Throughout the history of football, as in any other sport, the rules of the game and the game itself have evolved to be what we see it today. For those of us who have been fans of this sport for some years, we noticed some changes of what happens both on the pitch and off it, but is football good as it is today? Roy Keane and other players have a different view.
Roy Keane, former Irish player for Manchester United and football manager, famous for his tough playing style and strong character, has made a comment after the Manchester derby between Manchester City and Manchester United, which opens a small debate regarding current football. For Roy Keane, current Sky Sports pundit, the derby was disappointing due to the lack of aggressiveness and the desire to try to win the match shown by both teams. Keane highlighted the many hugs and friendly conversations before and after the match and the fact that there were only two yellow cards.
This is something very similar to what Nicola Berti and other former AC Milan and Inter Milan players said in relation to the Milan derby. According to Berti, former midfielder of Inter Milan, nowadays it is common to see players from both teams going to clubs together after the derby match. On the contrary, only 10 years ago, players from Inter Milan and AC Milan were still full of adrenaline and competitive spirit to hang around together without fighting after the most important football game of Milan.
With different tones but in line with Nicola Berti’s views, Paolo Maldini and Javier Zanetti expressed perplexity on how the match Inter Milan vs AC Milan means little to the footballers nowadays. Despite having the maximum respect for each other’s, the two legendary captains of Inter and Milan agreed on the fact that Milan derby used to bring another level of aggressiveness on the pitch. Feature that seems to lack currently.
Going back to the English Premier League, the game was not a good visual spectacle and, perhaps, both teams were too afraid of risking more than necessary, to the point that the draw seemed to be good for both when in reality it was not. This lack of ambition brought down the level of adrenaline and aggressiveness of the whole match. Roy Keane also refers to what derbies or any other type of important games were in his time or rather how he played them. The best example of this is the constant clashes before, during and after matches against Arsenal FC, particularly with midfielder Patrick Vieira.
We all remember what football used to be in the ‘80s and ‘90s during the hottest matches regardless of the competitions. In Serie A, the number of tackles suffered every given Sunday by Diego Armando Maradona, Marco Van Basten, Francesco Totti, etc. was just unbelievable. A player like Neymar would spend his football career crying and rolling around… In Premier League, a notorious league for harsh tackles, every match was a physical battle other than technical and tactical. Hardly, in La Liga, we used to assist to Madrid derbies and “el clasico” matches ending without red cards. That was part of the game and we all accepted it.
It can be said that football has been changing in order to be less physically aggressive and the rules have been adapted to protect the most talented players. However, in order to achieve this result, the physical component of football has been severely compromised with a serious risk that more and more football is heading to become a less masculine sport and more a rolling Neymar-style attraction.