Liverpool's Craig Bellamy Is World Class And Would Improve Any Team On Earth

His status as the best player on the park last night not only makes a mockery of Mancini's decision to let him go for nowt, but also shows that Bellamy's technique and desire would make him an asset for any club in the world...
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His status as the best player on the park last night not only makes a mockery of Mancini's decision to let him go for nowt, but also shows that Bellamy's technique and desire would make him an asset for any club in the world...

After about 50 minutes of Liverpool’s victory against Manchester City last night, I tweeted that ‘in terms of technique and desire, Craig Bellamy could play in any team in the world and impress.’ I claimed the same in the Sabotage Times office on Monday, have been forthright about it all season and was banging on about it during his early days at Manchester City. Ironically, for a player who once attacked a teammate with a seven-iron, he proceeded to whiff one with his left foot that a hungover hacker would’ve been proud of. But even world-class footballers are allowed the odd moment of mortality, and Bellamy is definitely deserving of that description.

The phrase world-class gets bandied about all over the place by commentators and ex-pros, but to my mind it is about four things. First, of course, the player must have impeccable technique. Secondly, he has to have the gumption to be able to apply that technique under the utmost pressure, in the tightest of areas and when his team are down and out. Third, he must possess a desire to be the best player on the pitch every time he steps onto it and fourth, he must have the aura to lift players around him with a combination of all of the above. Can anyone, hand on heart, deny that Bellamy meets the criteria?

For a man with knees made of glass, Bellamy did a fine impression last night of an amphetamine-fed spring chicken and essentially played in three positions. With a slightly improved Downing still suffering from a chronic inability to make the correct decisions in possession and Kuyt unable to keep up with the vertical football Liverpool were trying to play (and on the occasions he did suffering from glue foot when he tried to pass) Bellamy occupied Manchester City’s three man defence in the first half and gave Savic such an uncomfortable time that he had to be removed at the break, and continued apace afterwards. He ran Richards ragged, tormented Zabaleta, made Lescott appear ponderous and skinned Kolarov more than once. It would be easy for the naysayers to point to the supposed deficiencies of these players, but let’s remember that they are often first choice for the current number one team in England, A team, no less, that let Bellamy leave for nothing.

Would he improve Manchester United? Yes. Would he improve Arsenal? Yes again. Chelsea? You bet

And a team that, despite its lofty position and remarkable goal difference, could do with Craig Bellamy in their ranks. But then couldn’t every team? Would he improve Manchester United? Yes. Would he improve Arsenal? Yes again. Chelsea? You bet. Could he fit in on the left of an attacking three at Barcelona and dovetail with Messi and Sanchez? Without a doubt. Would his indefatigability and desire lift a Real Madrid who can be worryingly flat in the biggest of matches. Si Señor.

I’m not saying that Bellamy is the best player in the world or will ever trouble the Ballon D’or list. He’s not going to score 50 in a season or dribble around a whole team twice, but as I’ve explained above, it’s about more thatn just that. Craig Bellamy has always thought of himself as a world class footballer, yet at perhaps only two stages in his career (now and his early days at City) has he shown it. But why?

When he first came to Liverpool he was coming off the back of a scintillating season for Blackburn. It was a funny time at Anfield, what with it being post Istanbul and pre-Torres, and it seemed that Rafa didn’t know how best to harness him. I don’t think that it had, like Robbie Keane, anything to do with Bellamy being unable to play to a highly-developed tactical strategy, more that Benitez, for all of his merits as a coach, can’t really deal with mavericks. Criminally unused in the 2007 Champions League final against Milan, he packed his bags to West Ham where he was, again, the best player in an average team. Then he moved to Manchester City.

Entering a team that was at the beginning of a seismic shift from the old up-and-down City to the expensively assembled squad we see today, Bellamy not only played under his old mentor Mark Hughes, but joined a side containing Robinho who, at the time, was playing incredibly well. I know nothing of the off-field relationship between the two but on it, far from being annoyed at Robinho’s occasionally lackadaisical approach, Bellamy thrived in tandem with the Brazilian. Coruscating going forward, it looked exactly as it was, two supremely gifted players wanting to the best player on the pitch but also having the intelligence to combine to make the team, that still had some decidedly average players, much more than the sum of its parts.

Taciturn, driven and demanding of high standards, Mancini must, somewhere in his granite soul, regret letting Bellamy leave

The beginning of his second season there was the same, he developed an almost telepathic relationship with Carlos Tevez and was, whatever they will tell you after his goal last night, loved by the City fans who were as perplexed as the player when Mancini let him leave for Cardiff. Taciturn, driven and demanding of high standards, Mancini must, somewhere in his granite soul, regret letting Bellamy leave. Not just because of his goal last night but because, as players and people, they possess many of the same qualities.

As a Liverpool fan, I couldn’t be happier. Based on everything I’ve said about Bellamy in this article, it is clear that not only does he have everything required of a world class player, but also that he is a right time, right place footballer. He obviously needs to feel loved, but then so do a lot of supremely talented players. When he signed at the beginning of the season I said he was the best free-transfer in Europe and nothing I have seen this has made me feel any different. When he plays alongside Suarez the Uruguayan is visibly lifted by his presence, Gerrard loves the fact that he can hit balls into channels that will be chased, retained and used to wreak havoc and Charlie Adam, whose radar is currently in for repair in a Blackpool second hand store, must say a silent prayer that not only does Bellamy make his bad passes look good, he even chases back into central midfield and defence to cover for his lack of legs.

Dalglish is a huge factor here. Bellamy is on record in saying that Hughes and Dalglish were two of his boyhood idols and it is no secret that he was a Liverpool fan. Not in the Robbie Keane sense, but in the fanatical, posters on the wall, go in the garden and be King Kenny sense. I don’t know how long his knees can last, or even if he will be able to play on Saturday after a week in which he has ran his heart out and been comfortably Liverpool’s best player in two wildly different games.

Yet whether it is for 18, 24, or 36 months, everyone connected to Liverpool and plenty who aren’t know that we have a player in our ranks who will not only die for the cause but will demand that those around him do the same. He will moan at bad passes, throw his arms in the air occasionally and even miss the odd ball completely, but for a club that is trying to re-establish an identity and build for the future, he is a vital catalyst. He was rightly disappointed to leave Liverpool the first time, and has to be commended for his incendiary form that will hopefully help the club pick up the first piece of silverware of this new dawn, and also give him the chance to retire as a Liverpool legend and a player that younger fans will remember as one they went out onto the park pretending to be.

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