XI Euro football stars Pinoy fans can look up to

 

Ever since ABS-CBN Sports and Triple CH started airing live European club football matches on S+A last December, Filipino football fans have come out of the woodwork and cheered on for their favorite players and teams. Finally on free television, Pinoys are able to watch the biggest names and the most anticipated showdowns in the world of football.

While our dream is to see our homegrown Filipino footballers play in the big international leagues, for now we can root for and learn from these football superstars in La Liga, English Premier League (EPL), and UEFA Champions League, who also display the “pusong palaban” of Filipinos on and off the field.

Let’s get to know 11 of the top Euro fooballers who make good role models for Filipinos who want to shine in the most beautiful game of them all.

 

Lionel Messi, Barcelona

Football Soccer – FC Barcelona v Manchester City – UEFA Champions League Group Stage – Group C – The Nou Camp, Barcelona, Spain – 19/10/16
Barcelona’s Lionel Messi celebrates scoring their third goal to complete his hat trick
Reuters / Albert Gea

Don’t let the small stature fool you. Leo Messi is considered the world’s best, and has been rewarded fittingly so with five Ballon d’Ors. Before even turning 30 years of age, the Argentinian has broken records left and right once thought to be unassailable. Diagnosed with a hormone deficiency disease at 13 years of age, nobody foresaw how Messi would turn out when Barcelona’s famed youth football academy, La Masia, took him in and funded his medicinal intake. No one saw how a small Argentinian lad, who reminded people of the legendary Diego Maradona, can spearhead one of the biggest clubs in the world to title after title, breaking goal-scoring record after goal-scoring record for the Azulgrana.

 

Cristiano Ronaldo, Real Madrid

Football Soccer – Real Madrid v Espanyol – Spanish Liga BBVA – Santiago Bernabeu stadium, Madrid, Spain – 31/01/16. Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates his second goal. REUTERS/Juan Medina
Picture Supplied by Action Images

If there’s one thing to describe Ronaldo, it’s fast. The Portuguese star has rockets for legs, which also translates to powerful attacks on the opposing goalkeeper. While Messi lacks in height, Ronaldo towers over back lines and easily overpowers them with his dazzling display of ball handling tricks and willy play. Like Messi, Ronaldo has won five Ballon d’Ors, which only adds heat to the perpetual debate of Ronaldo versus Messi. But, before he became one of the biggest stars in football, Ronaldo was diagnosed with a “racing heart” at age 15, which made it a longshot for the youngster then to pursue his love for football. Now, he’s one of the highest paid athletes while maintaining his elite performance match after match.

 

Mohamed Salah, Liverpool

 

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND – SEPTEMBER 09: Liverpool player Mohamed Salah in action during the Premier League match between Manchester City and Liverpool at Etihad Stadium on September 9, 2017 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

Salah has been mesmerizing so far in Liverpool, leading the Reds in scoring this season. Salah’s combined flair and control set him apart his fellow EPL strikers. The Egyptian striker leaves everything on the field and plays to the last second of every match, whether down by a goal or up by two, Salah does not leave anything to chance. It’s also no surprise that his countrymen dub him as the “Egyptian Messi” for his technique, skill, and spirit.

 

Sergio Aguero, Manchester City

 

Soccer Football – Real Madrid vs Manchester City – International Champions Cup – Los Angeles, USA – July 26, 2017 Manchester City’s Sergio Aguero in action with Real Madrid’s Keylor Navas REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

The Argentinian national is one-half of the reason why Manchester City is sitting pretty atop the Premier League table, pairing up nicely with Raheem Sterling in Pep Guardiola’s attack line. It’s all about power for Aguero, who uses his strength to brush off defenders who are taller and thicker than him, not letting his stature limit his game. Off the field, Aguero is as admirable, as he was able to give a better life to his family through football, after growing up in the slums of Argentina.

 

Romelu Lukaku, Manchester United

 

Soccer Football – Manchester United vs Los Angeles Galaxy – Pre Season Friendly – Los Angeles, USA – July 15, 2017 Manchester United’s Romelu Lukaku in action with Los Angeles Galaxy’s Ashley Cole REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

Lukaku is one of the beasts that EPL defenders have to contend with on a daily basis as the Belgian national can rack up goals like he’s collecting change. He’s considered as a superstar in Belgium, where his father once starred in, even appearing in a TV documentary. Lukaku’s shining moments have been with the Red Devils as he became one of five players to score 50 Premier League goals before the age of 23, and the first foreign player to ever net 80 times. However, he has delivered for his country as well, holding the scoring record in the Belgian national squad, with 31 goals.

 

Cesc Fabregas, Chelsea

 

LONDON, ENGLAND – AUGUST 27: Cesc Fabregas of Chelsea celebrates scoring his sides first goal during the Premier League match between Chelsea and Everton at Stamford Bridge on August 27, 2017 in London, England. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)

The current Chelsea central midfielder used to be the youngest player to ever suit up for the senior team of Arsenal back in 2004 at the age of 16. After breaking club records, he then moved back to his native land Spain to play for Barcelona and was part of the squad’s magical run in 2011 to 2013, where they won in La Liga, Copa del Rey, and the FIFA Club World Cup, among others. In 2014, he returned to the EPL to play for Arsenal’s cross-town rivals Chelsea, and won a title in his first year. Even with the entry of new players, he continues to make an impact and is still feared in the pitch for his playmaking.

 

Luis Suarez, Barcelona

 

Football Soccer – Spanish La Liga Santander – Sevilla v Barcelona – Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan Stadium, Seville, Spain – 6/11/2016. Barcelona’s Luis Suarez celebrates after scoring against Sevilla. REUTERS/ Marcelo del Pozo

From a poor boy in Uruguay, Suarez has become a national icon, bringing his flag and country pride whenever he takes the pitch, whether it be during his time as Liverpool’s top draw, or as Leo Messi’s devastating partner up front for Barcelona. He started football playing barefoot on the cobbled streets of Salto. Soon enough, the hunger and desire to be the best ate at Suarez that he persevered from playing in his country’s club games, to top-flight competition in Europe.

 

Gareth Bale, Real Madrid

 

Football Soccer – Real Madrid v Espanyol – Spanish La Liga Santander – Santiago Bernabeu stadium, Madrid, Spain – 18/02/17 – Real Madrid’s Gareth Bale celebrates after scoring against Espanyol. REUTERS/Javier Barbancho

Southampton scouts saw the potential star in Bale early before he suited up for the side’s senior squad. However, he gained fame when he played for the Tottenham Hotspurs, where he won the PFA Players’ Player of the Year, Young Player of the Year, and FWA (Football Writer’s Association) Player of the Year Award in one season. In 2013, he was signed by Spanish football giant Real Madrid, where he now lines up perfectly with French striker Karim Benzema, Cristiano Ronaldo, and midfielders Sami Khedira and Toni Kroos in Zinedine Zidane’s squad. Like other football players, Bale has fought through a variety of injuries but his relentlessness has kept him one of the best in the world.

 

Neymar Jr., Paris Saint-Germain

Paris Saint-Germain’s Brazilian forward Neymar controls the ball during the French L1 football match between Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) and Nantes (FCN) at the Parc des Princes stadium in Paris on November 18, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / Thomas SAMSON 

The Brazilian superstar is currently the most expensive football player priced at€222 million. However, before earning all that, he had to go through the gauntlet of the Brazilian football league at the age of 17, for Santos. After that, the young prodigy went to Barcelona and won a treble (a La Liga title, Copa del Rey, and UEFA Champions League title) as part of the Azulgrana’s three-headed monster with Messi and Suarez. Neymar’s unique style on the pitch is born out of his love for futsal, which is indoor football, and the free-flowing style that the streetballers in Brazil played with.

 

Robert Lewandowski, Bayern Munich

 

Football Soccer – Bayern Munich v Werder Bremen – German Bundesliga – Allianz Arena, Munich, Germany – 26/08/16 – Bayern Munich’s Robert Lewandowski celebrates after scoring the second goal against Werder Bremen REUTERS/Michaela Rehle

Lewandowski is a proven weapon, and a record six-time Polish Player of the Year as captain of Poland’s national team. Next to Messi, Ronaldo, and Suarez, Lewandowski is considered to be one of the modern football’s best attackers in his refined technique, ability to finish with either feet, or even use his height to his advantage for headers. Sports runs in their family as his late father was a Polish judo champion, while his mother and sister both played competitive volleyball.

 

Gianluigi Buffon, Juventus

Juventus’ Italian goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon warms up prior to the Italian Serie A football match Sassuolo versus Juventus on September 17, 2017 at the Mapei Stadium in Reggio Emilia. / AFP PHOTO / MARCO BERTORELLO (Photo credit should read MARCO BERTORELLO/AFP/Getty Images)

At age 39, Italian football legend Gianluigi Buffon continues to impress and be on top of his game. He has never let his age dictate how he will play but shrugs it off. The renowned keeper is still a wall that most strikers have difficulty getting through, as exemplified by his 23 saves in 10 appearances for Juventus. As testament to Gigi’s durability, he’s only one of eighteen players who have appeared more than a thousand times in his professional career.

 

These players did not allow their conditions and their upbringing get in the way of reaching their dreams. At the same time, their success and popularity have not affected the way they play the game, as they continue to fight tooth and nail for every possession on the pitch. Get to know them more and the beautiful game of football with the live broadcast of matches in the ongoing English Premier League, La Liga, and UEFA Champions League on ABS-CBN S+A. For more information and stories, visit ABS-CBN’s sports hub sports.abs-cbn.com and follow @ABSCBNSports on Facebook and Twitter.

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