How Much Arrogance Do We Want From Our Soccer Heroes?

Do we want our soccer heroes to have a bit of the Eric Cantona collar up confidence (see goal number #1 in this video), or do we want the Lionel Messi team oriented humbleness and calm? Do we want our soccer heroes to be a bit arrogant? Or, to become such a great soccer player do they have to have a little arrogance about their game?

Messi doesn’t show much emotion in general. Sure, he’s overjoyed after he scores, especially when he whips in a free kick – which he’s doing more and more these days. But, for the most part, throughout a La Liga match for Barcelona, Messi’s pretty composed and calm. Amazingly calm even. And above all else he’s humble despite being the greatest soccer player in the world.

Cesc Fabregas said this of his teammate at Barcelona:

”He’s different to every other player in the world, and it’s a pleasure to be able to able to play with him, to have him in the team, because he gives you this extra confidence that every champion team needs. He’s a humble player, hard working, he loves football. He deserves everything that’s happening to him.”

And when Messi celebrates a goal he’s usually running towards teammates or pointing a finger at someone else to praise them for their assist or for their involvement in the goal. There is an intensity and fire though in Messi. He certainly knows how good he is and that nobody can really stop him when he’s at his best.

Messi overall character is marked by integrity, too. He doesn’t complain to the referee or try to draw fouls. He’s pretty much focused the whole game on getting the ball at his feet and charging forward towards goal.

So it’s actually a pleasure to see him get mad or frustrated at times on the field, whether that’s yelling at a teammate, as he did when he thought David Villa should have crossed the ball earlier, or blasting the ball into the stands, which he did in an El Clasico match recently to the surprise of everyone, especially the Real Madrid fans. See video below.

However, just the other day versus Celta, Messi punched Celta defender Jonathan Vila in the back. It was a very rare act of anger by Messi and very much out of character. It was a frustrated Messi that you don’t ever really see. It was harmless but news because it was Messi.

But how much confidence and calm do we want? Do we want a drug fueled Diego Maradona running towards the camera during the World Cup after scoring a goal for Argentina?

Perhaps not. But don’t we want our heroes to have a bit of confidence that verges on arrogance?

Take, Mario Balotelli, who ripped off his shirt after he scored for Italy in the Euro Cup and stood stock still flexing his muscles like a statue. He’d earned it. It was a fantastic goal. It was warranted. But then there’s the old Balotelli, who kicks people and screams at the referee and is involved in all kinds of silly off the field stuff worthy of reality TV.

What about Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who usually doesn’t run towards the crowd or towards anyone for that matter after he scores, just raises his arms up like what do you expect. He’s not lacking in self-confidence to say the least. After being asked what kind of style of soccer he plays, he said: “Zlatan—style.”

There are some rules though, with regards to arrogance and goal celebrations. It’s understood that you don’t celebrate when you score when playing against your former team. You don’t run down to the opposite end of the field to celebrate in front of the Arenal team’s supporters like Emmanuel Adebayor did when he played for Manchester City.

And you don’t do a mock dive celebration in front of the opposing bench, as Liverpool’s Luis Suarez did recently against Everton. While Suarez is an amazing player, he usually goes too far. Those things aren’t cool. For a minute they’re funny and kind of crazy…but then you realize that they’re going to incite anger and aren’t about the joy of the game.

But what about Messi kicking the ball into the Real Madrid crowd? Why was that ok? How did he get a pass on that one? It was a rare reaction from a normally so calm and cool Messi…..that it was enjoyable if you weren’t one of the Real Madrid fans who almost got hit with the ball?

What if you get upset and karate kicked a fan as Eric Cantona did? Well, of course that’s too much Cantona. Too much collar up. But we do want some. We do want some arrogance. We do want some, “I know I’m the greatest soccer player in the world and nobody can stop me.”

Cristiano Ronaldo is an absurdly incredible player. A goal scoring machine. But he always complains and will even draw other players into getting red cards, even if that player was once his former teammate – as he did to Wayne Rooney in the World Cup.

We know Ronaldo wants to conquer everything. That’s why we admire him. But he also thinks perhaps he is owed it. He celebrated a goal once by pointing at his thigh muscle once, which was funny but was a bit of insight into how Ronaldo thinks it is about Cristiano Ronaldo. Case in point, Ronaldo said this recently: “I am like I am and I am happy with that. To be humble is not good. In Portugal we say that to be too humble is vanity.”

That said. Messi isn’t an angel – he duplicated Maradona’s hand of God once, yet his passion for the game just seems more pure. There’s no slicking his hair back or posing. And though there’s nothing wrong with that, there’s a fine line.

Speaking of hair: Beckham is now fixing his hair while he plays, while he dribbles up the field for the LA Galaxy in fact. Brushing it out of his eyes with the ball at his feet. But Beckham is still a fantastic player. And there’s some arrogance in him too. Beckham knows he’s very good and backs it up when he plays. After he wasn’t picked for England’s World Cup team, he want on a tear in the MLS, angrily banging home free kicks game after game.

And then there’s the Ronaldinho of old, the Ronaldinho who was the best player in the world when he played for Barcelona. He always played with a goofy smile on this face and threw up the hang loose sign after he scored. This is the Ronaldinho who received a standing ovation in an El Clasico match away from home, at the Bernabeu, something that I don’t think has ever happened before.

There’s no doubt Ronaldinho knew he was up there with the greats, but he didn’t get red cards or stir up controversy – he didn’t draw attention to himself. He didn’t need to. He let his play speak for itself. The only negative with Ronaldinho was that he spent too much time in the clubs after games – dancing. He might be the one great who had zero arrogance and that was fine.

One of the most moving moments for Ronaldinho was when he came back to the Camp Nou with AC Milan and he was cheered and pulled into a pre-game photo with his old Barcelona teammates. He was moved to tears by both the reception and Carlos Puyol dragging him over for the picture.

Overall though, we want a bit of controversy. We want a bit of anger and passion. We want a bit of pure emotion that just can’t be contained. And we want a bit of arrogance. It’s fun to see when it’s rare, earned and valid – backed up by their play in the field.