With one insane recovery run, Kyle Walker put Gary Neville back in his box
Kyle Walker was nothing short of colossal as Manchester City put in a mesmerising display to demolish Real Madrid 4-0 in the Champions League semi-final second leg.
Nothing in life is ever truly perfect, and the best of the best aren’t known for settling, but we’re pretty confident in saying that City’s performance against Real was about as flawless as you can get against a team of that stature.
Good luck getting those exact words out of Pep Guardiola especially with the competition still not yet won, but we can still think it. And know it.
His side blew away the team who have held the trophy hostage over the last decade, with a spellbinding performance from minute one to minute 90. It all started with a strong result at the Santiago Bernabeu, but they had it all to do in their home leg. And do it they did.
Sure, we can focus on their relentless attacking display, blowing away a shell-shocked Madrid with four goals across the 90 minutes. But that would be unfair on a moment that really set the tone for the evening, when the deficit was only one goal.
Enter Walker. The man from the steel city had it all to do across two legs, being tasked with shutting out one of the most promising attackers in world football in Vinicius Junior. The Brazilian has more skill, flair and talent in his pinky finger than any of us do in our two feet and brain combined.
That makes it all the more impressive, then, when his night in the Champions League semi-final is limited to zero take-ons completed, zero shots on target and zero chances created. Zero. Blanks across the board.
How does one of the best attackers in world football fire such a blank? Thanks to a 32-year-old from Sheffield, of course.
Walker put in a truly monstrous shift against the Brazilian, one that perhaps cements his legacy as the greatest English right-back if it wasn’t already confirmed. Nothing quite encapsulated that performance more than his recovery run and tackle with the score at just 1-0 in the first half, though.
After initially maintaining a narrow position, Vinicius tries to put on the afterburners and latch onto a through ball from a wider position, stealing a march on Walker. But no, he was having none of that.
Kyle Walker needs some respect on his name. Can you see Gary Neville bossing a player like Vinicius j.
They said 50 million was a joke. Best in the business
— LB✌🏽 (@LondonBlue_2) May 17, 2023
Where do we even start? For many defenders, seeing Vinicius dart beyond you like that in a Champions League semi-final is enough to save your legs of the extra yards and let him through, in the hope that he fluffs his lines.
Not Walker, though. No chance. He locked him down like the pair were competing in the immensely popular, mid-2000s TNA pay-per-view.
The pace is frightening, but to then get a foot to the ball without fouling the young gun, and proceed to recycle possession back into City’s favour like nothing happened? Come on Kyle, please. Disgusting.
“Kyle Walker is a beast,” Admitted Thierry Henry post-match: “Whenever you have to run with him you might as well stop.”
Imagine being so good that you’ve got Henry doubting whether or not he could ever take the ball past you. That is absurd.
Taking nothing away from Gary Neville, we might actually be in the end game now. Walker is still unlocking new levels at 32. Levels that really shouldn’t be reachable as a professional footballer tips over into their thirties. Neville retired on the toilet at 36, having played much longer than he wanted to. But Walker just keeps getting better.
The Manchester United legend himself admitted recently that Walker gets in over him in an all-time Premier League XI, which says it all. The changing of the guard has already occurred; watching Walker dominate Vinicius like that is merely the icing on the cake of it all.
Champions League winner or not come the end of the season, there is no doubting that our favourite Triple H water spitting, Yorkshire tea-slurping son of a gun is the greatest English right-back to do it. Unless Matteo Darmian can pull something off on the opposite flank for Inter against Jack Grealish, of course.