Paul Scholes, in my opinion the most gifted footballer of the Premier League era, has retired.
Physically, he wasn’t particularly blessed as an athlete – just 5 ft 7 in and asthmatic – but the sheer amount of talent he had as a footballer allowed him to inspire awe among the towering midfield generals he played against, from Patrick Vieira to Frank Lampard.
But though that talent has drawn almost universal praise from the world’s greatest players, and helped him to be hero-worshipped by Manchester United fans the world over, Scholes has remained remarkably humble.
Throughout his career, Scholes has shunned the limelight, building a reputation instead of being a family man whose idea of a perfect day is: “Train in the morning, pick up my children from school, play with them, have tea, put them to bed and then watch a bit of TV.”
Even in his retirement, Scholes stayed true to form. He could have made the big announcement during the team’s Premier League celebrations at Old Trafford, ahead of the Champions League final or during the open top bus parade through Manchester, where he could have received the adoring adulation of the fans and media.
Instead, he released a short, simple message on the club’s website:
I am not a man of many words but I can honestly say that playing football is all I have ever wanted to do and to have had such a long and successful career at Manchester United has been a real honour.
This was not a decision that I have taken lightly but I feel now is the right time for me to stop playing. To have been part of the team that helped the club reach that 19th title is a great privilege.”
As Alex Ferguson said in response to Scholes’ retirement, there’s nothing you can say about Scholes that hasn’t already been said.
But as a tribute to the little genius, here are some of the things that were said about him throughout his glittering career:
A role model. For me, and I really mean this, he’s the best central midfielder I’ve seen in the last 15, 20 years. He’s spectacular, he has it all, the last pass, goals, he’s strong, he doesn’t lose the ball, vision. If he’d been Spanish he might have been rated more highly. Players love him.” – Xavi
My toughest opponent? Scholes of Manchester. He is the complete midfielder. Scholes is undoubtedly the greatest midfielder of his generation.” – Zinedine Zidane
There is no doubt for me that Paul Scholes is still in a class of his own. He’s almost untouchable in what he does. I never tire of watching him play. You rarely come across the complete footballer, but Scholes is as close to it as you can get. One of my regrets is that the opportunity to play alongside him never presented itself during my career. He was an extremely tough opponent to play against. You didn’t get any time on the ball when he was around. He would close you down and make your life terribly uncomfortable. He is the type of player you want on your side, not in opposition because he could do so much damage. He is very gifted. He makes the game look easy because he’s so much natural ability.” – Zinedine Zidane
Paul Scholes would have been one of my first choices for putting together a great team – that goes to show how highly I have always rated him. Scholes is a player I have always liked, because he combines great talent and technical ability with mobility, determination and a superb shot. He is an all-round midfielder who possesses character and quality in abundance. In my opinion, he’s been one of the most important players for United under Sir Alex.” – Marcello Lippi
Without any doubt the best player in the Premiership has to be Scholes. He knows how to do everything, and he is one who directs the way his team plays. On top of that, he has indestructible mental strength and he is a genuine competitor.” – Thierry Henry
Why isn’t he playing for England? It is crazy. Only in England. Scholes is a great, great player. So experienced and still, for me, one of the best in the world in midfield. Manchester United are lucky to have him.” – Jose Mourinho
Fans in Spain rate him very highly and I admire him a huge amount.” – Xabi Alonso
England have lost their best player.” – George Best, after Scholes’ retirement from international football.
Paul Scholes.” – Juan Sebastian Veron, when asked who the best English player was.
Scholes is the best English player. Intelligence, technique, strength… all the attributes are there. At Manchester United I saw what he could do on the training field. Phew!” – Laurent Blanc
Paul Scholes has been the best England midfield player for 30-odd years. You’d probably have to go back to Bobby Charlton to find someone who could do as much as Scholes. When the ball arrives at his feet he could tell you where every player on that pitch is at that moment. His awareness is superb.” – Gordon Strachan
I have no hesitation in putting a name to the embodiment of all that I think is best about football. It’s Paul Scholes. Many great players have worn the shirt of Manchester United. Players I worshipped, then lost with my youth in Munich. Players like Denis Law and George Best who I enjoyed so much as team-mates and now, finally, players I have watched closely in the Alex Ferguson era. And in so many ways Scholes is my favourite. I love his nous and conviction that he will find a way to win, to make the killer pass or produce the decisive volley. When a game reaches a vital phase, these qualities seem to come out of his every pore. He’s always on the ball, always turning on goal. He’s always looking to bring other people into the action and if he loses possession you think he must be ill.” – Sir Bobby Charlton
He’s always one of those people others talk about. Even playing at Real Madrid, the players always say to me ‘what’s he like?’ They respect him as a footballer, and to have that respect from some of those players is great.” – David Beckham, whose teammates at the time included Zidane, Luis Figo, Ronaldo and Roberto Carlos.
Paul Scholes had the best football brain I’d ever seen in a kid. Let’s face it. Paul Scholes is in a class of its own.” – Brian Kidd
Paul, for me, is the best player in the England team. It worries (other) teams. Speak to any other international team and they will single Paul out as England’s key player. For me, he doesn’t get the full credit that he deserves. He is a world-class player and deserves to be up there with the likes of Zidane and Figo.” – Phil Neville
I wouldn’t swap Paul Scholes for anybody. He is quite simply the most complete footballer I have ever played with. He is the best.” – Gary Neville
An amazingly gifted player who remained an unaffected human being.” – Roy Keane
To be honest I think England have lost their best player. Certainly he’s the most consistent and naturally gifted player we’ve had for a long, long time.” – George Best
Every one of us (midfielders) is just trying to become as good as him. Everyone can learn from Paul Scholes.” – Edgar Davids
I’m not the best, Paul Scholes is.” – Edgar Davids
If you ask footballers to pick out the player they most admire, so many of them will pick Paul Scholes. He can tackle, and his passing and shooting is of the highest level. He’s the most consistent and naturally gifted player we’ve had for a long, long time.” – Alan Shearer
There isn’t a player of his mould anywhere else in the world.” – Glenn Hoddle
There is not a better midfield player in the world.” – Sam Allardyce
He is the one whose level I aspire to. He is the best player in the Premier League.” – Cesc Fabregas
I really rate Paul Scholes, because he hasn’t got the high profile of many of the Manchester United players, he doesn’t get too much attention, but he is one very good player. He is an intelligent player, he works hard and he scores some great goals. He is not flamboyant and is a quiet lad off the pitch but he is a tremendous asset to Manchester United and to England. He has already got my vote as player of the year.” – Tony Adams
The player in the Premiership I admire most? Easy – Scholes.” – Patrick Vieira
I can’t understand why Scholes has never won the player of the year award. He should have won it long ago. Maybe it’s because he doesn’t seek the limelight like some of the other ’stars’.” – Thierry Henry
The most amazing thing is Paul Scholes, in the morning, when a player goes to have a pee at the side of the training pitch and he fires balls from 40 yards right on top of their head! He got John O’Shea about two weeks ago, right on the shoulder. He got Gary Neville right in the head and Neville chased him across the pitch!” – Alex Ferguson