Football Friends Online – When 90 Mins Is Not EnoughCould Bellamy be the signing of the season? - Football Friends Online - When 90 Mins Is Not Enough Could Bellamy be the signing of the season? - Football Friends Online - When 90 Mins Is Not Enough

Could Bellamy be the signing of the season?

While Messrs Aguero, Jones and Parker have garnered riotous acclaim since their summer moves, one transfer has continued to escape mass attention, yet Craig Bellamy’s return to Anfield could be the best piece of business conducted in the Premier League this season.

Bellamy has long been one of football’s great enigmas, polarising opinion almost at will since debuting for Norwich in March 1997. The Welshman is an ambivalent character; on one hand a supremely talented tormentor of defences, and on the other an impertinent troublemaker who has accumulated almost as many clubs as misdemeanours.

If attacking some teammates with golf clubs and allegedly abusing others by text wasn’t enough, injuries threatened to envelop his talent and see Bellamy join the legion of past talents robbed of their peak. In the 2007/08 and 2008/09 seasons he featured in only 42 out of a possible 113 matches for club and country.

Bellamy’s career reignited, however, after he ended his miserable spell at West Ham to join Manchester City in January 2009, and again link up with his former Wales and Blackburn manager Mark Hughes. It was under Hughes at Ewood Park, that Bellamy enjoyed the most prolific season of his career, netting 17 times in 32 appearances.

During his first pre-season with City, Bellamy was introduced to fitness coach Raymond Verheijen, a Dutchman renowned for periodisation techniques – a philosophy designed to prevent overtraining and result in peak performance. Prior to working with Verhiejen, the Welsh attacker had never managed to play 15 consecutive games in 12 seasons as a professional and in the three years since he has appeared in 97 out of a possible 118 games for club and country.

Bellamy, and City, reaped the benefits. The jet-heeled attacker had arguably his best season and was undoubtedly one of the stars of the Premier League in 2009/10, netting ten and assisting ten in his 32 appearances, with his most notable performances coming at Old Trafford and Stamford Bridge. Carlos Tevez, City’s player of the season, was effusive in his praise, labelling Bellamy as City’s best player on the club’s official website.

The arrival of Roberto Mancini spelt the end for Bellamy at City, amid rumours of confrontations between the two especially over the Italian’s training methods. And the arrival of Mario Balotelli confirmed it, as Mancini replaced his fiery attacker with a younger, more expensive model. Rather than sulk and create discord, Bellamy took a paycut to join his boyhood team, Cardiff City, on a year-long loan. A sign of a new found maturity that was present off the pitch too.

After visiting Sierra Leone in 2007, Bellamy set up the ‘Craig Bellamy Foundation’ in 2008 using sport and education to help give underprivileged children in the war-torn country a better life. He has so far invested a reported £800,000, and gives a cut of his wages to the project each month.

Bellamy’s Cardiff dream ended in disappointment; he led the Bluebirds to the brink of promotion with a series of virtuoso performances, and fulfilled a childhood dream by scoring the winning goal in the South Wales derby, with a brilliant late curling finish at Swansea in February. But he could not prevent Cardiff’s perennial late season dip in form, and the Bluebirds lost out in the play-offs once more.

A summer of limbo loomed, with Bellamy, not included in City’s 25-man Premier League squad, banished to the reserves for pre-season and few clubs unwilling to pay his reported weekly salary of £90,000. Bellamy looked set to rot in the reserves at the Etihad, until Liverpool swooped on transfer deadline day to pick him up for a bargain free transfer.   

Although Bellamy’s return to Anfield may have had an understated beginning, it could be he, rather than the expensive Andy Carroll, who proves to be the perfect foil for Luis Suarez in Liverpool’s attack, and forge a relationship that could have parallels with Bellamy and Tevez.

Both are intelligent, versatile footballers, nimble and slick in possession, quick and can finish with either foot. Not to mention intensely passionate, and if the two of them can strike up an understanding then Liverpool’s challenge for a Champions League spot could be genuine. 

The two recent performances at Chelsea coupled with his form for Wales demonstrate Bellamy’s worth. The late Gary Speed’s young Welsh side may have revolved largely around the exuberance and artistry of Aaron Ramsey and Gareth Bale, but Bellamy’s experience has been another integral part of the revolution, despite giving up the captaincy last January, to the point where Bale was deployed on the right to accommodate Bellamy in his now familiar left-side role.

There may be the old adage in football that you should never go back, but Craig Bellamy looks like a man determined to be an exception to the rule. Now wouldn’t that be the enigmatic thing to do.  

James Riley

Football Friends Football Blogs bring you the latest football news and opinion from football fans around the world.

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