Football Italiano’s 500@ five – Cambiasso: The Unsung Hero

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Last night’s game between Inter and Chelsea may have finally marked the Nerazzurri breaking their European jinx but it also confirmed Esteban Cambiasso as one of the best holding midfielders in the world.

It was a game of attrition and great mental strength but after many years, Inter managed to defeat one of Europe’s top teams in the Champions League. As odes of praise rang around the San Siro in the names of Lucio and Diego Milito, Esteban Cambiasso was exchanging greetings with his Chelsea counterparts. The cool Argentine was the scorer of Inter’s winning goal but he carried about for the rest of the night in his usual unassuming fashion. El Cuchu’s goal will be talked about for at least the next three weeks but his contribution to the Inter squad extended well beyond his name on the scoresheet.

Cambiasso has proved through his time at Inter that there is still space in football for the clever breed of players. In recent years, the midfields of all top sides around the globe have been covered by the tough tacklers and the maestros. So there is either a Gennaru Gattuso or a Xavi type of player who has occupied the central midfield role. Cambiasso does not fit under either of these definitions. He isn’t exactly the best ball winner, nor is he a gifted passer of the ball. What the Argentine exceeds at is tactical understanding of the game. If there was to be one player who reads the game in this modern fast paced version of football, Cambiasso would be a definite a contender.

Last night against Chelsea, the likes of Frank Lampard and Michael Ballack were kept quiet only through the tactical orchestration of Inter’s number 19. The Argentine smothered the Blues attacking moves, forcing them to take shots from distance. In fact, the only notable times that Chelsea threatened inside the Inter penalty box were through Salomon Kalou’s penalty appeal and Frank Lampard’s saved effort. Apart from these two instances the Inter midfielders and defenders did very well to keep the Londoners away throughout the night. Cambiasso’s strike was just reward to a player who epitomizes a hard working team player.

Cambiasso’s versatility on the pitch has rescued his team on numerous occasions. At the weekend he did an admirable job against Sampdoria to fill in as a central defender after Walter Samuel and Ivan Cordoba were sent off. Cambiasso’s positioning during team moves is perfect and it was this acute sense of space that allowed him to crack home the winner last night. As Moratti said about the midfielder: “Cambiasso was fantastic. For his goal he would even have taken a third shot if necessary.”

Such has been the determination and heart shown by the man who incredibly joined Inter on a free transfer in summer of 2004. Under such circumstances it is indeed hard to believe that Argentina Coach Diego Maradona has consistently left Cambiasso out of his squad. He is definitely one of Los Albiceleste’s glorious talents and if Maradona keeps up with his ways he will be denying the world of its finest defensive midfielder at the World Cup.

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