid. But at this World Cup has been telling for the current crop of stars failing to live up the hype. All maybe except for David Villa, Bastian Schweinsteiger, and a certain Dutch Maestro who flew into South Africa without the following circus.
The Nike advert featured Drogba, Rooney, Ribery, Ronaldo, and god-knows-why Canavaro (OK; yes we know why; for the Italian football market), and they all flopped. The inclusion of Ronaldinho as a walk-on-walk-off one trick pony for a few stepovers, was, I think, done with a twinge of irony (Or am I giving them too much credit?) but it now looks desperate. Not least for the fact he wasn’t even in the Brazil squad. But also like when returning from a Holiday and going back to work on the first day, sat at your desk, its only human to feel completely and utterly deflated. When AC Milan meet up for pre-season training, seeing a Ronaldinho at 30 and again carrying too heavier a load, his tricks are only going to leave the likes of Pato and Boriello similarly down in the dumps.
Adidas did at least edge their bets and put David Villa alongside Lionel Messi in their premiere production. Messi certainly looked great and had more shots on goal in the groups stages than anyone else. But Villa has stolen the show from his new Barcelona teammate. Joint topscorer with Snejider on 5, Villa has again proved he is the best striker in the world, a position he has in truth had for the past 3 or 4 years. Since signing from Zaragoza for Valenicia in 2005 he has scored an average of 26 goals and 11 assists every season. In the same period for Spain he has scored a phenomenal 43 goals in only 63 appearances and is still only 28.
Sneijder and Schweinstieger are certainly the tournaments standout midfielders and both have not had to contend with the hype around Villa and his €40m move to the best club team in the world. Both are of course great players and already playing for European club giants, known to even Clive Tyldesley and anyone watching a modicum of Champions League football. But nevertheless, the World Cup has given these two a platform from which to shine so brightly, they must be now considered in front of the show ponies in the Nike and Pepsi ads.
Why these 3 have done so well and the rest for the most part failed so miserably, is obviously down to the teams they play in. Ronaldo has been sensational for Real all season and the lack of ambition in the Portugal side certainly explains a lot. The same can be said of Rooney who all Englishmen were hoping could reproduce his great seasons from for the World to admire, but not to be. France, Brazil, Ivory Coast, and Italy all disappointed the fans and their leading stars agents.
But should that really be the way to play football? Play to your strengths of course, but Villa, Sneijder and Schweinsteiger are not the be-all and end-all stars of their teams, they all play in the most balanced and evenly structured teams in the tournament, its only then are they shining.
Tonight’s semi final could be one of the greatest games in world cup history, last nights was an excellent if slightly one-sided match-up, but Spain and Germany are so evenly matched throughout the pitch, maybe the deadlock will only be broken through a piece of brilliance from one of the many stars on show.
I am excited that there is the possibility of seeing Toni Kroos play tonight, in for Muller. He is a brilliant young German talent who Bayern Munich astutely have on contract until 2012 and who this season was loaned to Bayer Leverkussen and has impressed.
The improvement in Andreas Iniesta’s performances throughout the tournament also has set the stage for a great game. It is a repeat of the Euro ’08 final in which the Spanish victory was secured in the 33rd minute by a then in form Fernando Torres and must have provided the Germans with a few sleepless nights. On that night in Vienna, the Germans were simply unable to get the ball of Xavi and co. Those in the Spanish camp are happy to play a re-run of that game and believe in the premise that its easier for them to play a good team like Germany. Teams like this, let you play and provide space and time on the ball. This plan however will mean few chances but luckily they have David Villa to put one away.