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Cult heroes: Matt Le Tissier

"His talent was simply out of the norm. He could simply dribble past seven or eight players but without speed - he just walked past them. For me he was sensational." – Xavi Hernandez.

Matthew Le Tissier is a name that will forever divide opinion among football fans. For every person who claims that Le Tiss was the most gifted player of his generation, there are others who argue that he did not have the motivation to make the most of his unquestionable talent.

Some will argue that he was never given a real opportunity to prove his worth on the international stage, but equally many will question whether he was actually good enough to grace it in the same way he graced the pitch at The Dell for 16 years.

Whether you sit on the fence or on either side of it, it is impossible to argue with what “Le God” could do with a football and he is almost single-handedly responsible for some of the most magical pieces of football ever seen in the Premier League.

Le Tissier was born in Guernsey and played his youth football there, however he came to England upon leaving school. He originally trialled with Oxford United but the club chose not to give him a contract. A year later Le Tissier was invited to trial at Southampton FC, and the rest is history.

Attacking midfielder

His first six years with Southampton were spent in the First Division, where Le Tiss quickly established himself as a prolific attacking midfielder.

In the 1989-90 season, after scoring 20 goals in 35 games he was voted as the PFA Young Player of the Year.

After helping the club to promotion in 1993 he took the Premier League by storm. During his next three seasons he scored 60 league goals in 119 games and attracted attention from Chelsea.

Le Tissier’s loyalty to Southampton, and his indisputable quality were what earned him the nickname “Le God” from the club’s fans. There are few more in-demand players than goal scoring midfielders.

Le Tissier had every right to move, with trophies and an international career beckoning but he loved playing football and he loved the club he played for.

Controversially left out

Whether this loyalty cost him his international career is debatable, but it almost certainly played a part. Le Tissier only appeared for England eight times and was controversially left out of England squads for Euro 1996 and World Cup 1998 and England subsequently went out of both competitions on penalties.

Ironically the midfielder they had left behind was prolific from the penalty spot, as Le Tiss scored 47 out of 48 penalties in his career.

Even the penalty he missed was actually a fantastic save by then Nottingham Forest keeper Mark Crossley. Le Tissier has since said that not going to the 1998 World Cup was a point in his career that he never really recovered from, and he was not the same player afterwards.

If Le Tissier’s international career is debatable, it is nigh-on impossible to argue with his domestic career. Additionally he represents the best example of club loyalty, a quality that should not be underestimated in a footballer.

That loyalty has made him the eternal darling of Southampton FC, much like Dalglish and Liverpool, Zola and Chelsea or Shearer and Newcastle.

He played football for all the right reasons and even now, few can do the things that Le Tissier could do with a football. He is unquestionably a Premier League legend.

By Peter Dreyer


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