There was a time when every team seemed to have a leader, a worldwide star. Cast your mind back to Mexico ’86, where you could take your pick of household names. Diego Maradona, of course, was at the summit as he led Argentina to their last triumph.
Michel Platini was still masterminding France, even if his powers were beginning to wane, Zico pulled the strings for Brazil, Gary Lineker was emerging as England’s most potent striker and Hugo Sanchez was well on the way to legendary status with Mexico.
The stardust reached further still: Lothar Matthaus (Germany), Enzo Scifo (Belgium), Michael Laudrup (Denmark), Alessandro Altobelli (Italy), Zbigniew Boniek (Poland) and Ihor Belanov (USSR), European player of the year that year, ahead of Lineker, who finished top scorer at the World Cup and in the English League with Everton.
What about Spain now? It is said they have become the best team in the world without a player of such stature. Yet we could talk about Andres Iniesta, for me the best midfielder at the moment. I can hardly think of a more complete player and, above all, to understand the game like he does.
His ability to improve everyone around him is amazing, like his ability to pass, dribble and drive the ball past opposition keepers. However, he will never be spoken of in the same breath as some of those exalted stars of Mexico ’86, and I do not understand why.
There is one player in the Spanish camp waiting to eclipse the Barcelona man, scorer of the winning goal in the final four years ago, and rise to the summit himself. After a superb season, Sergio Ramos is ready to take his place as the tournament’s finest player. To do it, though, he will need Spain in the title fight.
The defender was the linchpin of Real Madrid, he scored decisive goals in the Champions League, including the final, and his repertoire has expanded in every game.
His omnipresence has also served to cover the absence of Carles Puyol in the selection, who was a crucial player in previous major finals.
For Fabio Cannavaro at the World Cup in Germany in 2006, read Ramos in Brazil, 2014.
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