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Craig Bellamy was a revelation.
Those calling for David Beckham’s inclusion were left to eat their words. While the Galaxy star rode his power boat down the Thames, Liverpool’s Welsh winger dominated proceedings on the pitch.
He exhibited the fitness of a player about a decade his junior. Further, It is hard to recall a winger who manages to integrate himself so thoroughly with all phases of the game.
Bellamy was selflessly tenacious in getting back on defence. He aided the composure of a relatively young midfield trio by constantly assisting as a fourth outlet. Finally, he continuously split defences with marauding runs down the flank.
In addition, he is turning into a fantastic leader. The once vitriolic forward has turned that over-aggression into something positive. He was the grumpy old man of Team GB. It is almost as if no one else feels the need to let their tensions boil over when they have such a vocal advocate in Bellamy.
I was also struck by something the commentators noted in the final group match. In an interview, Bellamy claimed he ate lunch in the Olympic village every day with a different athlete from around the globe.
This is a man who is well aware of the ticking clock. He soaked up every minute of the experience while basking in the ambassadorial role afforded him. Bellamy knows his place as well as his limitations. With that knowledge firmly in hand, he is maximizing both.
All of the above are qualities in desperately short supply on Merseyside. Thus, it must be Kopites’ hope that rumours of a possible Bellamy exit stay at the paltry Daily Mirror level, and go no further. The idea of letting a player in such outstanding form return to Cardiff at this juncture is profligate to say the least.
The first Europa League match should have done more than enough to illustrate the point.
Joe Cole clearly remains an injury risk, and an expensive one at that. Sterling showed signs of potential on the wing, but the idea that he is ready for regular minutes seems like wishful thinking. Finally, Stewart Downing played one of the most anonymous games ever seen from someone who found the back of the net in Belarus.
Outside of Luis Suarez, Bellamy remains the most potent wide forward at Brendan Rodgers’ disposal. The respective exits of Dirk Kuyt and Maxi Rodriguez only bring that truth into starker relief.
Liverpool needs the feisty Welshman. His talent, composure and leadership are all required on Merseyside for at least one more campaign.