Wrong Place, Wrong Time

I played against a guy named Ron when I was younger. Ron was the classic goal poacher. His was the lone goal in a championship final which my team lost as I watched from the bench with an ankle injury. I got sweet revenge the following year though as we returned the favor with a deserved 2-1 victory to dethrone the title holders. Ron and I eventually became good friends.

During his playing days, he dedicated himself to scoring goals when he was on the pitch but did very little to further that uncanny ability to do so with such ease and remarkable regularity when he was off it. To this day, I still ask myself what prevents people like Ron from doing more with their football abilities.

There have been many, many Rons throughout the world. Over the course of my lifetime alone there have probably been more than I can imagine. I suppose it’s like anything else – right place, right time and your life takes an entirely different turn. Ron could have been a fantastic player if he’d been from another time and place.

There have been exceptions however, when a player is spotted and ultimately reaches heights he’d otherwise not have done. There have been success stories that Ron could have starred in but for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. There have been super successful players who, like Ron, didn’t possess the best technique but were practically peerless in front of goal.

Mario Jardel was one such player.

Were it not for Kevin Phillips – yes, THAT Kevin Phillips – Jardel would have been a three-time European Golden Boot winner. In three seasons, he led Europe’s top goal scorers list (1998-99, 1999-00, 2001-02). Despite being the continent’s top scorer on three separate occasions Jardel won the prize only twice. Phillips (then of Sunderland) won the coveted prize in 1999-00 because of the coefficients applied by the governing bodies. That simply means if Jardel scored 38 goals for Porto while Kevin Phillips scored 30 in the EPL, Phillips’s feat is deemed more impressive because of the “standard” of play.

Jardel’s prolific periods in the middle late ’90s were as impressive as his disappearance from prominence was sudden and irreversible. While he seemed to always be where he needed to be when he needed to be there, on the pitch – a very underrated quality in football – Jardel never convinced the right people that he was much more than a free scoring player in the lesser leagues. He never played for Milan or Real Madrid or Bayern Munich. He’s only ever been picked for the Selecao seven times with just one goal. That’s hardly being taken seriously by either the big clubs in Europe or by any of the Brazilian national team’s managers.

Jardel’s decline even included a spell on the books at Bolton in 2003-04 as Walrus Face attempted to get a top scorer on the cheap. Ha! Not happenin’ you big lard chewing bastid. Jardel appeared seven times for the shit kickers without a goal.

It was quite ironic to see a once prolific goal scorer – one who’s timing had been so precise – at such a shambolic point of his career, playing in the wrong place at the wrong time and certainly for the wrong club.

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