When that doyen of the coaching world, the endlessly epigrammatic Vince Lombardi, insisted that "perfection is not attainable but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence," he was echoing the assertion of an obscure High Renaissance painter, sculptor and inventor who shared his name with a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle. Michelangelo, for it was he, modestly demurred in the face of persistent declarations of the genius of his work, insisting bashfully that his creations lacked a certain celestial je ne sais quoi. "The true work of art," he insisted, "is but a shadow of the divine perfection."
Frankly, the benighted pair's lack of ambition is troubling. All Liverpool fans seem to know better than these two supposed visionaries, for they have proclaimed Emre Can's seraphic sublimity across all the media known to man. To be fair to Vinnie and Mick, the effusive nature of the aforementioned fan adulation has, perhaps, been a tad immoderate. The young German's mixture of physical pulchritude and on-pitch poise have had a powerfully beguiling effect on men and women alike. Never, in the four decades this writer has been a Redman, has one player had such an immediate comprehensively hypnotic presence. It's a truly unique phenomenon.
A seductive mixture of tonsorial magnificence, brooding intensity and atypical composure on the field of play, Can is universally admired in a way that few who donned the Liverbird have ever been. Even those of us who have found the relentless references to his corporal allure a touch tiresome, have been helplessly seduced by the maturity, deft skill and raw power of his performances in the shirt so recently associated with the legendary Jamie Carragher. Only 21 since January 12, this most striking of footballers has made his starting berth secure since stepping into Brendan Rodgers' hastily convened back three council.
Whereas Mamadou Sakho, a fellow recruit in the restructured defence, is a purer defender, Can has that rarest of abilities -- the capacity to basically run a game from wherever he is positioned on the park. By times, as I watch him maraud forwards, track back, dominate opponents physically and pass unerringly, your scribbler is reminded of the days when one would create the perfect player on FIFA and then proceed to score hat tricks against Real Madrid from right back with said pixelated superstar. He is, by times, that impressive, a fact not lost on his manager. The Antrim man, never one for reticence when expansiveness will do, has the very highest of praise for his wunderkind.
"If you give Emre another couple of years, he could play in any team in world football," Rodgers averred, simultaneously praising Can and terrifying a fan base already skittish at the prospect of losing Raheem Sterling. "That's how highly I rate him. Playing at the back he is strong, aggressive and fast. He moves the ball well and can move into midfield, and whether central or out wide you can see his intelligence. Emre can break through lines with his power and pace and has great composure. You can see from the response of the crowd that they love him. He does the dirty work as well. He doesn't just play and look nice, he presses the ball and is aggressive. I feel he will develop into a world-class player."
What of the man who is the focus of all this unbridled adulation? His demeanour on the pitch suggests a confidence and self-possession that is unusual in one so young. Already, despite the frankly magnificent displays and record of Jordan Henderson as Liverpool captain, there are many advocates of the German international for the role of team leader. His inspirational example is one reason for this clamour but it has been his notably alpha interactions with teammates that have particularly drawn the eye.
Over recent matches, at moments of high tension, we've witnessed the statuesque Can soothing, cajoling, gently rebuking and heartily congratulating his comrades when the occasion has required it. Simply put, he seems to be one of those men one would follow into the gates of hell -- another string to his absurdly impressive bow. Recently, in a conversation with German publication, Sport Bild, the impressive youngster held forth on the topics of his preferred position and the inevitable comparisons with Steven Gerrard.
"I wouldn't really call myself a right-back. It is demanded that I have an attacking approach, and also get involved in the build-up play," clarified the Anfield Adonis. "Indeed, the position was a surprise to me at first. I had never played it before, and feel more at home in midfield. But during my youth I also played at centre-back. Maybe that's why adjusting wasn't that difficult.
"The coach knows that I prefer the role in midfield and that I see myself there in the future. But as great as the comparisons to Steven Gerrard sound, I can never be like him. He has been playing for Liverpool since his childhood and already is a living legend. I am Emre Can and will go my own way. To achieve a career like Gerrard has done would be a dream, but it's far from easy."
Now normally, dear reader, the paragraphs of this column are home to the kind of righteous indignation that one feels when football people behave in a cringeworthy fashion. Your scribbler has oft-lampooned the embarrassing self-obsession and egotism of the Cristiano Ronaldos and the Tim Sherwoods of the football universe and yet, when Liverpool's number 23 speaks of himself in the third person, there is no such outrage in my tattered husk of a soul. This can only be the dark seduction of Emre Can, a player of such promise and character that he has drawn only starry-eyed swooning admiration. Long may his magnetic appeal reign.