Thursday, January 21, 2010

Inter's Maicon To Shine At Milan Derby

Sunday is Milan Derby Day when Inter hosts Milan. Perfect time to talk about one--actually two--of my favorite players.

First, some context. I used to be a huge hockey nut; loved the old school Boston Bruins and especially how Ray Bourque, a defenseman, always carried the puck up the ice and set up the offense (shit I'm old if Ray Bourque is Old School). I digress. Bourque had a great motor, was extraordinarily tough and rarely made a mistake. He was always in position on defense and his transition to offense was seamless. He was fearless bringing the puck up the ice, was a precise passer and wasn't shy about shooting and scoring.

So when I see a footballer play the same way for a coach who allows him to express himself on the pitch, then I'm all-in. Of course I'm talking about Maicon, the Brazilian right back who is as much a fixture of Inter's attack as its high-priced forwards Milito, Eto'o and Balotelli. It's thrilling to watch Maicon sprint up and down the right side of the Inter attack, daring opponents to stem his momentum. Often, it ain't happening.

Maicon was huge in the first go-round between these two in August, a 4-0 Inter win. He's a threat to shoot every time he's within range (three goals, 29 shots so far) and he's a better passer. He's set up a team-best five goals and in a Bourque-like fashion, seems to play his best in big games.

Sunday's clash is going to be huge, not only because it's a Derby, but because of how Milan is storming back toward the top in Serie A. Milan is six points back with a game in hand. Beckham is back and Ronaldinho is making a last-gasp dash for a spot on the Brazil team. Thankfully he's not an attacking right fullback because that spot is way crowded already.

By my glowing review here, you might think young Maicon is a lock at that spot for Brazil. But nay-nay. Don't forget Dani Alves of Barcelona, in my opinion a more dynamic entity than Maicon and a more productive on a better team. Alves and Maicon present Brazil coach Dunga with a quandary for the World Cup this summer. Can he get his two best playmakers on the field at the same time.

I think Alves has--or should have--the edge. The kid, he's two years younger than Maicon, does nothing but cause trouble for the opposition. Granted he's got better attacking options up front and THE BEST midfield in the world in front of him at Barca, but Alves still has to make the initial pass from the back. He has to make a good initial decision, and often times, it's he who is crossing the ball from the right side, or finding his way into the box to score.

If there's a knock against these guys, it's their defense. They clearly think attack first, which is fine if you're a ticket-buying fan, but not so much if you're invested as a teammate or coach. They do give it up on defense more than they should and it's because they're allowed to be so aggressive up front. Clearly it's a tradeoff that Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola are comfortable with.

Otherwise, maybe they can hook them up with a few DVDs of Ray Bourque's greatest hits--and maybe a pair of hockey skates.

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