Kurt Zouma’s tackle was so good FIFA might need to give him the Ballon d’Or
When it comes to wise words on defending, Paolo Maldini is a pretty good place to start: “If I have to make a tackle then I have already made a mistake.”
It speaks volumes about the brilliance of Maldini that he could only compute football in terms of playing a perfect game. Even such a fundamental skill as tackling is a blemish, an admission of error.
But a perfect game of football with no mistakes ends 0-0. A perfect game of football is shit.
Sometimes mistakes do happen. Sometimes you’re hanging on to a shaky 3-2 lead away from home and have just seen the opposition hit the post in the 95th minute.
Sometimes you immediately give the ball back to the opposition’s best player with your defence out of shape. Sometimes he picks out a striker tragically out of form but suddenly buoyed by the confidence of a rare goal.
Sometimes you’re Kurt Zouma. Sometimes you get it wrong. Sometimes you get it so, so right.
The reaction of Zouma and his Chelsea team-mates to his late heroics in thwarting Christian Benteke was telling, their faces etched in equal parts frustration at their own vulnerabilities and astonishment at a defensive dose of divine intervention.
Players and fans alike will tell you that such feats of ferocious, desperate defending are equally enjoyable as any of the goals scored in Chelsea’s 3-2 victory over Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park.
But while Twitter and YouTube will no doubt keep reminding us of Wilfried Zaha almost breaking the net in vain with his first-half thunderbastard, Zouma’s masterpiece will be gradually eroded in memory as time passes by.
In 2009, FIFA introduced the Puskas Award to celebrate the most beautiful goals scored in the calendar year. If Gianni Infantino just so happens to be reading – apparently he’s a big fan of our quizzes – we’d like to propose a similar award to ensure tackles as heavenly as Zouma’s are also lauded.
Perhaps it should be called the Maldini Award, in honour of the defender who preserved the sanctity of the art by only ever tackling when it was truly, unavoidably necessary.
Still not sold on the idea? Fuck it, let’s just give Zouma the Ballon d’Or instead then.