Atsuto Uchida, Schalke’s Japanese right back, spoke to some journalists from his homeland following the 0-2 home defeat to Manchester United in the Champions League Semi Final. His light body frame was in sharp contrast to that of Patrice Evra, United’s left back, who spoke to the French media a few meters away. Evra is actually slightly shorter than Uchida, but carries the body of a middleweight contender and the speed of an Olympic sprinter.
Small people can off course do wonders in the great democratic sport of football. But not at wing back. Some positions in modern football require super-athletic physique at this level. Even Barcelona – full of home grown little masters – spend big money on athletic wing backs like Daniel Alves and Eric Abidal.
The Bundesliga is supposed to be the most entertaining major league in football. But last night loft-sided affair exposed how far it has fallen behind the Premier League in strength, speed and stamina. Not so much in contrast to United, who are obviously a vastly superior side to Schalke, but in contrast to United’s weekly opponents, that produce much sterner physical resistance.
It was quite telling to see United’s “skill position” players – like Rooney, Valencia, Park or even the 37-year-old Giggs – easily outmuscle German defenders. And not only muscle. Ji Sung Park’s aerobic ability is something Schalke do not confront too often. Chicharito was the fastest player in the last World Cup, and Antonio Valencia is faster.
I remember other times. Of Hans Peter Briegel, the intimidating German centre-back of the 1980′s who was a junior decathlon champion. Of German teams being the model of physical conditioning and stamina.
Now they are the entertainers.