Jason McAteer, in an interview with 888sport, inexplicably laid (at least partial) blame for Liverpool’s recent form on Jordan Henderson being “too nice.”
“I always feel like Liverpool are a nice bunch of boys. A nice team with players you could take home to your mum. You look at Chelsea and there is a bit of horribleness about them. Costa and Luiz and even Cahill to an extent. It’s a battle for them. It becomes horrible.” McAteer said, before giving up on logic and proclaiming, “since Jamie Carragher and Steven Gerrard retired, there have been big shoes that haven’t been filled but you can’t make a leader, they’re born.”
“So I’d like Liverpool to go into the market and bring in someone with those leadership qualities.”
Sadly, McAteer isn’t alone in his beliefs. Antonio Conte, who presumably spends more time with Costa than McAteer (or any of us, for that matter), also believes that Costa’s attitude is an asset to the team.
“[Costa] is a real warrior and it's good for the team,” Conte said in December last year, “it's important to have many warriors [on the pitch] during the game because every game is a battle -- a sporting battle.”
This approach to sports as battle, players as warriors, and an institutional tolerance of violence off the pitch when it’s accompanied by good performances on the pitch, is obviously incredibly damaging. Leadership cannot be equated with violence. Leadership cannot be equated with screaming at the refs when they card you for an obvious foul. (There’s a political metaphor here that’s dying to be made, but I’m not going to make it.)
Even putting aside the incredibly damaging narrative, it’s ridiculous to compare Costa’s attitude on the pitch to Gerrard’s when he was captain. Gerrard led Liverpool by example, which is exactly what made people consider him a good leader. Costa, on the other hand, yells at refs a lot in the middle of scoring goals and fouling the opposing team.
All that being said, McAteer also called Henderson a terrific captain during the interview, so it’s entirely possible I’m getting worked up over comments made by someone who hasn’t realised that captaining terrifically and being an effective leader are pretty similar.