Fernando Redondo: The Prince
In an age where the mere fan craves a hero that they can relate to—you know, the down to earth type who has all the glitz on the park but empathy for the fan and disdain for flashbulbs off it; I've always found it strange that Fernando Redondo's name doesn't crop up in discussion more often.
As far as footballers go, "The Prince" was up there with the best of them—a deep lying playmaker who could attack just as well as he could defend. Physical when winning the ball and dainty on it, throw an almost perfect left foot into the mix and you have one of the most unique players of all time.
His 'off the ball' intelligence was just as good, if not better, and don't take my word for it. This is the man that Fabio Capello once described as "tactically perfect" and the man who many in Spain labelled "Rivaldo's worst nightmare," due to the way he would vigourously man-mark him.
What, perhaps, best marks Redondo, however, is his personality and kind-heartedness. Never one to put himself before the club, he always made sure that he did what he believed was right for the side rather than the individual.
At Madrid, he was sold to Milan, after daring to oppose then President Florentino Perez (along with Morientes and Hierro, who were also disposed of; fundraising for the Figo deal also being a motive) and his running of the club, and at Milan where he endured a two year injury nightmare, he self suspended his multi-million pound wage and even returned his house and car to the Milan board. Ethics that are almost unheard of.
His most famous moment, at least for UK audiences, probably came in the Champions League quarter final tie against Manchester United. In a moment of sheer inventive genius, he totally bamboozled Henning Berg with a ridiculous back heel to set up himself to, in turn, set up Raul.
A second of skill that has since become iconic. It was revealed recently that before the tie, Sir Alex Ferguson told his players to watch out for Raul, as he believed him to be the best player on the planet, I'm not one to doubt SAF's judgement, but it wasn't the No. 7 who was the best around, it was the No. 6.
After the match, Ferguson gushed about Redondo, saying his boots were like magnets and that he's never seen Roy Keane look so ruffled.
He was a gem of a player and one we're not likely to see in football for many a year.
Young Gago said recently that Redondo gave birth to the role that he currently fills and that he generally revolutionised midfield play in Argentina.
He's right, but for many, it will be his personality that will be remembered rather than his skill, which really is quite amazing.
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