Football Friends Online – When 90 Mins Is Not EnoughStaying power - 4 of football’s irrepressible talents - Football Friends Online - When 90 Mins Is Not Enough Staying power - 4 of football’s irrepressible talents - Football Friends Online - When 90 Mins Is Not Enough

Staying power – 4 of football’s irrepressible talents

All around the world, tributes are flowing in for one of football’s most iconic managers. Sir Alex Ferguson, winner of the lion’s share of Manchester United’s 20 premier league titles, finally decided to call it a day (well, he may yet do another about-turn). But it has not been all smooth sailing for Fergie. By the time he was taking up the reins at Old Trafford in 1986, the Devils were one place from the foot of the table. And after three trophyless seasons a section of fans had started baying for his blood. Journalists joined the chorus of disenchantment. Had the Mancunians not won the FA Cup in 1990, Man U’s most successful manager could have received the sack. How glad are supporters of the reds that the club’s management was not swayed by general opinion!

Jupp Heynckes, the coach on the verge of leading Bayern Munich to a Bundesliga-Champions League double was also one whom pundits had stabbed at with their pens and left for dead. After an inglorious 2006-07 season (which ended in the club’s relegation) as head coach of the same Borussia Monchengladbach he led to four German titles as a player Heynckes was eager for a fresh start. But none of the top European clubs would give him the time of day. Nothing would stand in the way of Heynckes, however, and after his previous disappointments, he was given a chance at the helm of Bayer Leverkusen in 2010. He inspired Leverkusen to a second place finish in the Bundesliga and by the time he was done, the Bavarian giants were hunting him to begin a journey that will culminate in Amsterdam at the end of this month.

Like the Bayern gaffer, football fans the world over were at some point queuing up to consign Andrea Pirlo, Italy’s world-cup winning midfield lynchpin to the football has-beens bin. When AC Milan chose not to renew his contract, selling him to rivals Juventus instead, it seemed only a matter of time before Pirlo would follow his contemporaries to lesser-recognised leagues where he could milk a fat salary just for showing up. His last season with the Rossoneri was far from fairy tale with only 3 assists and a solitary goal to show for a meagre 17 appearances. Although his drop in form was largely due to a spate of injuries, the Milan hierarchy didn’t want to risk investing wages in a seemingly declining Pirlo. But Juventus could hardly believe their luck in receiving a Pirlo eager to prove he was not done just yet. With him dictating play in front of a solid back four, Juve have successfully defended the crown they snatched from Jose Mourinho’s Internazionale in 2011.

Also thought to have been swept away by the tide of younger, faster players emerging from academies was Pirlo’s partner in crime in the AC Milan engine room, Clarence Seedorf. And when it was announced that the Dutch attacking midfielder would be heading for the Campeonato Brasileiro at the end of the 2011-2012 season, the football world wryly concluded that all he was after was a sun-and-sand retirement.  But the four-time Champions League winner was a man on a mission and is already becoming a fan favourite at Botafogo. He recently helped the Rio de Janeiro club to win both the Taca Guanabara and the Taca Rio, affirming O Glorioso’s place as the kings of Carioca. Even after his unparalleled European exploits, Seedorf has clearly not lost his hunger for silverware.

Do you know another manager or player who had been written off and proved their critics wrong? Tell us about it.