The year 2014 was a pretty awesome one for the beautiful game – brilliant all round action in the top South American and European leagues sandwiching arguably the most entertaining world cup for quite a long while. Brazil delivered – well, not A Selecao, but you know what I am getting at.Amidst all the joy though, there is a tinge of sadness. Because the year also saw the retirement of some of the greatest and most iconic footballers the modern game has seen. Here we pay tribute to the playing careers of ten of the greatest
#1 Ryan Giggs
The sight of him in full flight was a joy to behold. Wavy hair streaming behind him as he swerved hither and thither at top speed, the baggy red jersey billowing around him like the topsail of the Cutty Sark, Ryan Joseph Giggs, in the inimitable words of his manager, Sir Alex Ferguson “floated over the ground like a cocker spaniel chasing a piece of silver paper in the wind”
He left defenders with knotted veins and twisted limbs with that special blend of pace, body balance and bold directness; the kind of heady mixture that brought back memories of arguably the greatest dribbler to grace stadiums in the British Isles, another man who wore the no.11 (whenever he started on the left) of Manchester United with great distinction – Georgie Best.
Arguably one of Sir Alex’s great deals – when he convinced the then 14 year old Welsh wunderkid to sign for the Red half of Manchester instead of their azure neighbours – Giggs soon back the symbol of all that was great about Fergie’s reign at Old Trafford.
Playing alongside the brilliant (yet painfully maverick) Lee Sharpe and Andrei Kanchelskis, Giggs provided the ideal foil to the genius of Eric Cantona and made United the most feared offensive force in the land. He later did the same with Roy Keane, David Beckham and Paul Scholes and even later with Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo.
Twenty two years after he had first burnt grass with his pace and skill, he had transformed himself to become the wise old master that provided knowledgeable advice, laser-guided passes and the occasional critical goal when called upon. Giggs’ greatness had been sealed by the incredible display of adaptability and footballing intelligence that he put on in the latter stages of his career.
Yoga, bloody-minded dedication and an undying love for the game saw Giggs become the most capped player in the long history of the Manchester United Football Club as well as the most decorated British footballer ever.
He’s still there at Old Trafford, just that these days he can be found sitting beside the gaffer, learning the tools of the new trade he seems set on bending to his iron will.