Every now and again a player appears on the horizon and you think ‘this could be the one’.
A few years ago me and my colleague were in Brazil watching Santos against Botafogo. The game was as eventful as ever, but it was remarkable for the talents of Robinho and Diego, two players who shone out in the dismal rain – which was more Manchester than the home of beach football. Diego was cunning and silky, always looking for the clever pass, making space and taking on the opposition. Robinho was energetic, fast and outrageously tricky. It was a joy to watch. It was football fit for the memory of the club’s greatest player. Both players seemed to play for fun and without a trace of ego.
At this match I thought ‘this could be the one’ twice. Since then I’ve felt the same sensation watching Messi in training at Barca, Kaka just before he left for Brazil and Bojan, the young Barca striker. Messi is perhaps the best player on earth, Kaka could easily make the same claim whilst it is only a matter of time before we say the same about Bojan. All of these players share the same magic mystery air, that little unique something that sets them apart. After that it’s all a mixture of great balance, flawless control, pace and awareness. Some players have parts of what they have, but not many have their complete package, their star quality.
Ronaldinho had it. In fact, he had so much that it seems to have weighed him down — and that’s before anyone mentions ‘the girth’. An almost perpetual presence in advertising campaigns has probably been his biggest hindrance. No wonder he found it hard to concentrate on the job. A taste for nightclubs, fast women and junk food has been the accusation, but that’s nothing compared to a constant diary of publicity stunts lined up by everyone from chewing gum companies to yoghurt sellers. After all that work it’s natural he would want to unwind. Anyone who loves football will be hoping and praying that he can ditch all of that and sharpen up. If he can, he would easily be the king again. Ronaldinho is unique and can still be unique.
But this is all now, who is the next ‘this could be the one’? My answer would be Gato, a young Latin star living in the US. In some ways he reminds me of a mixture of Ronaldinho and Kaka. He shares Ronaldinho’s balance and ability to make you wonder how he just did that with Kaka’s poise and touch on the ball. He also looks a little bit like Kaka, especially in the AC Milan shirt he wore recently on behalf of the famous club.
How is Gato likely to follow in their footsteps? Why has he star quality?
Gato has it all before him. A supportive father, great skills and the magic factor – a grounded attitude. He has no ego. Look at Ronaldinho, Messi, Kaka and Bojan. All of these players have the right to let their egos run wild, but they don’t. They are modest, yet out and out superstars. This is the reason I feel Gato could make it into that group. His skills are amazing and he is modest to a tee. The good bit? Gato is only nine. Who knows where he could be in another nine if he keeps following his path?
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Oliver Fowler is the brains behind Next Soccer Star, set up to offer an opportunity for the next stars of football to showcase their skills and offer the very best a road into the professional game and possible megastardom.