Picture the scene: It’s a Monday afternoon, this Manchester City fan and his Wolves supporting friend are sitting down for a nice, gentle game or ten of FIFA. Now, to ask me to play as City and him as Wolves would be unfair – though he’s got a knack of scoring with Kevin Doyle from the edge of the box with a finesse shot. So we randomised the teams.
The rules? Three random hits; if you move on then you can’t go back and if you reach your third, you’re stuck with them. The brilliance of the system is that it makes you say things like: “Woah. Hang on. Roy Carroll is at Olympiakos?” or “Oh, God, I’ve got Alex Manninger in goal!” or even “When did Vedran Corluka move to Lokomotiv Moscow?”
And, just after my Korona Kielce came back from two goals down to win 5-3 against Kev’s NEC Nijmegen, we started up the next game. Choice one: Chesterfield. No chance. Choice two: Grosseto. Could do better. Choice three: The Brazilian league’s Gremio.
Ten minutes into the game, I’m given a very generous free kick just to the left side of the penalty area. Unable to take free kicks, I choose to cycle through the players and stats to see who would be best placed to whip this over the wall and into the net (well, whip it over the bar, into the wall or at the goalkeeper as my track record shows).
Suddenly, there was a noise to my left. “Woah!” shouted Kev. “Wide right?”
And there he was: Elano.
Throughout the rest of that game, despite my best efforts to get him on the ball and get him into shooting positions, Elano did what Elano does best. He disappeared off the face of the pitch. His free kick – for the record – hit the bar, in somewhat a similar manner to the one he took against Hamburg for Manchester City in 2009.
Normally, FIFA’s estimates of players is fairly decent, with one or two exceptions who are vastly improved (Wayne Rooney and Aaron Lennon, I find) or vastly underestimated (seriously, can James Milner do anything on that game?). Elano, however, was spot on.
Anonymous for most of the game, popped up with the odd bit of brilliance from time to time, but overall the level of effort he put into the game seemed to be a little less than ‘barely any’.
A quick poll on Twitter found that City fans had pretty similar views on Elano from his two years at the club: he was capable of some brilliant tricks with a football, scored some of the best goals they’d seen live (including a bullet of a free kick), but just didn’t seem to care. One or two suggested he would have been better served in a City team later down the line than he was in during the Sven and Hughes eras, though others wouldn’t have him near the first team today.
A quick look along Elano’s playing history boasts little in the way of ambition for someone of his talent. Shakhtar Donetsk and Galatasaray among his highlights, but with Manchester City being his second-longest served club behind Santos. Given that he was able to do things with a football that I can’t even do on a computer game by employing the ‘mash-all-the-buttons-at-once’ technique, it seems odd that he hasn’t achieved more than he has.
The only answer can be his attitude. He enjoys playing football, but seemingly doesn’t have the fight in him for the challenge. Personally, I would have thought his ability would have had him as a great player in a Roberto Mancini or (now) a Manuel Pellegrini Manchester City side. However, title-winning teams rarely carry passengers and he was too pedestrian too often.
In time, Elano may well become a cult hero for what good glimpses he gave of his skills for City. However, the human mind often edits out the dull bits of life and far too much of Elano’s time with the Blues won’t make the final cut.
It was good to be reminded of his highlights, but it gave me a lightbulb moment about how exciting the future is for City. In years gone by, one exciting and skilful player was a joy to watch, just in case they did something.
These days, it’s all about working out which one of the exciting and skilful players will prove to be the match winner.
Written by David Mooney – you can follow David on Twitter at @DavidMooney