By: Ishan Chowdhury
Former France and Manchester United defender Mikael Silvestre is rooting for Argentina and Germany to make the World Cup final. The former left-back, who is in India as a commentator for the World Cup matches, was kicked about the semi-final lineup which pits hosts Brazil against Germany with Argentina taking on the Netherlands in another last four clash.
“This time it is an amazing tournament with so much of drama and surprises. According to me, the final will be between Germany and Argentina,” Silvestre said during a promotional event to launch the latest Manchester United jersey.
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He is known for his runs down the left flank and India could witness him performing a similar role if everything works to plan.
With the inaugural Indian Super League round the corner, and the focus on marquee players could see Silvestre plying his trade for one of the teams.
“With the Indian Super League starting, I could realistically play in India, but that will obviously be done after looking at all the options available to me,” he said.
Speaking about the ISL, the France international said “In India, infrastructure for a game like football is the main challenge. There is great potential and a lot of enthusiasm among the people, but the basics need to be right.”
Few know that the marauding defender, who amassed an enviable 363 caps for Manchester United, as well as making 40 appearances for France at the senior level, had received an offer from Indian club Dodsal FC last summer.
“I spoke to the CEO of Dodsal and I was looking at maybe coming here (India), but then the club didn’t follow up and I moved to Portland Timbers in the MLS instead,” he said.
His contract at Portland ended recently, and Mikael said he is still open to the idea of playing in India.
Back when he was playing in the English Premier League, Silvestre had then become the first player to have played under both Sir Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger. Robin van Persie later joined him in this elite group that comprises of just these two players.
“If I were to talk about ways in which they are different, we would probably be sitting here for days,” he said.
“They are both extremely dedicated, you can say they are football addicts in a way, as they just can’t get enough of it,” he went on.
Being a part of the Arsenal team that went down to Barcelona in the 2010 Champions League final, Silvestre had to contend with Lionel Messi when he was touted by many as being at the peak of his powers.
“Messi was always a dangerous player. He would disappear from games and it would literally feel like you were playing against only 10 players, but then he would suddenly come alive again and damage you,” he said.
‘messi has evolved’
However, he did not agree with the assessment that Messi’s form had dipped in any way, and paid tribute to the growing maturity that the Argentinian is showing.
“In the Switzerland game, where he was marked so tightly and didn’t find his rhythm entirely, you could see that he was still willing to work hard,” he remarked.
“Four years ago, Messi would have grown very frustrated during such a situation and would not have made key moments count to the effect that he can now,” he added.
Having trained with Cristiano Ronaldo while he was at Manchester United, and against Messi in the Champions League final, Silvestre found it tough to single out who the tougher player to defend against was.
“They’re both fantastic players, and they both have a unique set of skills that makes life very difficult for a defender. It would be disrespectful to say that any one is greater than the other,” he argued.
As for predictions of how the Red part of Manchester would do next season, he was optimistic in his response.
“Manchester United always bounce back from setbacks, and while last season was not the greatest, I’m sure Louis van Gaal will help them achieve Champions League football, which is important not just from the financial point of view, but also essential for maintaining their brand value as a club,” Silvestre explained.
(Ishan is an intern at Indian Express)