John Terry and Rio Ferdinand, each in his own way, is slowly losing his place, his spot, after nearly a decade of easily being considered the best two centre backs in the Premier League and of the World’s best. Age creeps up and takes you by surprise. Coming back from each injury becomes harder and harder.
Without ever realizing it, Rio Ferdinand isn’t Alex Ferguson’s first choice, or even second choice to be in the centre of defense. There’s no doubt Nemanja Vidic is the better player, maybe the best in the world at his position. But now Chris Smalling is preferred as well.
Maybe it was just a challenge thrown by Ferguson, trying to push Rio Ferdinand a little more, a little bit longer. Physically, he’s not where he was two-three years ago. The on-pitch wits are still there, the reaction time isn’t. Same goes for Terry, who always relied on brute force, physical dominance and leadership skills to command and spread his authority.
Slips like the one against Arsenal happen, but he’s gotten beaten more and more since Ricardo Carvalho left to Real Madrid. Partnering up hasn’t been easy since then. Andre Villas-Boas seems intent on breaking the Lampard-Terry hierarchy at the club. Orders from above, or just a need for a very young manager to show who’s boss?
Youth is always welcomed, while age is shunned, especially when great ability is beaten by mistakes, occurring more and more often. It’s a race you can’t win, never. But perhaps speaking of their demise is coming too soon. Not yet time to pull the curtain down and ask them to get off the stage. They’ve got something left.