‘There is no freedom’ – former Tottenham defender laments modern football

Ahead of Spain’s tie with Morocco in the second round of the World Cup, with the Atlas Lions given something of a derby for their first knockout tie since 1986. Marca took the opportunity to speak to former Deportivo La Coruna and Tottenham Hotspur player Noureddine Naybet ahead of the tie, with the central defender leaving some interesting thoughts on the game behind.

Naybet spent eight years in Spanish football as part of the ‘SuperDepor’ team that won La Liga and the Copa del Rey. He was also part of the side that made a famous comeback against Milan in the Champions League, coming from three goals down.

His view is that football has lost something of the magic it once had, or rather, the environment has sucked it out of the players.

“The truth is that football has changed a lot, perhaps because of money. Before there was a lot of talent, you could find it anywhere, in Malaga, Madrid, Depor, Valencia, Barcelona… There was a lot of quality, now it’s more physical.”

“Before, the creative player, the show, prevailed. Now football is very directed. You had a [Juan Carlos] Valerón, Djaminha, Ronaldinho, Ronaldo, [Zinedine] Zidane, [Luis] Figo… Each one different from the other. Now I see the players who are like inside a cage, I don’t know if it is because of the demands of the coaches, whom I respect a lot.”

He does feel that players are no longer coming up with solutions for themselves though.

“The player is looking for a solution from outside, from the coach, not assuming responsibility on the field… being told this or that. I think there is no freedom. For me, a Djalminha would now be a star and so would Valerón, Fran… It was a very good generation of footballers, not only at Depor.”

Naybet’s thoughts certainly seem to echo through the pitches. Players he mentioned perhaps would not have had the same impact or space to work in these days.

Every ball possession has an increased value these days, and players who do not give the ball away are prized just as much, if not more, than those who try inventive ways of using it. The result is that football feels as if it is played in a safer fashion, with coaches only willing to take risks if the situation is desperate.

Tags 2022 World Cup Deportivo La Coruna Morocco Noureddine Naybet Spain La Roja Tottenham Hotspur
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