In our new feature focusing on the best skills in the beautiful game, Danny Owen takes a detailed look at the dummy – perfected by Andrea Pirlo.
The dummy. Named after those who succumb to its subtle charms. It takes a special kind of player to manipulate the ball, the opponent, the whole game, with a simple shimmy or swerve of the hip. One with serene confidence, who plays not only with his feet but his mind too, and does it with such effortless ease that opponents are left mesmerised, confused and just a little bit infuriated.
It’s fitting, then, that such an act of illusion is so difficult to define. What is a dummy? Simply leaving the ball for a team-mate, dragging opponents away in the meantime? A stuttering, shimmying, Balotelli-esque penalty? Or something altogether more elaborate?
For the dummy, it’s not simply the act, but the idea that classifies it. Whatever form it takes, there are two absolute certainties; the perpetrator will appear exceptionally cool, as if gliding across the turf in brown leather brogues. And the victim will be left sprawled, red-faced in his wake, dignity disappearing in front of a capacity crowd. You could say he feels like, oh let’s say, a dummy?
And who better to demonstrate than arch-innovator himself, the strolling, floating avant-garde anomaly in a game of turbo-charged athletes; directing, producing and starring at the centre of his very own one-man spectacle. There’s a reason why we all adore Andrea Pirlo, an adulation not dampened but enhanced by two masterful performances in consecutive international tournaments which ruined English hopes even earlier than expected. Because Pirlo is everything our game should be, the proof that brawn is always incomparable to brain.
In fact, could anyone else, in the modern era or earlier, actively warrant an assist despite purposely avoiding contact with the football.
The missing of an open goal is not usually forgotten, let alone excused. A scuffed finish, trickling feebly beyond the far post, rarely goes down in legend after all, especially not with positive connotations. Yet, rewind a few seconds earlier, and you’ll witness exactly why Edson Arantes do Nascimento is not just a footballer, but a mythical being whose legacy remains as strong half a century on. Forget the catalogue of shameless advertisements. This is Pele. As the man himself says: “Everywhere you go, there are three icons that everyone knows: Jesus Christ, Pele and Coca–Cola.”
Well, OK, you can’t exactly forget the shameless advertisements. They’re just that funny.
It takes a certain swagger to stare your opponent directly in the eyes before deceiving him in front of a thousands. So what sort of man could deceive four opponents, render them quivering wrecks, before scoring one of the greatest individual goals in the 21st century? Zlatan. That’s what sort of man.
Now, we’ve portrayed the dummy as a strike of individual genius. Yet, the Serbian under-17s (who else?) prove that genius can, indeed, be taught with this remarkable routine straight out of Tony Pulis’ lucid dreams. Quick bit of advice. Don’t bother man-marking in the 2022 World Cup.
Although, on some occasions, the term ‘dummy’ can be reversed. Now, Thomas Muller is not the most traditional of athletes but this is ridiculous.
Although, on second thoughts, they do say there’s a fine line between insanity and genius…
The dummy is a simple trick perfected by complex minds so start your brain training here. But beware. There’s nowhere to hide in Sunday league. Opponents will be angry. Your knee caps will be targeted.
By Danny Owen, @danny8195 on Twitter.