In our latest Skill Academy lesson, Danny Owen recalls some of the finer exponents of the no-look pass, including Ronaldinho, Tomas Rosicky and Roberto Firmino .
When you imagine a feat of inspired, street-taught skill, the peroxide-roots and gambling lollop of Phillip Neville is not the first image that comes to mind. After all, the lesser-spotted Neville is apparently not a big fan of showboating, skill or any sort of brazen invention. Who’d have known?
“If that was a training session and somebody did that I’d be first over there and I’d probably look to two-foot him or take him out of the game. I’d smash them.”
All it took was Tomas Rosicky carving apart a prone Brighton defence with a deceptive glance and insightful pass for the usually mild-mannered, skittish-toned Phil to transform into a fire-spitting, stud-lunging Lancastrian swine. In other words, Gary.
After all, while those of us with joy in our hearts revere the game’s crowd-pleasing thespians, juggling and cavorting like a paper bag caught in a breeze to use a popular Lawro-ism, there are those who view such ingenuity as nothing more than callous showboating, almost a display of cowardly arrogance if there is such as thing. Confidence is attractive they say, arrogance less so.
But there is a line between bastardry and brilliance, a difference between, say, Jimmy Kebe’s villifiable buffoonery, and Cristiano Ronaldo high-stepping and high-kicking his way past a recurring mob of dazed defenders. The difference, it transpires, is efficiency.
The no-look pass is the peak of cockiness, a surefire way to scribe your name at the top of Martin Keown’s ‘kill list’. But, when used correctly, and fairly, not even the top defender can see it coming. And that’s why they hate it. Because obviously it’s got absolutely nothing to do with the fact that Phil Neville definitely cannot do this.
(skip to 1.20 to witness genius)
Today, two hulking beasts rule the land, dividing the world into two distinct factions. One adoring the subtle grace of the Argentinian architect, the others pitching their undying affection upon the strapping, muscle-bound brute.
In another age, however, we stood united in awe of one. Fleet of foot and buck of tooth, Ronaldinho’s reign crumbled almost a decade ago but, to this day, his name elicits a special kind of aura. A jesting jet-setter in a world of straight-laced, stat-obsessed ‘professionals’, Ronaldinho simply did what he felt like and did it better than anyone.
As the man himself says: “Football is about joy. I favour every idea that makes the game beautiful. Every good idea has to last.”
You said it Ronnie, probably in a Hawaiian shirt, clutching some radiation coloured cocktail ft. parasols and sparklers.
You might have noticed that pre-season friendlies have changed a little in the last few years. Whatever happened to the days of banging eight past teams only seen on PES before being inexplicably turned over by a Malaysian All-Star XI coached by Peter Reid?
Now, the pre-season friendly is a little more than a cross-continent jaunt, replaced by blunderbuss tournaments full to the brim of half-interested, half-fit European giants. Although, there’s still fun to be had in the sun, as Lyon’s Clement Grenier proved against Real Madrid in 2013.
Convinced yet? The no-look pass, shot, whatever, clearly serves its purpose, from cheeky assists to Shaolin Soccer-style golazos.
Having said that, we can’t defend this from Roberto Firmino. There’s just no need. OK Phil. Have at it.
Rumour has it, if you closed your eyes and concentrated in total silence, you could hear the whimpers of Paul Merson as Ricky Van Wolfswinkel and his cumulative syllables rocked up in the Premier League with Norwich in 2013. He needn’t have worried. ‘HatRick’, as he was known in Holland, wouldn’t be sticking around.
Kick a football while looking the other way. It doesn’t sound so daunting when you think of it like that. But, before you break something (window, legs etc) check out these tips.