Paul Scholes: Will there ever be another?

Imagine a footballer that possesses Tony Kroos’ ability to track back and win the ball, the strength and bullish attitude of a young in his prime Wayne Rooney going forward and the shot power of Steven Gerrard. Tough, right? Well in the early 90’s this type of player emerged, a midfielder by the name of Paul Scholes rose to prominence for the Red Devils. While he never had multi-million dollar sponsorships or traveled the world building his personal brand, Scholes was a turbo engine installed into one of the greatest dynasties in football history.

Paul Scholes was a part of the vaunted Class of ’92, which introduced English Football to the likes of Ryan Giggs and David Beckham. Throughout the rest of the 90’s and the first decade of the new millennium, this squad ran the world. The Manchester United squad of those days were fast, tough and talented. While Beckham shined in the limelight, and Giggs scored the popular late goals, it was Scholes who is probably, overall, the best of the bunch. Manchester United have tried to replicate Scholes ever since, through expensive transfers and scientific cloning (I’m assuming/hoping?).

Playing in midfield before the days that the tactic of owning a central defensive midfield was popular, Scholes excelled as part of a center mid duo. Scholes could do it all. If his midfield partner pressed forward, Scholes stayed back. If he won the ball and his partner stayed behind, Scholes burst forward. Honing a cannon of a foot, Scholes became popular for knocking in goals from well outside the box. However, he was also athletic enough to chase down wingers, strong enough to knock strikers off the ball and bright enough to send through balls across the pitch to a running Giggs or Beckham. Teams spend hundreds of millions of dollars to find such complete box to box midfielders (See: Pogba, Paul), but Scholes was homegrown.

In today’s global soccer trade winds, it’s very rare that a player stays with a club for as long as Scholes did. If a player is insanely talented, his club will always have others biting at the ankles, waiting to take him. If a player is not world class, they’re likely to search for more playing time or a better situation elsewhere, a search that is usually fueled by agents, media and sponsorship deals. Leo Messi is a unicorn in both his soccer ability and his loyalty. He will likely retire with Barcelona. This outset is not normal though. Most clubs will try to revamp their midfield every few years. Gone are the days of bringing a midfielder up through the academy, striking gold and having said midfielder be one of the best, and then keeping him for the length of his career. It just doesn’t happen. Described by Zinedine Zidane as “the best of his generation”, Scholes took the world by storm without ever leaving his hometown.

For all the tackles, the last second crosses and the powerful rip shots, the thing that sticks with me most regarding Scholes is a quote. It’s a quote that tips its hat to both his achievements and his loyalty. Inter Milan President Massimo Moratti describes trying to buy Scholes from Manchester United; “We tried really hard to sign Paul Scholes, we gave Manchester United a blank cheque, we talked to him, his reply was short and simple, ‘If you want me to play for you, you’d have to buy this club’. One of a kind, he didn’t even have an agent, so it was hard enough”. Recently, in January, Scholes reiterated this ideology by stating; “Another £50,000-a-week, £300,000-a-week, I would not have gone anywhere.”

Shorter than most. A bit quiet compared to others. Scholes was in his own league. Both, in terms of talent and in how he carried himself. He is one of the few players to ever have the ability and means to play for any club. Yet, still, he chose Manchester United. He chose home. Through the ups and downs with Sir Alex Ferguson (refusing to play against Arsenal, for example) and others, he never let anyone or anything deter his love for United. With possibly Wayne Rooney being the last of his kind that truly infuses his heart and soul with the club, the Paul Scholes’ of the world will soon be extinct.

Written by Jordan Bullock


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