I know this has been done before, but I feel I have to do this again. It just had to be done.
It's funny, how I miss him again, just as we have (hopefully) turned a very crucial corner. Things are looking up again, after a dark period. Players are getting praised again and we have Kenny back. And I wished Sami was still here.
Honestly, if I look back, we've had some wonderful players. Barnes was brilliant, Fowler was supremely gifted as a striker, Gerrard was awesome in so many aspects/positions, and Xabi was absolute class. But I would put Sami in the 'legend' category after the only other true legend that I know, King Kenny himself.
It's not just because he's good. He's so good that he doesn't get praised that much (ok, he does get recognition from some Red fans, but he’s not universally acclaimed, if you know what I mean). And that's because we all take it for granted that he's that good - rightly or wrongly, so much so that it's unremarkable already. It'd be remarkable if he's suddenly not at that level. For example, Carra was praised (not wrongly) for his performance against Chelsea, especially that potentially goal-preventing block on Torres. But I think if Sami put in that kind of performance (or even better), that would be fewer clamours. And I’m guessing Sami wouldn’t need that kind of tackle much anyway, as he’d cut out that chance earlier. Such is his reading of the game. And with him around, there’s no thought about aerial threat from other teams ... it’s like “huh? what aerial threat”? Don’t forget he’s so damn good on the ground as well, as well as scoring some very delicious goals.
But no, it’s not just that. It’s because the man himself is a personification of dignity, coolness and professionalism. I know he’s been red-carded before, but I’ve never seen him play cynically. Or dirty. Say what you like about Carra, even he plays dirty sometimes (again I’m not saying it’s “wrong”, and it could be said it needs to be done sometimes). But you look at the likes of the recently-retired Neville, Ferdinand, and Terry, these are fine players, but all dirty. And Terry, I feel is the worst, coz I think he is the ‘can-give-but-cannot-take’ kind of player. He’s a downright disgusting player. Tough? My foot.
Anyway, back to Sami. He’s hard (enough) but he plays so fair. (Again maybe because he’s so good, so he can). And I always see that smile on his face. Calm and composed. Doesn’t mean he’s not a winner you know, coz he is. There is steely determination under the blonde mop of hair.
It’s also because he’s a top pro. I think Xabi said that more than once: the best trainer Xabi has seen. Puts all those other “heroes” to shame. This is a guy who personifies DEDICATION, and to me, even more than the home grown lads like Gerrard and Carra. I’ve read a lot about Kenny understanding the club and the fans. I feel that Sami “gets” the club as well. Think back to him losing the captaincy to Gerrard. What a response. And what strength of character. Can a club, any club, ask for a better servant?
No crying to the press about not being loved, no holding the club to ransom over contracts or pay. No playing tricks, no conspiring (ok that’s unconfirmed… but I couldn’t resist). And no need to kiss the badge to show what our club truly means to him. He shows that every time he plays.
I wish he was still here, and he’s still 28. Still playing for us. And he will STILL get into our team. Houllier played him, Rafa played him; and I’m sure Kenny will play him. 10 years of sterling service. And I leave you with that image of him pulling down a really tricky difficult high ball, under pressure from Rooney, with absolute ease and confidence, and the moment of imminent danger was gone.
(Next possible Legend: Lucas) [a bit off-topic I know]