Mark van Bommel brings extreme reactions from every single football fan. His critics have mostly been those on the receiving end of things, while his supporters have close ties with the teams he has played for – PSV, Barcelona, Bayern, the Dutch national team, and now Milan. For the rest of the world he is a thug or a disgrace for the sport which might have stemmed from the analysis of Sky pundits having a direct impact on the fan base in south East Asia and India. So this is a post dedicated to all the fans that enjoy continental football and its diverse style. I hope you folks stop for a minute and read this without any bias.
Milan has been struggling for a long time in midfield, even though we have a battalion of defensive midfielders who pack a lot of aggression but with little tenacity. With the shrewd business of gold tie Mr. Galliani, we brought a world class anchor in place of technically gifted but physically frail Pirlo. I am not a big fan of Andrea and Ancelotti’s deep lying midfield position covered by aggressive midfielders, but I will leave that topic for some other day. Milan’s policy of bringing in old washed up champions may look very cheap and pathetic from outside but I am all for hard working, dedicated professionals – regardless of age – who add some value to the starting line-up. Over the years this has given me the opportunity to admire, watch and like some world class players whom otherwise would have gone unnoticed in my book. For example Stam and Beckham who hail from Manchester United, a club that brings the absolute worst in me in footballing philosophy. Then there was the ever smiling Cafu who joined us at the ripe age of 34 and played for some good years. So I was very much excited for MvB’s transfer especially when our most consistent player of the past couple of years, captain Ambrosini, was sidelined for rest of the season, leaving Flamini, Gattuso and Strasser for the job.
Flamini was not ready to give up his EPL style and as large as Gattuso’s heart might be he can’t compensate for his small stature, which plays a huge role in the aerial game as an anchor. He is an aggressive ground soldier and excels in that role, there is no point in retraining an old pitbull. So we were looking for an Ambrosini type of player and from out nowhere on the last day of the winter mercato our vice president brings in the captain of Bavaria, who in the past year has captained his teams to both a Champion League and World Cup final and without a shadow of a doubt was the most important player of those teams. So what conclusion should I draw? A Dutch team dragged to final by an anti-footballer; he achieved something similar to the great Cryuff. I am not naive to compare an absolute football master to MvB but you cannot ignore his effectiveness for your prejudice.
When he came and played a few games I realized how good he was. He is a leader of men, who tries to impose his will on the game and like a true traffic police man directs the flow with so much authority. His best act is the legendary stop sign – when he puts that up no opponent moves. If they have the testicular fortitude for violating that rule they end up paying some hefty fine in the form of a clean tackle, bruised ankle, a shoulder push or maybe a red card for Milan. With two godlike but mild CB’s, there wasn’t enough aggression towards the opposite number 10 trying to breach our defense, but with the coming of MvB, I can sleep peacefully knowing that we won’t concede unless the Boss personally thinks otherwise (see games against Palermo and Bari).
People following him since his Barcelona or Eindhoven days say he doesn’t do anything special these days and that he is simply the van Bommel of yesteryear, but I decided to watch his performances with zero animosity. So I am enjoying this phase of the Scudetto race, a solid defense protected by an insane destroyer, the Boss, and the entire thing masterminded by a prudent Italian tactician. Like every championship team we are building from the back and we sure have a hell of a war head with Cassano, Ibrahimovic, Pato, and Robinho. So we only need a set of technical CMF’s (Pirlo and Seedorf have served Milan well over the years, but it’s time for some fresh blood) to finish the entire product and we are ready to rumble again.
Van Bommel is a very likable man within his teams’ fans. You should see the affection crowds showed him when he danced with the German title in Munich. He never talks or does anything detrimental in training or off the pitch; all his tactics or dark art revolve around winning another inch for the team, by any means necessary to defend the flag, or in the voice of English commentators he is a lionhearted player who is willing to fight ’till death. He is a master in reading the game, having won 7 titles in the Netherlands, Spain and Germany and being now on the verge of conquering another one in the peninsula. He has some coaching badges and his prowess is on display in a live game while he is instructing/guiding inexperienced players. His ability to pick Antonini or Abate from way deep shows he is not just a physical player, he is ready to move forward and control the tempo of the game according to the situation (and he has a bomb of a right foot, which can be unleashed against any team but we Milan for some unknown reason never ever rely on a long ranger). The media is the one who created this image which is costing Milan a lot of cards because he is getting booked for normal fouls. His reputation precedes him in Serie A, not as a champion but as a bulldozer.
For a tough man he does have a true heart. He is loyal to the teams he’s played for and he is so instinctive with his passion. As an example, he showed his Barcelona heart when Madrid was dumped by him in the 2006 CL campaign. He cried like a baby when Bayern sold him to Milan and he feels like home in Milanello thanks to his promptness to learn and adjust along with the family atmosphere in our dressing room, which is under no imminent turmoil even though we pack some of the most volatile elements in the game.
I think it’s time to test the limits by bringing Balotelli. People often compare MvB to Materazzi because they experience the beautiful game through commentary. You should watch the games once in a while without bombastic and over the top biased reviewers. Materazzi is a butcher whose aim is to hurt an opponent regardless of footballing advantage. The Dutch master brings in every single trick in the book to gain advantage which only coincides with the state of play. He is a true professional and plays for his employer. For example, his tough tackling game against Messi and Wesley Sniejder (his ex team mates) show he might be friends with them but that friendship ends when you cross that white line and you don our jersey, an admirable quality.
Every single player who played with him or against him applauds his importance. Ibrahimovic (who you might remember had an altercation with the Dutch skipper) said he is a player I would hate to play against and welcomed him to Milan. Sneijder who was man handled in the derby begged him to join the blue part of Milan. This is a kind of signing Milan needed to help us in the Champions League and gives an opportunity to further groom young Strasser in that role. An experienced leader on the field and a gentleman off the field, with absolute knowledge of the game is a perfect fit in the cynical and tactical world of Calcio. He is not going to hang here as deadwood, he will perform at his best until he can and most probably play as a mentor in the future or leave us to his native place.
With that said, there are a few limitations. His mobility is not world class but far better in his age bracket and when compared to the existing champion senators in Milan. He has to get more adjusted to this team as he has conceded a few goals with Milan showing some communication breakdown while defending in the box.
In conclusion, if you look at him closely without any premonition about his game or style you might witness a master at his very best, reading the game, breaking the opponents’ play, passing the ball to players pushing forward and guiding the troops under extreme pressure. Immovable object with a fair sense of attacking game, I’m in love with him. A true great who oozes Italian style of play (substance over style). I am a self proclaimed samba fan boy but when you witness complete players you can’t stop yourself from admiring them. Complete players with the least of limitations is a dying breed in today’s era. I might think so because I personally rate the football of the last decade any day ahead of the physical play of today.
Thanks to: The Red & Black Forums – for admiring the Boss over their personal hate for the love of Milan, to Cristina who proof read the article and restructured it to something nice (which originated as an incoherent rambling) and to a bunch of DM lovers from Brazil and Scotland. Finally to all the fanboys and fangirls of Boss like fara/sage/wild/fiero/congo.
Video by Cristina.