Franco Baresi: A Working Class Hero in Soccer

February 9, 2017 Facebook Twitter LinkedIn Google+ Blog

Article written by : 4 Specialty Soccer

The Milanese love Baresi. He epitomised the club during his playing days with his elegance, class and longevity, not to mention his distaste for all things Internazionale. In a recent interview he was asked whether he was disappointed by the lack of loyalty players show to their clubs nowadays? ‘No’, he replied, ‘it is unlikely we’ll ever see another Maldini who will stick around for 20 years at one club’ [4-4-2, 2012]. Maybe he’s right. Of the current batch of youngsters making a name for themselves in world football, it could be argued that they will throw loyalties aside if the right move came along. That is why men like Scholes, Totti, Gerrard, Puyol, Giggs and Xavi represent a dying breed. Can you imagine in this day and age, a local lad coming through the ranks at a club, representing the ethics of the fans, breaking records and winning medals? Perhaps it is no surprise the adulation Jamie Carragher is offered by Liverpool fans, even if those outside the city don’t seem to understand it.

In 2012 before a Europa League home match, the chiselled Scouser was presented with a silver Liverbird in honour of the 700 appearances he had made for the club. Memories of nights when Liverpool stormed the Nou Camp, conquered the Bernebeu and silenced the San Siro came flooding back, memories of nights to take to the grave. Fitting, that the Kop choir rejoiced once more, ‘we all dream of a team of Carragher’s’.

New players who sign for Liverpool often comment on their shock at seeing the 35 year old’s desire during training. Leading the line and organising those around him, the soon-to-be retired Carragher is a leader without the armband. In 2010 when Fabio Capello took the England job he made it his first task to bring Jamie Carragher out of retirement. As Marcotti [2008] recalls ‘Capello loved the way he played football. He had come to rely more on his reading of the game, he rarely screwed up the big occasions. He brought the kind of intangibles that Capello valued’. Capello had worked with some of the games greatest central defenders during his career (Maldini, Baresi, Hierro, Samuel, Cannavaro) yet regarded Carragher just as highly. Intangible mental attributes had been integrated in Carra from a very early age.

Carragher started his 2008 autobiography, not by talking about his great career, but by highlighting the moment that gave him his character. Having faked injury as a 7-year-old so he could go home and get out of the hail-stones, young James received a hiding from his father and was told ‘no Carragher was going to be seen as a coward, especially not in public’. Needless to say the child from Bootle never did back down. His father managed Sunday league teams all through Jamies youth and a ‘win at all costs’ attitude was reinforced through his veins and onto the pitch. Being the man-of-the-people that he is, Jamie can still be seen on Buckley Hill in his spare time watching Sunday league games, such is his love for football.

Initially a promising striker, Carragher advanced through the age groups in Liverpool’s youth team and was even selected to go to the illustrious Lilleshall over Frank Lampard, scoring past Gigi Buffon against Italy and forcing future team mate Emile Heskey to watch from the bench. Minutes into his 1997 debut against Aston Villa, Carragher was booked for a vicious tackle on Andy Townsend. The Kop loved him instantly.

Evans favoured Carragher as a central midfielder, with Fowler and Owen leading the line. Later, his understanding of the game allowed for him to be deployed further back. The tough Bootle mentality never left Carragher. When Rigobert Song chose to ridicule Carra’s playing style, the defender recollects how he sought revenge;  “Song walked on to the training pitch with a smile on his face. He was limping off it with a grimace an hour later. The first chance I got, I did him. Never have I hunted down a 50–50 tackle with greater appetite. ‘You’re not fucking laughing now, are you, you soft c*nt?’ I said as he hobbled away“.

Houllier used Carra as a utility man across the back four, then as a left back throughout the 2000/01 season when Liverpool won their magnificent treble. When Rafael Benitez got the Liverpool job in 2004, Carragher was utilised as a centre back alongside Sami Hyypia, forming one of modern football’s greatest defensive partnerships. Throughout the 2004/2005 Champions League campaign, Carragher was a consistent performer nullifying Europe’s elite attackers. Rivaldo, Saviola and Adebayor were kept quiet during the group stages. In the first knock out round against Leverkusen, Berbatov and Donovan hardly had a sniff. Everyone in football predicted that Liverpool would be eliminated by Juventus in the quarter-finals. The Old Lady boasted a great squad with Buffon, Thuram, Cannavaro, Zambrotta, Nedved, Del Piero and Ibrahimovic (and Capello as coach) but it was Carragher and company who progressed. Liverpool then drew Mourinho’s Chelsea squad, the richest team in football who represented the games bourgeois. Liverpool represented the working-classes. Drogba, Robben, Lampard, Carvalho and Terry all posed great threats in the Premier League, eventually winning the title, but against Liverpool home and away in Europe they failed to score.

Against all odds Liverpool progressed to the Champions League final. Players like Dudek, Traore, Kewell, Diao, Biscan and Nunez – weak links in any team – now had the opportunity to pit themselves against AC’s household names; Stam, Cafu, Nesta, Seedorf, Pirlo, Gattuso, Kaka, Shevchenko. Everybody knows what happened next and its thanks to Benitez’s genius, Gerrard and Alonso’s brilliance, Hyypia and Hamann’s composure and Carragher’s never-say-die attitude that Liverpool won their fifth European Cup that season. Images of Carragher lying on the floor suffering cramp in extra time, yet returning like Lazarus to quell Milan will never leave any Liverpool fans consciousness. When Dudek saved Shevchenko’s penalty, Carragher led the way in sprinting towards the keeper before peeling off towards the fans. Perhaps the defining picture of Jamie Carraghers career will be the Scouser with his socks at his ankles and his shirt hanging out, jumping for joy towards the Liverpool fans and their famous banners depicting victories over Gladbach and Brugge, history meeting history.