Laurent Robert of Toronto FC: Genius or Disruptive Influence?

Danny BrownAnalyst IJuly 9, 2008

As one of this year's new signings for Toronto FC, French midfielder Laurent Robert most definitely adds flair and sexy football to the TFC line-up. Yet as explosive as his goals can be, and as penetrating as his passes and runs into the opposing box are, Robert can also be one of the most frustrating players around.

From his early days at Montpellier and Paris Saint-Germain in France, to his heady days as one of the EPL's top players when he was at Newcastle United, ending up at Derby via Portsmouth before joining Toronto this summer, it's been a rollercoaster ride for this Gallic genius.

Throw in Spanish sides Benfica and Levante, and it's a well-travelled road for this midfield enigma. So will Toronto FC be the club that offers Robert a last hurrah, or will it be another short-term love affair? In all honesty, it could go either way.

The Good
There's no denying that, on his day, Laurent Robert is possibly one of the most naturally gifted midfielders around. With a ferocious left foot shot that has seen world class goalkeepers beaten many a time in both League and international matches, including two exquisite long-range goals for Newcastle United against bitter rivals Manchester United, Robert has the ability to both entertain and excite.

His free kicks can be unpredictable and spectacular, and he is widely regarded as one of the best crossers of a soccer ball. At 33, he also should still have a couple of good quality years ahead of him.

The Bad
While the natural talent of Robert can't be denied, neither can his questionable temperament. The amount of clubs that Robert has been through should offer some guidance—Toronto FC is his fifth club in three years. While at Newcastle, he had a very public falling out with both his manager (Graeme Souness—a man you should never take on!) as well as his team mates.

Calling into question everything from the manager's tactics and experience to the quality of the players around him—something had to give, and Robert was shifted off to Portsmouth. Even in the early days of his career Robert has had a reputation as a troublemaker and disruptive influence in the dressing room, and this is something that Toronto FC Head Coach John Carver will have to keep in check.

The Ugly
Perhaps as a result of the reputation that has hounded him (some might say unfairly), Robert can be very short-tempered on the pitch. His career is littered with red and yellow cards for dangerous play, and some of his tackles have been X-rated. He can also lose interest in a game as well, and this has led to him being tagged lazy by both fans and pundits alike.

The jury is still out on Robert—there's no argument that he could be a very pivotal player for Toronto in this, their sophomore season. And when he's on his game, he's very hard to stop. Yet there are also still question marks about his reliability and what Laurent Robert will turn up on match day.

In fairness, if anyone can bring out the best from the player it is Carver. Robert played under Carver during the pair's time at Newcastle United , and both men know each other well. One thing is certain—the fans of Toronto FC will have plenty to say one way or another about this French midfielder looking to prove he still has what it takes.