There have been countless footballers over the years who have mesmerised us with their blistering pace both on and off the ball. Memories of Gareth Bale’s amazing run that beat Marc Bartra and Barcelona in the Copa Del Rey final of 2014 are still fresh in the memories of Madridistas and football fans across the world.But apart from their pace, Bale and his contemporaries such as Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi also have an amazing overall skill set and are armed with incredible ability on the ball, vision, and an eye for goal that has seen them go on to become household names. Yet, there have been footballers, who despite lacking any other skill to speak of, have still made some sort of impact based on sheer pace alone.We take a look at six footballers who have relied solely on their pace for success.
#1 Antonio Valencia
In his prime, Antonio Valencia was arguably one of the best wingers in the world and certainly one of the fastest. In fact, as recently as May 2015, he was named the fastest player in the world by FIFA, with the world governing body clocking the Manchester United wide-man running at 35.1 km/hr last season.
The surging Ecuadorian is a fearsome sight for retreating left-backs who find themselves simply unable to deal with the pace of United’s number 25. Being the soft-spoken player that he is, his contributions to the United team have often gone unnoticed.
Valencia played a crucial role, particularly in the 19th and 20th title triumphs of Manchester United under Sir Alex Ferguson, and at times looked unplayable on the right wing. The 2011/12 season saw him display the full extent of his abilities as arguably United’s best attacking outlet that year and was rightly named United’s Player of the season.
However, since Ferguson’s exit, Valencia has been on a downward spiral. In Fergie’s last season at the club, Valencia seemed weighed down by the pressure when donning the iconic United no.7 kit. After reverting back to his old number 25, during David Moyes’ short stint, Valencia recovered some of his form but United fell to previously unseen depths.
The arrival of Louis van Gaal has seen the Ecuadorian being started more and more as a right-back. But the 30-year-old, despite possessing the defensive nous for the role, has struggled in defence. For instance, against Wolfsburg in the Champions league, he ended up being partly culpable for Wolfsburg's opener in the fifth minute when he played Daniel Caligiuri onside before he slotted past David De Gea. Valencia was taken off at half-time and replaced by Ashley Young.
As Ronald Koeman aptly put it, “Valencia has lost some of that great pace he once had, and it is more difficult for him to get past players when his starting position is so deep.”