Football has its own share of heroes and villains just like any other sports. Some have been given the status of ‘God’ for their heroics and some have faced consequences that still haunt us.
A game where each and every player is equally important, the decider between the winning team and the loosing team is still separated by the goalline. The greatest exponents of making the ball cross the line are the marksmen of football better known as ‘striker’. From Pele to Christian Vieri to Thomas Muller, there are a lot of fearsome centre-forwards who have graced the greatest show on Earth.
1) Paolo Rossi:
The World Cup of 1978 wasn’t a triumphant one for the Azzurri, but there was one man who caught the eyes of football fans. A 22 year Italian forward named Paolo Rossi was the talking point of a lot of people at the end of the tournament. However, he did not have the best of starts four years later in Spain. Going 15 hours without finding the back of the net, Rossi was tagged as the ‘ghost’. With the whole nation against him and the media criticizing him mercilessly only coach Enzo Bearzot knew what ‘Pablito’ was capable of. Bearzot’s faith finally bore fruit that too on the biggest stage possible when Italy faced Brazil. What followed was nothing less than spectacular.
Rossi ran riot in the Brazilian backline, catching central defenders Oscar and Luizinho off guard time and again. Italy eventually won the match with Rossi scoring a hattrick. Rossi,a man who had keen interest in art painted Barcelona in the Azzurri blue. Italy were crowned World champions in 1982 with Paolo Rossi finishing the tournament as the highest goal scorer with 6 goals. A tale to tell, an art to witness. Pablito and Bearzot’s blues were the highlights of the 1982 World Cup.
2) Gabriel Batistuta:
Argentina have enjoyed the best of their days when talisman Diego Maradona guided them to their second title in Mexico in 1986. However, with the final whistle in 1990 Football World Cup Maradona and his men failed on the last hurdle to make it three times for the Albiceleste. That also marked the end of an era for the all conquering Argentina team as both Maradona and coach Carlos Bilardo bowed out.
With the continental cup knocking on the door the blue and white faithful looked for a new hero to step up. Back in Argentina there was this young forward who was making headlines, not for right reasons though. Gabriel Omar Batistuta was involved in a fight with then River Plate coach and Argentine legend Daniel Passarella. A move to city rivals Boca Juniors meant Bati’s career was hitting the right track. Struggling to make his mark in the new team, he kept performing although he was played out wide. His efforts finally paid off as he became the spearhead of Boca’s attack under manager Oscar Taberaz. He became the top scorer and thus earned himself a place in the squad for Copa America.
A team fueled by the presence of Diego Simeone in midfield and Claudio Caniggia in attack, Argentina still missed someone who would bring the fire power in the attack. Little did they know that the long-haired boy from Santa Fe was the salvation they needed. Against Venezuela, the man finally came into being when he netted a stray-header from Ruggeria into the net to fire Argentina into the lead. ‘El Angel Gabriel’ converted from the spot again to grab a brace and Argentina’s 1991 Copa America campaign was off and running.
However, Argentina’s main challenge was against their eternal rivals Brazil. A contest that had been blessed by the football gods previously, an angel was to brace it again. Batistuta had been a constant threat to the Brazilian defence but he finally made his move when he received the ball to drift in between the two centre backs and looped the ball into the Brazilian net. BatiGoal had announced himself to the football world. Argentina went on to beat Colombia in the final with Batistuta scoring a characteristic goal off his out-swinging right boot. A trophy that had eluded Argentina for a long time was home after 32 years and Bati left his mark in Argentine football folklore for ever.
3) Fernando Torres:
Spain’s long wait for a international trophy finally came to an end in Vienna when Luis Aragones’s men were crowned European champions in 2008 as Fernando Torres carved his name in the history of Spanish football. However, the Euro wasn’t the breakthrough tournament that made ‘El Nino’ a sensation. Growing up in Madrid, Torres stood apart from the rest of the kids at school as he chose to differ from the others in terms of loyalty. While rest of the kids pledged to support Real Madrid, Fernando remained loyal to Atletico Madrid and joined the club’s youth system at the age of 11.
Torres kept on impressing scouts with his breath taking performances in La liga and then his big move came when Premier League giants Liverpool came calling in 2007. Torres was an instant fan-favourite at Anfield. The striker formed a lethal pair with then Liverpool captain and ace midfielder Steven Gerrard. Torres bagged a staggering 65 goals out of the 102 appearances he made for the Reds and thus found a place in the FIFA team of the year for 2009. While Torres’s performance with Liverpool still remains the highlight of his football career, the forward enjoyed glory with Chelsea as the side won the Champions league by edging Bayern Munich on penalties in 2012.
Despite being a forward with an impeccable goal-scoring ability Torres begs to differ from the fact that he is all about goals. Classifying forwards into two categories, he claims to be one ‘who scores goals thanks to the team’. Approaching the typical centre-forward role differently he chooses to set up teammates as well by letting go of selfishness of a striker. Seasons past, the 2010 World Cup winner still continues to be one of the best poachers of football and still does what he does best – finding the back of the net.