Stimulated by the World Cup, I’m reading books on soccer, including this 2014 one by Simon Kuper:
* I’ve increasingly given up chasing interviews with players. It isn’t worth the humiliation. Sometimes a magazine will call and ask, “Can you get an interview with X?” I always say that you can: if you want to spend weeks sending faxes that somehow never arrive, phoning impatient agents on their cell phones, hanging around training grounds, and trading favors with boot sponsors. In the end you’ll get an interview with X. He’ll probably turn up hours late, say, “I hope we’ll win on Saturday,” and then drive off again.
Another colleague of mine describes acting as an interpreter for a star who had just joined Real Madrid. As the two of them sat in the car heading for the press conference where the star was to be presented, my colleague asked him what message he wanted to convey to the waiting media. The star looked surprised at the thought. “The aim,” he explained, “is to say nothing.”
Soccer players almost never say, “No comment.” As the English playmaker Paul Gascoigne once pointed out, if you do that, the newspaper will report that the player said, “No comment,” which makes him look suspicious. Instead, the player says sweet nothings.
I live in Paris, and the other month I caught Franck Ribéry being interviewed on French television. It was impressive to see how fluently the phrases rolled out: “We played well…. Another big game coming…. Let’s hope we can win. . . . Only the team performance matters.” In its way, it was a perfect performance. This kind of drivel often satisfies interviewers, too. Many newspapers and television stations barely worry about the content. What they are trying to show is access to players—or the appearance of access. That by itself is enough to sell. I think I sold my interview with Kaká to publications in eight countries.
Of course, sometimes you catch a player on a good day, often after he has retired, and then the interview is a pleasure. I felt that in some of the profiles in this book: going around Cape Town with Bruce Grobbelaar, around Rotterdam with Johnny Rep and Bernd Hölzenbein, or sitting in the Polo Bar in Ascot, England, with Glenn Hoddle. Soccer players tend not to respond well to abstract questions about emotions (“How did you feel when? . . .”), but if you ask about specific moments or places or people, they sometimes get going. Even interviewing active players can be worthwhile. These people are roaring with energy, almost never have low blood sugar or a hangover, and are fascinated by what they do. Nicolas Anelka and Rivaldo were not pleased to see me, but they did say interesting things.
Then there is the intangible sense of a person that you can get only from actually meeting him: his aura, if you like.
* The other type of superstar common from the late 1960s until the 1980s was the leader. Maradona was one (being a rock star didn’t get in the way), but the ultimate leader-superstars were Johan Cruijff and Franz Beckenbauer. Both men were born just after the Second World War, as part of western Europe’s baby boom. By the late 1960s, in a world growing in prosperity and shedding deference, the boomers were seizing power for themselves. They demonstrated against Vietnam and led the street revolutions of 1968. On the soccer field, too, they made a power grab.
Cruijff and Beckenbauer didn’t only take responsibility for their own performances, but did so for everybody else’s as well. They were coaches on the pitch, forever pointing and telling teammates where to move. They helped the nominal coaches make the lineups. They didn’t do deference.
* Yet when soccer changed in the 1990s, both leaders and rock stars were doomed. With all the new money coming in, clubs became better organized. They regained control over their players. Often the manager—typified by Alex Ferguson at Manchester United—became a sort of dictator over his team. Clubs also began to focus more on the physical and demanded that their players abandon rock-star lifestyles. Even Ronaldinho had to leave Barcelona when the club grew fed up with his partying every night, particularly after he began to take along the teenage Messi. In soccer, the rock star was ousted by the corporate man. Liverpool’s defender Jamie Carragher, in his autobiography Carra , describes the “robotic, characterless ideal modern coaches want.”
Soccer players today are almost all followers rather than leaders. Joan Oliver, when he was Barça’s chief executive, insisted to me that Messi was a leader. But it turned out that by leader , Oliver meant something very different from a Cruijff or a Beckenbauer. Messi, Oliver explained, was a “twenty-first-century leader”: someone who didn’t speak much but led by example. That’s not what Cruijff would have called a leader.
So today’s superstar—Lampard, Kaká, Messi—is a slightly monomaniacal corporate man and yes-man. (In my profile of Florent Malouda, I describe his battle to turn himself into just that person.) Sure, they want to win. Like all good corporate executives, they take their jobs seriously. And they’re paid a lot to win. They practice hard.
* When Johan Cruijff was a young player and still rather naive, Dutch journalists used to tease him by asking him what was the last book he had read.
Invariably, he would cite the now-forgotten American novel Knock on Any Door . Sometimes the journalist would say: “But you said that last time!” and Cruijff would reply, “I’ve read it again. It’s a very good book.”
So it is ironic that Cruijff—voted European player of the century last week by the International Federation of Football History and Statistics—is responsible for the Dutch publishing sensation of this winter.
The book, You Have to Shoot, or You Can’t Score, and Other Quotes from Johan Cruijff , first appeared in October. It sold out instantly. It was reprinted twice in November, sold out again, and now sits once more in piles beside the tills in half the bookstores in Holland.
The quotes were assembled by Henk Davidse, who collected Cruijff interviews for decades and found rich material. Cruijff talked a lot. Even on the pitch, on the ball, with three men on him, he was always gesticulating and shouting advice to teammates. His whole life has been a conversation.
He talked about everything. The chapter headings include “On Guilders, Pesetas, and Dollars,” “On Tar and Nicotine,” “The Dutch Team: A Difficult Relationship,” and “On His Youth, Father Manus, Brother Henny, Wife Danny, the Children, and Health.”
And Cruijff said things that no one else did. “Even when he talked nonsense,” wrote Nico Scheepmaker in his biography Cruijff, Hendrik Johannes, 1947–1984, Fenomeen , “it was always interesting nonsense.”
Cruijff understood soccer better than anyone, but he also thought he understood everything better than anyone. He told a Chicago taxi driver the quickest way into town, advised Ian Woosnam to change his swing, and before having heart bypass surgery debated the method of operation with his surgeon.
* When a teenage waif named “Jopie” Cruijff began training with Ajax’s first team, many of the senior players had already known him for years. Cruijff had grown up a few hundred yards down the road from the club’s little stadium, in Amsterdam-East. He had been hanging around the locker room with the first team since he was four. Nonetheless, he surprised his new teammates. It wasn’t just his brilliance they noticed; it was his mouth. Even while on the ball, the kid never stopped lecturing, telling senior internationals where to run. Maddeningly, he generally turned out to be right.
Jopie Cruijff would become more than just a great soccer player. Unlike Pele and Maradona, he also became a great thinker about soccer. It’s as if he were the lightbulb and Edison all at once. It’s impossible to identify one man who “invented” British soccer, or Brazilian soccer. They just accreted over time. However, Cruijff—together with Rinus Michels, his coach at Ajax—invented Dutch soccer. The game played today by Holland and Barcelona is a modified version of what the two men came up with in Amsterdam in the mid-1960s. Only now are the Dutch finally liberating themselves from Cruijff’s style and, above all, from his bizarre personality.
* To Cruijff, soccer was “a game you play with your head.” He was a man who came from Mars and said, “This is how people have always done it, but they were wrong.” He rethought everything from scratch, without caring about tradition. Perhaps his greatest goal ever was a case in point. Ajax was playing a friendly against an amateur side, and there were no television cameras, but what seems to have happened is that Cruijff was advancing alone on the goal when the keeper came out to confront him. Cruijff turned and began running back with the ball toward his own half. The keeper pursued him until the halfway line, where he realized that Cruijff no longer had the ball. At some point he had backheeled it into the net without breaking stride.
Cruijff took responsibility not only for his own performance, but for everybody else’s too. He was forever pointing, a coach on the field. Michels had told him, “If a teammate makes a mistake, you should have prevented that mistake.” Frank Rijkaard, later a teammate of Cruijff’s and opponent of Maradona’s, said that Maradona could win a match by himself, but didn’t have Cruijff’s gift of changing the team’s tactics to win it.
As a leader, Cruijff was a child of his time. Like his contemporary Franz Beckenbauer, or the students in the streets of Paris in 1968, he was a postwar baby boomer impatient to seize power. The boomers wanted to reinvent the world. They didn’t do deference. Before Cruijff, Dutch soccer players had knocked on the chairman’s door to hear what they would be paid. Cruijff shocked Ajax by bringing his father-in-law, Cor Coster, in with him to do his pay talks.
Cruijff drove everybody at Ajax crazy. He never stopped talking, in that working-class Amsterdam accent, with his very own grammar, his penchant for apparently random words (“Them on the right is goat’s cheese”), and the shrugs of shoulders that sealed arguments. He once said about his playing career, talking about himself in the second person as usual, “That was the worst thing, that you always saw everything better. It meant that you were always talking, always correcting.”
* Dutch stadiums sold out wherever Cruijff played, as people flocked to see him one last time. He gave us thirty-yard passes with the outside of his foot that put teammates in front of the keeper so unexpectedly that sometimes the television cameras couldn’t keep up.
But what he did on the field was only the half of it. The older Cruijff was the most interesting speaker on soccer I have ever heard. “Until I was thirty I did everything on feeling,” Cruijff said. “After thirty I began to understand why I did the things I did.” In 1981 I was twelve, living in Holland, and for the rest of my teens I imbibed everything he said about soccer. It was as if you could read a lucid conversation with Einstein in the paper every day or two.
Cruijff said things you could use at any level of soccer: don’t give a square ball, because if it’s intercepted the opposition has immediately beaten two men, you and the player you were passing to. Don’t pass to a team-mate’s feet, but pass it a yard in front of him, so he has to run onto the ball, which ups the pace of the game. If you’re having a bad game, just do simple things. Trap the ball and pass it to your nearest teammate. Do this a few times, and the feeling that you’re doing things right will restore your confidence. His wisdoms directly or indirectly improved almost every player in Holland. “That’s logical”—the phrase he used to clinch arguments—became a Dutch cliché.
Cruijff had opinions on everything. He advised golfer Ian Woosnam on his swing. He said the traffic lights in Amsterdam were in the wrong places, which gave him the right to ignore them. His old teammate Willem van Hanegem recalls Cruijff teaching him how to insert coins into a soft-drink machine. Van Hanegem had been wrestling with the machine until Cruijff told him to use “a short, dry throw.” Maddeningly, the method worked.
* English players tend to divide into two social types. Players of the first type are so thoughtless and inarticulate that they would struggle in any profession but soccer: Think Paul Gascoigne, Lee Bowyer, Jonathan Woodgate. Then there is a minority type that thinks hard about the game: Gary Lineker, Gareth Southgate, or Tony Adams after giving up alcohol.
Owen told me that as a boy he watched Lineker and Alan Shearer “to get tips off playing, but also tips off how to conduct yourself off the pitch as well. If there was such a thing as someone copying exactly what they do and following in their footsteps, I don’t think you’d go far wrong with players like that.” His project—almost revolutionary in English soccer—involved not behaving like a half-wit.
It shows the instant you meet him. He enters the room—rapidly, of course—looks you in the eye, smiles, sticks out his hand, and says in his Welsh-Mersey lilt, “Hello, how are you?” An utterly banal sequence, except that few other English players could manage it. Owen may be the only England player with basic good manners.
Being both gifted and sensible, Owen progressed as rapidly as he moves. At seventeen, he made his Liverpool debut as a substitute, and when his team got a penalty, guess who was entrusted with it? At eighteen years and fifty-nine days, Owen became the youngest England player of the twentieth century.
This was weird. English soccer is run by the English working classes, who in their professions tend to follow the dictum that experience trumps talent. The best players traditionally had to prove their worth for years before being picked for England, after which they were given a berth on the team until years past their prime. In 1998, the notion of playing an eighteen-year-old in a World Cup therefore seemed heretical. England’s manager, Glenn Hoddle, tried to dismiss Owen as “not a natural goalscorer,” which raised the question of who on earth was. Owen began that World Cup on the bench beside another green youngster, a mere twenty-three-year-old named David Beckham.
* World Cups are ruled by fear. Most players are on a mission not to screw up. Yet there was Owen, dribbling as if in his back garden in Hawarden. He had “balls,” said Diego Maradona.
* Many times after England matches I have stood in the “mixed zone,” where journalists shout out questions to passing players. It’s mostly a sad scene. Paul Scholes, who could barely talk, used to trudge by with head bowed—probably more out of shyness than rudeness. With other players, it was rudeness. David Platt used to stop to chat with selected journalists about horse racing. When David Beckham became captain, he always stopped for a word. “I just hit it and it went in” is his usual account of a goal, though Beckham’s voice is so high-pitched that some words are audible only to certain breeds of dog.
Only Owen stops for a thoughtful analysis of his game. At the World Cup in Japan, he sometimes did so with a black garbage bag slung over his shoulder, so that he looked even more than usual like the boy next door. Owen seems immune to status. His partner is not a model but a girl he met in kindergarten, and life for him is not a series of confrontations in which you have to defeat all comers with your clothing, but a chance to play snooker, table tennis, or darts after training in your specially designed home. Or you could play golf. Whereas Beckham uses his clothes and hairstyles to draw the observer’s eye, Owen, who is arguably equally good-looking, and has done much more for England, tends to make himself look neutral.
* First, he has what you might call the opposite of nerves: The bigger the match, the better he plays. His goals generally come against teams like France, Argentina, Brazil, a hat trick against Germany, Brazil again, Argentina again, two late goals against Arsenal in an FA Cup final, saving England’s qualification against Russia, and so on. That is why international soccer, not club soccer, is his natural milieu. Playing for Liverpool, Real Madrid, and Newcastle, Owen has never won a league title or a Champions League, and he probably never will. We will remember him for World Cups.
The other essential point about Owen is that being intelligent, he can improve even as he slows down.
* Few British heroes are as popular at home as they are abroad. The basic reason is that the British can place each one of their compatriots precisely on the national class ladder.
* Just as Winston Churchill was unmistakably upper class, Beckham was clearly Essex Man, and so each was distrusted by members of other classes. To quote the musical My Fair Lady : “An Englishman’s way of speaking absolutely classifies him, / The moment he talks he makes some other Englishman despise him.”
Beckham’s one inelegant feature is his voice, that high-pitched, nasal monotone. Whenever he appeared after an England game to convert soccer into clichés, something of the magic drained. Beckham became a vehicle for the British to mock their new cult of vapid celebrity. To most adult English people, there was something tacky and absurd about him. Typically, when a pair of his boots was auctioned for charity in 2000, they were bought by a man dressed as a ferret to publicize a new Web site.
Even Beckham’s own class treated him with suspicion. Many in the working classes felt that Beckham had deserted his roots—hence the peculiar enmity he attracted from fans of West Ham, his local club in childhood.
Worse, in a country that prefers its heroes flawed, his physical perfection counted against him. That’s why Beckham’s first appearance in the national melodrama had to be as villain. After getting sent off against Argentina in 1998, he took more abuse than any English player before him. Things got so bad that a placard outside a Nottingham church proclaimed, “God forgives even David Beckham.”
His third constituency—the rest of the world—was the most grateful, and it’s here that Beckham will best be able to build in coming decades.
* foreigners barely noticed what Beckham said. To them, he is simply beauty, fame, and wealth incarnate, an Andy Warhol painting come to life.
Like Marilyn Monroe or Charlie Chaplin, Beckham works best as a silent brand. Fittingly, his first autobiography was essentially a picture book.
* Typically, Beckham’s first meeting with his future wife seems to have been orchestrated to boost both their brands.
* The Beckhams produced three sons, bearers of the Beckham brand. Over the years, it was above all Mrs. Beckham and Fuller who turned a very good right-half into a great brand. They understood that Beckham speaks through his body. It became a work of art in progress, the creation of hairdressers, tattooists, soccer managers, couturiers, and his wife, who all redesigned him endlessly as if he were a doll.
Once his appeal was discovered, it was marketed. In soccer, it has long been thought best practice to shield yourself from the media. Beckham, however, went on promotional tours of the United States and Asia. The inspiration seemed to come from his wife: In soccer you are expected to let your feet speak for you, but in pop music, where you are your image, life is ceaseless self-promotion.
The farther away people are from England and from soccer, the louder the Beckham brand seems to speak to them.
* Wayne Rooney. On the upside, he is the most accomplished English player since Bobby Charlton. On the downside, everyone wants a piece of him: fans, the media, his agent, Manchester United, and United’s manager, Alex Ferguson. In fact, due to his peculiar historical circumstances—a great English player living in contemporary England—Rooney may be the most grabbed-for player ever.
* It’s hard to know what Rooney thinks, because he rarely speaks in public, and has never been heard to say an interesting sentence in his life. Yet from his seat in front of his television, watching the world talk about him, he must marvel at how everyone gets him wrong.
* There are two types of English player, those from the working class and those from the underclass, and Rooney is the latter.
* Traditionally, players were picked for their country only once they had served their time and established themselves as “honest pros.” As in most British working-class occupations, seniority mattered. But Rooney broke all the rules. At one early training session with England, the boy dribbled past several players and then, as was his habit, lobbed the keeper. Initially, there was silence. Then his fellow internationals spontaneously broke into applause.
Like every new celebrity in modern Britain, Rooney became the object of hype. At first, he was very popular. He was treated as the authentic masculine counterweight to Beckham’s constructed effeminate beauty. There are two types of British player: ugly ones like Rooney, Paul Gascoigne, and Nobby Stiles and pretty ones like Beckham and Michael Owen. The British public usually prefers the ugly ones.
And English fans had been waiting decades for Rooney to arrive. Not only did he score goals, but he was that rare thing in English soccer: a player who sees space. Soccer is best understood as a dance for space. The team that can open spaces when it attacks, and close down spaces when it defends, generally wins. There are two kinds of passers: ones like Beckham, who pass the ball straight to a teammate, and ones like Lionel Messi, who pass into empty space. Rooney finds space. It’s partly because he has perfect control of the ball, which means that he never has to look down at it and instead can run with his head up looking for space.
The few previous Englishmen who could see space—chiefly Gascoigne and several so-called mavericks in the 1970s—ruined themselves with alcohol and various other vices. Rooney hasn’t. He has been England’s main man since he was eighteen. The country’s need for him often segues into dependence. Among the many groups who want their piece of him, England’s fans often appear the most desperate.
Rooney was never surprised or confused by his own rapid rise. He liked playing for England at seventeen.
* Rooney is a careerist.
Players hardly ever come out as careerists. That’s because the game is pervaded with the rhetoric of lifelong love for club: Players are always trying to keep fans happy by kissing their club’s badge or talking about how they have supported the club since childhood. Yet probably no professional player is “loyal” in the sense that fans use the word. Pundits sometimes rhapsodize about the old days, when players often spent their entire careers at one club, but that was because clubs could then simply forbid them to move. No longer.
Contrary to popular opinion, Rooney is not especially selfish. He’s just typical of his profession. Nowadays he is often contrasted with teammates like Paul Scholes, Ryan Giggs, and Gary Neville, who have supposedly stayed “loyal” to United all their careers. But it would be more accurate to say that these men have a happy employer-employee relationship with United.
* British talents have traditionally needed a father figure. But Rooney doesn’t. In fact, he barely seems to need a manager at all.
* But like most players he will be remembered chiefly for what he did with his national team, and so he will be remembered above all as a failure. [Frank] Lampard belongs to England’s “golden generation,” which was supposed to win trophies but never got past the quarterfinals of any major tournament. He is the symbol of his generation: an apparently brilliant failure.
The question is why his generation failed. You could call it the Frank Lampard question.
* “Frank is a box-to-box player, as they call it in England,” Hiddink reflected in the hotel lobby in Istanbul. English players, [Gus] Hiddink said, need to be set limits: “‘This is your area and this is your task.’ If you don’t do that, Frank has so much energy, so much drive, that he often does too much. In my early days at Chelsea too, he’d come back to his own defense, collect the ball, worm himself forward through the midfield, and then he’d actually score quite often, I must say,” Hiddink chuckled fondly, “in his energy-eating style.”
Of course, being everywhere is precisely what Lampard had been brought up to do.
* Hiddink wasn’t just worried about saving Lampard’s energy, about leaving him power for the crucial moments in a game when you need it most. He also saw that Lampard, by going everywhere, was slowing down Chelsea’s attacks. The ball moves forward faster when a midfielder doesn’t come to fetch it. Hiddink felt that Lampard at Chelsea, like his box-to-box twin, Steven Gerrard with England, was taking too much responsibility for moving the game along. At the World Cup in South Africa, Hiddink said, you’d see Gerrard collecting the ball in England’s defense and then running twenty yards with it. Gerrard was working as hard as he could, showing spirit. However, the effect of his work was to slow England’s attacks. His running gave the opposition’s defense time to move into position.
Other teams—most notably Arsenal, Germany, and increasingly also Brazil—like to strike the moment the opposition loses the ball. In basketball, this is known as the moment of “turnover.” When the ball is turned over from one team to the other, the team that has lost it is fractionally out of position. That’s when you need to move play forward in three quick passes. But England’s galloping midfielders do that too rarely. That’s one reason England has gotten so little use out of Michael Owen—the ultimate “turnover” striker—since his hat trick in Munich in 2001.
* Lampard and Gerrard are responding to English cues. At the moment suprême , they will tend to forget the words of Hiddink and Benitez (and presumably Fabio Capello) and do too much.
Yet Lampard and Gerrard perform better with Chelsea and Liverpool than they do with England. I asked Hiddink why that might be. He raised the issue of “coaching” on the field. At big clubs, great players coach wayward colleagues: “Drop back!” “Take it easy,” or simply, “Stop running around so much and stay in your zone.” At Chelsea or Liverpool, experienced continental players reinforce the coach’s message in real time. But watching England labor in South Africa, Hiddink had noticed almost none of that.
* Players like Lampard and Gerrard had become demigods in their own country, he pointed out. “At a certain point players get a status—sometimes rightly, sometimes forced—that creates a sort of screen around them. Others think, ‘Oh, I can’t touch him or make demands on someone who’s such a big name in England.’” The demigods themselves might want to be coached, Hiddink said, but their teammates don’t dare. And so the demigods are allowed to run around too much.
* All these books are keen to establish the author’s social origins at once: as a member of a tight-knit, loving working-class family. The message is that however much the player earns per week, he remains anchored and authentic.
* By their teens, the five authors [Jamie Carragher, Ashley Cole, Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard, and Wayne Rooney] are already on a career track.
* You close Ashley Cole’s My Defence feeling dirty and stupid for having read it, your main emotion surprise that his agent let him write it. Rooney’s book reads a bit like an essay that a child has been forced to write in elementary school.
* These books help you understand the stages of a player’s life, from boyhood to media victim.
* …childhood in the family home was about the only time in their lives that they were not treated as celebrities. Only then did people relate naturally to them. Almost everyone they meet afterward has ulterior motives for the relationship. No wonder the players feel nostalgic for childhood. “Family means everything to me, all together, sitting around and laughing, under one roof,” says Gerrard. “However crazy my life became with Liverpool and England, I wanted that protective wall of my family around me.”
* With all this going on, school cannot matter much. The five are not necessarily stupid—well, Carragher, Lampard, and Gerrard aren’t. Rather, as budding stars they are taught to view anything outside soccer as a distraction. That’s why players are seldom complete human beings.
* …if you are a talented Englishman playing in England, your almost unlimited access to sex is balanced by having to perform it in front of the nation. At Liverpool’s Christmas party in 1998, a young Carragher, dressed in a Quasimodo costume, is photographed “working my way through a variety of angles” with a stripper. On the eve of publication, “I waited at a garage until midnight for the first edition of the Sunday papers.”
Carragher doesn’t get caught that way again. Any leading player in Britain soon becomes a sort of part-time professor of media studies.
* In January 2001 Eriksson became England’s fourth manager in four years. The country’s soccer was in the midst of an identity crisis. The traditional English game—muscular, not very clever, long balls hoofed forward by big men on muddy pitches—had failed. England needed to adopt the intelligent passing soccer of continental European teams. Yet no English manager seemed capable of this. For the first time ever, England hired a foreigner.
* Intellectually, there are two sorts of countries: ones where people tend not to believe in conspiracy theories (most of western Europe) and ones where they do (poor countries). Thus, many Iraqis believe that Saddam Hussein is still alive, his execution staged; many Arabs assume the Jews were behind the September 11 attacks; and many Africans think Western scientists concocted AIDS in laboratories.
* The main thing that had struck [Billy Beane] in Germany was the emotion of the fans. You didn’t see that so much in American sports. In Beane’s view, “Wherever I see emotion, I see opportunity.” He drew two conclusions from his German visit: Where there’s emotion, there’s money to be made. And where there’s emotion, people are probably making emotional decisions.
Rational Moneyball thinking might have a place in soccer, too.
* [Franz Beckenbauer] soon returned in his third incarnation as soccer politician. Alone among soccer’s former greats, he was born to the role: Beckenbauer isn’t a squabbler like Johan Cruijff or a dullard like Bobby Charlton or a drunk like George Best or a recovering drug addict like Diego Maradona or a weak character like Michel Platini or a talking puppet like Pele.