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LE GOD

The most underrated Premier League player ever is proof that football is about more than trophies

Ladies and gentlemen, Le God...

There are 17 minutes left before The Dell closes its doors and surrenders to the wrecking ball.

The Southampton fans in the stands are in great spirits, determined to give their quintessentially English home an appropriate farewell.

Twice the hosts have come from behind to equalise against Arsenal in the season’s curtain closer.

An Arsenal side that looks like this…

*gulp*

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*gulp*

The fourth official’s board goes up to indicate a substitute.

Cue the loudest cheer of the day — on trots Matt Le Tissier.

Match of the Day commentator Jon Champion believes the introduction is proof that “there is still room for sentiment in football”, a quote reflective of diminished powers of the Saints’ No7.

However, the man south coast residents call ‘Le God’ is in no mood for testimonial style cameo.

There’s history to be made.

You can probably see where this is going…

Getty Images - Getty
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You can probably see where this is going…

With a minute remaining of normal time, a loose ball falls to Le Tissier on the edge of the box.

He swings his creaking left leg and connects with a glorious quarter-volley which forces time to slam on the brakes.

In this snippet of eternity, the 15,000 odd fans inside the stadium watch with baited breath as the ball makes its way to the top corner.

The moment the ball hits the net, time accelerates to its usual pace — pandemonium ensues.

Southampton’s greatest ever player defying his protesting body to ensure the club’s stadium, his stadium, is put down with dignity will forever be one of the Premier League’s greatest ever moments.

Animated GIF

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Le Tissier is probably the best player ever to not win a major honour in his career.

He spent 16 seasons with Southampton, dedicating his career to keeping them in the top flight, almost single-handedly at times.

In 1993/94, he scored 25 league goals, over half what the Saints managed as a whole and a tally only bettered by Alan Shearer and Andy Cole, as Southampton avoided relegation by a single point.

His legacy, how he is remembered by the fans who saw him (not just of Southampton), is counts for more than most players’ trophy cabinets.

One of a kind

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One of a kind

After all, what good are titles without recognition?

Yes, a player’s honours are a good indication of their quality and worth, but they are not conclusive and often deceptive.

Le Tissier’s class is unquestioned, he does not need medals to prove it.

He inspired Xavi, a man with more honours than most.

The Barcelona and Spain legend told the Independent in 2016: “In Catalonia there used to be a half-hour programme every Monday where they’d show the best goals from the Premier League

“Every week, Matt Le Tissier would be on the show. I’m talking outrageous, sickening goals.

“We used to say: ‘This guy, Le Tissier, is outrageous and he never goes to a big team. He stays at Southampton. It’s incredible. He could play for anyone.’

“Our whole house was obsessed with him.”

Animated GIF

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Here was a player who could barely last 90 minutes at the peak of his career.

He cared not for pressing, tracking back, or any form of exertion whatsoever.

And he was as slow and immobile as any player in the league.

But none of that mattered.

His technical ability, natural flair, creativity, and penchant for the spectacular made up for his flaws and then some.

Imagine a crossbreed between Juan Roman Riquelme and Dimitar Berbatov… born in Guernsey.

A 90s classic

News Group Newspapers Ltd
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A 90s classic

His lethargy is blamed for his inconspicuous international career.

It was thought that England could not justify his selection based on his work rate.

And besides, his peak overlapped with that of Paul Gascoigne, one of very few players who could rival Le Tissier for natural talent.

To this day, many fans lament that the national side was not built around Le Tissier, let alone the fact he only featured in eight games at senior international level.

Glenn Hoddle’s decision not to take him to the 1998 World Cup was heavily criticised, particularly as Le Tissier had scored a magnificent hat-trick for England B on the eve of the tournament.

What could have been…

PA:Empics Sport
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What could have been…

Though he played as a second striker at times, he operated mainly as an attacking midfielder, becoming the first ever non-striker to reach a century of Premier League goals in 2001.

Cynics called him a ‘scorer of great goals’ rather than a great goalscorer.

In reality, he was both.

47 penalties from 48 attempts improved his goal record but most notable goalscorers benefit from spot-kick duties having earned the right take them.

A montage of Le Tissier’s best goals should be enough to convince even the most pessimistic doubters.

Enjoy one of the Premier League’s very, very best…

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