Top 10 Names you SHOULD have on the back of your soccer jersey (but you probably don’t)
In direct opposition to the previous article, these are ten players that deserve the honor of being on the back of your jersey, but are probably not a fan’s first thought to get put on a jersey when purchasing, so next time, when you do buy a new soccer jersey, keep these terrific ten heroes in mind.
Rafael Van Der Vaart – Tottenham Hotspur
Rafa has been an absolute gem for Spurs, who secured his signature at the absolute end of the August 2010 transfer window. Since then, he has found a home as a starting midfielder in ‘Arry Redknapp’s lineup, displacing Niko Krancjar. Now I know any Spurs enthusiast would run out an buy a Bale jersey as fast as they can, but think about this, it is much more likely that VdV is at the club for a few years whereas the temptation to cash in on Bale this summer may prove too strong for the club.
Ryan Giggs – Manchester United
Giggs, after Roma’s Francesco Totti, is the ultimate one club man. All United fans wish, “if only he were English, not Welsh.” I despise United (well, more so Fergie and their fans atrocious behavior) with all my heart, but I hold the utmost respect for Giggs and Paul Scholes, as they have stayed with the club through thick and thin, the last two of the Golden Generation (1992) and are Old Trafford Legends. I say this to United fans: If you do not own one already, make Giggs your next shirt purchase, as he is coming to the end of an illustrious career. Chicharito, Berba, Fletcher and the other young guns can wait, Don’t let Giggs’ retire without owning his shirt. (Even I will not lie, the collector side of me will purchase a United kit done up in Giggs next season to commemorate what should be his 21st and final year.)
Adam Johnson – Manchester City
The young England winner abandoned the sinking ship that is Middlesbrough in the January 2010 transfer window, and at the revolving door that is Manchester City Federal Credit Union’s starting lineup, Johnson has found a fairly permanent place as an advanced midfielder/winger. He has already made his impact on the England squad and should be a starter at City for years to come (like a younger, less legendary version of the aforementioned Welshman who plays across town)
Gerard Pique/Xavi – Barcelona
Probably the two most overshadowed men in Barca’s lineup (at least in shirt sales) as teammates’ Leo Messi, David Villa, and Carles Puyol have more brand-recognition. However, without these two players, I guarantee Barcelona would not have won as many trophies as they have since Pique arrived in 2008. Xavi has been a mainstay for the better part of the last decade, and is the best pure passer in world soccer, sadly he did not win the well deserved FIFA world player of the year as it went to Messi for a second straight year. Pique on the other hand, is the 6’4 monstrous center half who is athletic enough to stop the world’s best strikers and score the occasional goal. Both these men are well deserving to be on the back of your Barca shirt as Xavi will go down as an all time legend and Pique is well on his way to icon status in Catalonia.
Xabi Alonso – Real Madrid
Even at the biggest club in the world, Xabi Alonso again finds himself being overshadowed by an attacking midfielder who is a club icon (Steven Gerrard at Liverpool and now Ronaldo at Madrid.) Alonso has been consistently one of the best deep lying playmakers in the world over the past seven years. While at Liverpool, he anchored the rear half of the midfield, but still scored some absolute crackers of goals. Upon moving to Madrid, he took over at his usual Defensive midfielder position and has remained one of the best in the world.
Javier Zanetti – Inter Milan
Zanetti is yet another one club man, playing for Inter his entire career, and has served as full time Captain since 1999. He has compiled over 500 appearances at Inter, and has 138 caps for the Argentinian national team. When he does retire (probably soon, he is 37, but he claims he wants to play in the 2014 World Cup) he will go do as one of the greatest defenders to ever play soccer. So commemorate this legend, and if you want to pick up a Nerazurri jersey, avoid the temptation of the Sneijder’s, Eto’o’s and Milito’s and go for Zanetti.
Raul Meireles – Liverpool
The ONE thing Liverpool can thank ex-manager Roy Hodgson for. Meireles has been an absolute dynamo on Merseyside, shoring up a subpar midfield, and allowing Steven Gerrard to play in his natural attacking mid role. He has scored some beautiful goals, most recently the one that sunk Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, effectively ending the Blues title hopes. It may be tempting to pick up a Carroll or Suarez jersey, but trust me, pick up Meireles, and you will have a man who can be a great player at Anfield for the next five years, easing the pain of losing the aforementioned Xabi Alonso.
Michael Essien – Chelsea
Many people may hate Chelsea and the way they operate, but one man on their squad commands respect. And that is Ghana midfielder Michael Essien, joining the club in 2005, Essien has been an excellent holding midfielder for Chelsea, scoring incredible goals, and being very reliable over the past six seasons. At a club with so many big names, and where the shirt sales generated by Fernando Torres may generate enough revenue to pay off his 50 million pounds transfer fee, stray away from the crowd, and pick a consistently productive player in Essien (May I recommend in Chelsea’s excellent Black and Orange away kit from this season)
Jack Wilshere – Arsenal
Many of you may call me biased for this statement, but it holds true regardless of my Arsenal fandom. Jack Wilshere is the future of English soccer. He has firmly planted himself as a starter in a holding midfield role for the Gunners and makes his England senior squad debut tonight. The crazy part, I am a full 336 days OLDER than Wilshere. He is one of the early rising stars (Theo Walcott, Marc Albrighton, Andy Carroll, Jack Rodwell, Danny Sturridge, and Micah Richards to name the other prodigies) who will be prominent for England over the next decade. However, Wilshere has been homegrown at Arsenal, and will hopefully remain a one club man over the better part of the next two decades.
Michael Bradley – Aston Villa
Villa scrambled to sign Michael Bradley on loan from Borussia Monchengladbach before the January 2011 transfer window shut. They got their man, and there is an option for a permanent deal in the summer. The US World Cup run this summer was Michael Bradley’s coming out party, showing he is as crucial to the US midfield as Donovan and Dempsey, and now, like the latter, Bradley will be plying his trade in the Premier League. I for one, celebrated this by picking up Villa’s shirt for this season (I would not even call myself a Villa aficionado.) But seeing that Bradley is where he belongs (and not in that German relegation trap) I am commemorating what is hopefully the start of a long illustrious Prem career for the young Bradley, and I encourage other US team fans to do the same.
There it is, you probably won’t find these guys in the Top 10 of the sales charts, but all of them have done more than enough to merit your $20-$30 to be placed on the back of your soccer jersey and worn with pride for all to see – J
P.S: From November of 2010, here is the sales chart for named shirts from Kitbag.com – If you want something unique, staying away from the Top 20 would be a good idea