Manchester United legend Paul Scholes turned 40 years old today and during his playing career he was often hailed as the greatest midfielder to ever grace the English Premier League. An antithesis of the brash, flamboyant modern-day footballer, Scholes was one-of-a-kind, a footballer unperturbed by fame. His trophy hall is unprecedented – he has 11 Premier League titles, three FA Cups and two UEFA Champions League crowns (though he says he only has one European Cup since he missed the 99 final). Also Read - Cristiano Ronaldo Picks His Real Madrid Goal Against Juventus in 2018 as His Most Memorable Ever | WATCH
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His composure on the ball, technical ability, accurate passing, movement and shooting made him one of the most complete players ever. The only thing he couldn’t do was dribble or tackle, but such was his ability to find players with a pass or find space, he never really needed pace to beat a player. In fact, his favourite pastime during his playing days was to smack balls across the field to hit players while they were relieving themselves which earned him the nickname SatNav (satellite navigation).
How the current England and Man Utd teams could use someone of his talent? Scholes’s greatest gift perhaps was his ability to bring composure to the game. Put him in a hot cauldron and he had all the nonchalance of someone who had just dropped by to pick up a newspaper. His ability is best described by the fact that in very possession drill that has ever taken place at United – whether it’s 3 vs 3, 6 vs 6 or 9 vs 9 – the team which had Scholes would always win.
Long before Barcelona and Spain arrived with their unique brand of tiki-taka, he was the man flying the flag for possession football. No wonder he is so revered at La Masia – the famed Barcelona training academy – and it has often been said that if he was Spanish, he would’ve been a lot more revered.
The Quiet Kid in the Class of 92 – The Anti-Beckham
It was ironic that many people – including Sir Alex Ferguson – felt that Scholesy would never make it as a footballer. He was too small, suffered from asthma and didn’t have the physical attributes of a regular, robust English footballer. Even Sir Alex had said: ‘He’s got no chance – he’s a midget.’ The too-small-for-football phrase would last for a long time, but Scholesy went around proving all of them wrong.
While Beckham was the flashiest one in the lot and would exploit his celebrity to become football’s first global icon, Scholes was his complete antithesis, hating the publicity and preferring to focus just on his game. His perfect day – which we found out a in a very rare interview was – ‘train in the morning, pick up my children from school, play with them, have tea, put them to bed and then watch a bit of TV’.
His ‘Class of 92’ mate, Gary Neville wrote: ‘He’s a private man, a family man, and those are the parts of his life he values most. He doesn’t have an agent, he doesn’t employ a PR guru and there are no celebrity mates. He’s just a kid from Middleton who grew up playing football on the streets and achieved his dreams. He is certainly the best player I’ve ever played with and the best English player of his generation.’
Too Quiet for Individual Awards
The only shocking thing about Scholes’s career was the fact that despite being part of a winning team for so long, he was never quite considered for the big individual awards. His old teammate Roy Keane once said that Scholesy couldn’t be arsed about the ‘celebrity bullshit’ side of football and that perhaps explain that why without any PR machinery to drum up noise, Scholes was never considered for any of the top awards. Because there’s no doubting the high esteem he was held in by his colleagues and peers.
Paul Scholes: The Best Quotes
Cristiano Ronaldo: Scholes is the best i’ve played with and he helped me a lot when I was young. He’s amazing.
Lionel Messi: At La Masia (Barcelona’s Academy) his name was mentioned a lot. He’s a teacher.”
Zinedine Zidane: My toughest opponent?. Scholes of Manchester. He is the complete midfielder. You rarely come across the complete footballer, but Scholes is as close to it as you can get. One of my regrets is that the opportunity to play alongside him never presented itself during my career.
Alan Shearer: For me, Paul Scholes has been the best midfield player in the Premier League. By a mile. He has the lot. He scores and creates goals, he can pass the ball, he can head it, and rounds all this off with a competitive streak.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer: He’s not the quickest, he doesn’t run the most, he never wins a header, he can’t tackle but he’s the best player.
Sir Bobby Charlton: I have no hesitation in putting a name to the embodiment of all that I think is best about football. It’s Paul Scholes. Players like Denis Law and George Best who I enjoyed so much as team-mates and now, finally, players I have watched closely in the Alex Ferguson era. And in so many ways Scholes is my favourite.
Peter Schmeichel: People say he is a great player, but you have to define what a great player is. For me, it is a player who has a bottom level that means his worst performance is not noticed. If he is having a bad game, a teammate might feel Paul Scholes is not quite on his game, but a spectator wouldn’t notice. Scholes, of all the players I have played with, has the highest bottom level.
Thierry Henry: I can’t understand why Scholes has never won the player of the year award. He should have won it long ago. Maybe it’s because he doesn’t seek the limelight like some of the other ‘stars’.
Xavi: In the last 15 to 20 years the best central midfielder that I have seen — the most complete — is Scholes. I have spoken with Xabi Alonso about this many times. Scholes is a spectacular player who has everything. He can play the final pass, he can score, he is strong, he never gets knocked off the ball and he doesn’t give possession away. If he had been Spanish then maybe he would have been valued more
Marcello Lippi: Paul Scholes would have been one of my first choices for putting together a great team – that goes to show how highly I have always rated him. He would have been one of the first players I’d have bought, given the chance.
Harry Redknapp: Scholes was playing tiki-taka football when nobody in England knew what it was. He was another of those players, like Denis Law or Bobby Moore, who at 15 probably looked as if he wouldn’t make it. Too small, you would think — can’t run, dumpy little ginger nut — but then the ball would come to him and he would dazzle you. He was the best footballer in that Manchester United midfield, better than Ryan Giggs and Roy Keane.
The best Paul Scholes quote however has to be attributed to the great man himself. He had said: ‘When it’s over I just want to be able to look in the mirror and say, ‘Well, you were a half-decent player.’ I quite say he was, in fact, more than Ronaldo or Messi, I am going to be telling my children, I saw Paul Scholes play.