‘Never say no in football’ | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, August 11, 2020 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:31 AM, August 11, 2020

‘Never say no in football’

Left foot or right, there have been few as lethal as Liverpool’s legendary striker Ian Rush. Five Premier League titles and two European Cups under his belt, the Welshman was part of the last Liverpool side to win the league before a long 30-year drought set in, one ended by Jurgen Klopp’s incredible side this season. Rush spoke about the current Liverpool side, his friendship with Diego Maradona and that long wait to see Liverpool lift the trophy again during an interview with The Daily Star’s Abdullah Al Mehdi arranged as part of a promotional campaign by the club’s commercial partners Standard Chartered Bank.

"Never expected the wait to be so long. If anyone had told me that Liverpool won't win the title in 30 years, I wouldn't have believed it. I would have had a laugh," Rush said with the kind of humility befitting his energy and legendary status as one of the game's greats.

Even when European success came in 2005, the league continued to be elusive for the Reds.

"Liverpool have had so many great players like [John] Barnes and [Steve] Mcmanaman in the 90s, and great coaches like Gerard Houllier and Rafa Benitez and others who couldn't manage to win the league. It was a matter of great sense of pride after the win."

Rush himself is a legend among legends and one of the greatest strikers the world has ever seen.  For him, past greats would have no problem adjusting to today's game.

"Today's players are fitter. The game is so much quicker now and it's because the balls and boots are lighter and the pitches are so perfect now. But no matter in what era, great players even from the 50s or 60s would adapt. It's about mental toughness, that sets great players apart."

Kenny Dalglish was his favourite Liverpool player but there was a special place for Diego Maradona however, and a friendship he developed after his move to Juventus. "When I played in Italy, I played with Michel Platini and Maradona. They were special players. Maradona turned an average Napoli side into a championship-winning side."

"Individually, he was fantastic. It was great to play on the same pitch as him." Rush spoke fervently. "I remember when Juventus won in Turin and I scored and then in Naples, they beat us 3-1. Maradona scored that game and then came up to me to say "It's my turn in Napoli as it was your turn in Turin". I'm still great friends with Maradona now."

What about his favourite players in the modern era?

"[Robert] Lewandowski is a great goalscorer this era, but I think it's hard to get past [Lionel] Messi or [Cristiano] Ronaldo, they have taken it to a new level," he remarked. When pointed out that Lewandowski is often called the 'Polish Ian Rush', he joked: "Obviously I would be happy with so many goals but you get a challenge from getting a moustachio going like me back in the day, then we will see."

For him, the current side is already up there with some of the best, if not already the greatest Liverpool side.

"They won the Champions League [last season], and the league this year. It's time to start comparing them to the greatest Liverpool sides. They broke so many records this season. It's amazing but winning the league is easy, retaining is hard. And if they manage it, they will be right up there, if they aren't already. "The team spirit is like what we had in the 80s and that comes from the manager," he said of Klopp.

Rush lived the atmosphere of many great stadiums but said: "There is something different about Anfield. The crowd becomes the 12th man. Many incredible occasions in European nights. In the evening games, the supporters would come home from work, get changed, go to a game and they are all excited. The big difference is that the crowd is very close to the players, different from stadiums in Italy or Spain. At Anfield, the crowd is virtually on the players."

Not many teams suffered a heavier consequence than the current Barcelona side. "The crowd was getting the ball boy going, the ball boy got Trent [Alexander-Arnold] going and he then got [Divock] Origi going. That sums it up for me. That was the greatest comeback I've ever seen at Anfield," Rush explained with a glint in his eyes.

That Anfield factor and the 'look in the eyes of the fans' when he kept notching incredible numbers every season was what he says drove him. "I always wanted to improve no matter my age. I wanted to do that again and again," said the legend with 346 goals for Liverpool.

Asked about suggestions to young strikers in Bangladesh, he remarked: "What I would say to young players not only in Bangladesh but worldwide is that never be scared to miss a goal. I played in games where I missed four goals but then scored the fifth chance. It's about that mental toughness and no one will remember misses when you score."

Having coached in various countries, would he work here in Bangladesh? "Never say no in football. My job is to pass on knowledge and if I can pass on my experience, then that's what it's all about," he reiterated and it is that kind of attitude that now drives the current Liverpool side.


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