The much-maligned Fabio Capello made an observation yesterday that will transcend the boundaries of his national tenancy. An assimilation of cultures as well as eras, in the wake of his team's second victory in a week, over nemisis Sweden, Capello remarked on the similarity Phil Jones holds to the legendary Milanese defender Franco Baresi.
Baresi is widely regarded in discerning football spheres as a true connoisseur of the game, as the one-club man wrote his indelible mark on Rossoneri folklore. A sweeper in the literal sense, the Italian’s flair, coupled with a certain attacking penchant, definitely holds resonance to the young Jones.
As a youngster, Baresi, the younger brother of former Internationale assistant manager Giuseppe Baresi, was invited for a trial with the Nerazzurri but was ultimately rejected. Unperturbed, the whims of fate contrived a different path, as Baresi instead turned to the city's founding side, and a relationship spanning four decades was born.
In the following 20 years, Franco Baresi became the poster boy of the Italian people, the captain of club and country and the bedrock of what is widely regarded as the best defence the game has ever seen. During an esteemed career, Baresi collected trophies in the way Owen Hargreaves collects injuries, with six Serie A titles, three European cups and a World Cup laying testament to a career well-played.
During the international games against Sweden, and previously, the indomitable Spain, Jones was employed by Capello in a defensive-midfield capacity, a position he doesn’t necessarily favour.
Yet the 19-year-old, in the first term of his international infancy, built on his phenomenal start with new club Manchester United—following his £16 million summer move from Blackburn—with a duo of battling displays. Again, the contrast to Baresi becomes more tangible in this sense, as although the Italian was a defender by trade, his attacking propensity facilitated an advanced midfield role on occasions.
After making his debut as a 17-year-old, Baresi grew to become a regular in the Milan side before his 20th birthday: Jones is currently 19. Baresi's progress on the international stage, however, was rather delayed as opposed to the young Englishman’s phenomenal progress, not making his debut until he was 22 years old and going to the World Cup that same year.
Similarly, Phil Jones’ debut has also come in international tournament year, with the European championships in Poland and Ukraine set for the coming summer.
Franco Baresi retired from football in 1997, a few months after Phil Jones’ fifth birthday, and his No. 6 shirt, in unprecedented scenes in Italian football, was retired with him. Twenty years from now we will be able to tell the legitimacy of prophet Capello’s comments, but for the mean time, for Phil Jones, there really could be no greater honour.
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