Ronaldinho, Henry, Beckham and Owen: yesterday's men?

We are part of The Trust Project What is it?'s Ben Welch reflects on some absentees from the Best Players In The World list... 

Between them they have collected 196 international caps and scored 57 goals, but neither of them could make FourFourTwo’s list of the 100 Best Players In The World.

Who are this dynamic duo? Let me give you a clue; both play for clubs suffering from delusions of grandeur.

Got it yet? OK, another clue: Both play for clubs who have felt the full force of Ruud Gullit’s sexual healing. And they were Sven-Göran Eriksson's captain and vice-captain at Germany 2006.

Yes, you guessed it: David Beckham and Michael Owen. It’s incredible to think players of such calibre have been ousted by the likes of Anatoly Tymoshchuk and Nihat Kahveci.

Beckham, now plying his trade in Planet Hollywood for LA Galaxy, has played for two of the world’s biggest clubs, amassing a treasure chest of honours.
Many people forget he finished runner-up to Rivaldo for 1999’s European Footballer of the Year and FIFA World Player of the Year awards.

"What could possibly go wrong?"

But for all his career achievements, work-rate, passion and his weapon of mass destruction (his right foot, not his ‘Goldenballs’) he is playing in a real Mickey Mouse league and has become a bit-part player in the England squad.

There's no doubting his place in the history books or his ability to win a match with a flash of his right foot, but the former England captain can no longer claim to be one of the best players in the world.

That said, his role in the England set-up should not be underestimated. His presence and experience are invaluable to the young stars coming through the ranks. And when Fabio Capello has one last throw of the dice, you can count on Becks to sweat and bleed for the Three Lions.

Like his former Galactico team-mate, Owen is a match-winner. He may not be the most naturally gifted player in the world, but he is a merciless assassin in front of goal.

Injuries have slowed his pace and arguably his career, because as much as Newcastle fans will hate to admit it, he deserves to be at a bigger club. You can’t argue with his goal record. Even in a struggling Magpies side he has netted five goals in nine games this season.

At the age of 33 and playing in the MLS, Beckham may well be finished – a brief farewell tour of Italy notwithstanding. But 28-year-old Owen has time to resurrect his top-line career. Sorry, Newcastle, but the 2001 European Footballer of the Year isn't going to do this at St James’ Park.

Although his injury problems may make big clubs look elsewhere, Owen has made a career out of silencing critics and we hope, especially for England, that he’ll back to do it again and prove wrong to the doubters like FourFourTwo and, apparently, Fabio Capello.

Dave, Mike and some other bloke not on the list

Becks and Owen aren't the only players experiencing a fall from grace. Ask Thierry Henry. Monsieur Va-Va-Voom has engaged reverse gear, racing 53 places from fourth in last year's list to 57th this time around.

This is a decision I do not agree with (as we've said, we couldn't reach common consensus in the FourFourTwo office, so we're not surprised readers are already arguing the toss). The stats speak for themselves – in a faltering Barcelona side, Henry still finished as the Catalans' top goalscorer last season, with 18. Not bad from left wing.

OK, he didn’t have a great European Championships, but who did for France? However, he lags behind his Barca team-mate Samuel Eto’o (36th) and Didier Drogba (16th), who scored just one more goal than Henry last year. And the Frenchman has already netted three times in six league appearances this term.

On ability, Henry, a European Championship and World Cup winner, is as good as anyone in the world and if played in the right position, in the right system, he will wreak havoc at the Camp Nou.

"Oi, FourFourTwo! Wind your necks in!"

Talking of innate ability, there are few players who can boast the effortless genius of Ronaldinho. But it has been a poor year by his lofty standards, stained with the fag-end of his Barcelona era and accusations of his extra-curicular activities literally taking his eye off the ball, and he has plunged 67 places from number 3 to 70. Needing to forget last season, he is getting back to his best at AC Milan, bagging five goals in eight Serie A games.

Like Henry, Ronaldinho has the god-given talent to rocket back up world football’s hierarchy. But as with many great Brazilians who achieve so much so young (and have penchant for partying: see Romario, Rivaldo, Denilson, Ronaldo etc), their hunger – for battle, if not for cakes – fades with age.

After all, tt must be pretty hard to motivate yourself when, by the age of 28, you’ve already won various domestic titles, the Champions League, the Copa America, the World Cup, and European Footballer of the Year and World Footballer of the Year (twice). Oh, and earned a few quid along the way.

What else do you have to play for? A love of the game? More money? Enduring greatness? Legendary status?

Whichever way you look at it, whether he’s No.70 or No.1 in our list, Ronaldinho will remembered as one of the great entertainers to have played the beautiful game.

Yesterday’s men have been on a sabbatical, but they’re not gone forever. Form is temporary, class is timeless. And there's always next year, and next year's list.