I’ve been aware of the Colombian Luis Muriel for a while now, but with his recent brace and other top class performances for Udinese, he is becoming an ever more prevalent part of my Twitter news feed. He has excelled this season with his pace, clinical finishing and mastery over the ball however what I was not aware of is how plump he is becoming.
Luis Muriel is no doubt a talent, but it seems his likeness to the Brazilian Ronaldo far exceeds his performances on the pitch. They both have weight issues, Ronaldo’s are well documented and Muriel of late seems to have taken this comparison to the striking legend a step too far, sporting the ‘my-belly-is-a-bit-big-so-my-shirt-looks-a-bit-tight’ look, as well as the ‘I’ve-lost-my-neck’ look to complete the style. This uncanny physical appearance to Ronaldo, adding to his already similar style of play, got me thinking that everyone always criticises strikers for the apparent lack of fitness or work ethic, yet who are we to do this when they continue to break records, score copious amounts of goals and prove themselves as some of the best strikers in the world.
This brings me on to my theory that the fatter you are as a striker, the more goals you score. Of course this is an exaggeration and I do not actually believe that, but there does seem to be some correlation between a successful striker’s lack of work without the ball and his complete efficiency with it. We all heard that rumoured stat that on average Gianluigi Buffon covered more ground than Ronaldo in 90 minutes, yet Ronaldo is still renowned as one of the best strikers to have ever have played the beautiful game, and I wonder how many goals he scored against him.
It seems to me then that for a world class striker to become world class, he does not necessarily need this over-zealous ‘bulldog like approach’ that Martin Tyler so lovingly attributes to Carlos Tevez, as in fact some of the best, in my opinion anyway, have never really been one to play for the team, yet are undeniably amongst the best to have played in their position. I have obviously covered two of these players already, with Ronaldo needing no explanation to how good he was, whilst the Colombian version, Muriel, clearly has the potential to scale great heights and despite reports that he needs to work harder in training and lose some weight, my advice would be to remain cuddly, as it seemed to have worked for Ronaldo, and is working for him at this moment in time.
Therefore, my third example is none other than one of my favourite ever strikers, Adriano. I am sure most of you are aware of this Brazilian powerhouse, but for those who aren’t, you definitely need to have a look.
His left foot was one of the most lethal weapons I have witnessed on a football pitch and his ‘robust’ frame led him on his way to become Brazil’s new ‘Number 9’ and also have an extremely successful career at Inter Milan. There is no denying that Adriano’s technical ability and deadly left foot made him a great player yet once more he was one of those players guilty of carrying some extra weight, and never really seemed that enthusiastic to be playing. But, in his prime, I will always consider him as one of the best strikers and although his stint at the top was in fact shortened by injury and the subsequent gaining of too much weight, there is no doubt he can be used as an excellent example of how a large, lazy striker could ignite a game in an instant and win any game on his own. If you need help being persuaded, have a look at this video on youtube (which isn’t mine). I know they can make any player look good, but you definitely cannot deny both his physical power, and the power behind his thunderous left foot. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YP3-UE5PSnE
My fourth example is probably again one of my favourite ever players, and even partnered Adriano for a period of time at Inter Milan. Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
Now despite never being labelled as overweight, Ibrahimovic has always exuded an arrogance and swagger that doesn’t suit a harrying striker who chases every lost cause, and therefore does fit my ‘lazy striker’ criteria. Ibrahimovic, perhaps now more than ever because of his age, has become more and more lethargic when not in possession of the ball, but time and time again proves not only to be one of the most technically gifted players on the planet, but due to his intimidating physical presence as well, the complete striker that any manager would give an arm to have. Yet, notice how even though he is considered a complete striker, this idea of ‘complete’ does not include the ability to defend from the front, or an ability to run constantly for 90 minutes. He is considered world class because he can beat players; score from any distance, with any part of his body; hold up the ball and pick out teammates with pinpoint accuracy. The striker does not have to be like Tevez, or Shane Long for that matter, as surely if they score and provide goals for their team, they are doing their job. Ibrahimovic has proved this by being a top class striker throughout his career without ever having to do much more than walk when his doesn’t have the ball. It his this ability to change a game when he does receive the ball that makes him, like the other strikers mentioned, one of the best at his trade, so why would he change?
To avoid writing a tedious and extremely long article, my final example will be again that man we all love to slate, Fernando Torres. I have no hesitation in saying that Torres was one of the best strikers in the world during his time at Liverpool, but his stint at Chelsea is a perfect case study to further argue my point. My theory is that Torres’s lack of confidence in conjunction with his inability to score frequently has transformed him into a player that he certainly does not need to be, a try hard. Ever since his goals have dried up and the pressure has mounted, Torres has been so eager to impress that we now find him running around like a headless chicken, chasing after every potential opportunity to win the ball back in order to earn some sympathetic applause from the Chelsea fans. However, this is where I introduce the benefits of being a lazy striker, as I believe that the reason Torres seems to have lost the majority of his pace and also his efficiency in front of goal is purely because he is absolutely knackered. It is much harder to beat a defender and finish in the bottom corner when you are out on your last legs than when you have been kicking stones on the half way line for half an hour. I think that Torres needs to realise by becoming Shane Long or James Milner, he is not helping his quest to recapture his goalscoring form and this inherent need to impress will only land him in a vicious circle in which trying too hard will become the very reason Torres will be considered a failure at Chelsea.
In conclusion, I have put across the argument that the greatest strikers are, on the whole, lazy, or in more positive terms, those who conserve their energy for when it matters. The aforementioned strikers, excluding Torres, all have that knack of scoring a goal out of nothing, and I think that not only is it due to their immense talent, but the fact that for whatever reason; whether this be their weight, or their sheer arrogance; these strikers have the necessary energy to do what they are on the pitch to do. Score goals.