There are few things in life which are quite so satisfying as when you see a self-aggrandising, arrogant, talentless prick get their comeuppance.
It is the beauty of reality TV after all, the only thing that makes it worth watching. It’s that moment in the X Factor auditions when someone who’s spent a lifetime hearing how great they are shits the bed in front of the only people who can objectively make that call.
Some cry. Others explode in apoplexy. All cling, briefly, to their delusion. It’s hard to let that go. There are few vicarious pleasures like it. It is never less than joyous to watch.
Football is the ultimate reality show, and that seedy feeling of savage delight is why it’s so satisfying to watch YouTube clips of Filip Sebo, or the Van Vossen miss, over and over again. There are people whose egotism is so ghastly that you cannot wait to see their bubble burst. There are people whose conduct makes it inevitable that such a denouement will come, and hit them like a freight train, exposing every weakness, showing them up for the world.
I had one of those moments last night, watching John Guidetti’s abject performance against Manchester United in the semi-final second leg of the Europa League. It was the perfect rejoinder to his career of self-serving behaviour. His performance was dire. His dive to the ground in the incident for which two players were sent off was cringe-inducing. His miss with the last kick of the ball, in front of an open goal, in a moment that would have put his team in the final, was simultaneously awesome and awful. I was delighted.
Here’s the thing; John Guidetti is talented.
That’s half the problem.
He’s one of those guys who realised early that he was good, and has never gotten over the taste of himself. He was signed by Manchester City at sixteen, and was scoring goals in Holland’s top flight a year later. His skill was never in doubt. It’s his attitude we were ever concerned about. As good as he was, he was never the godlike power he thought.
If his skills were on the level of his ego, he’d have Messi’s records in his sights, but then he’d have been even more unbearable as a human being, a Kim Jong-un in a football shirt that somehow would never have been big enough for his sense of self-importance.
Is this about his time at Celtic? Sort of. He scored some goals at the start, some of them even important ones, like the one against Inter. Then he stopped and from therein turned in sulky, stroppy performances which suggested the whole thing was something of a bore to him. I believed, then and now, that he’s one of those players who’s got no heart. He doesn’t love the game. He doesn’t wake up every morning dreaming of being on the pitch and when he is out there he often looks disinterested, and lazy.
That was a huge game he played in last night, the sort which top players are right up for. You need laser focus in those matches. He played like someone who was going through the motions. He missed several big chances of which that final minute screw-up was the worst. For the rest of the time he misplaced passes, ran into opposition players and generally meandered around like someone who’s stumbled onto the pitch by mistake.
It’s easy to forget that he actually won things with us; he left Celtic a double winner. He scored fifteen goals in all that season, but ruined any good feelings the fans might have had about him when he walked up the tunnel at the end of the League Cup final instead of celebrating with the rest of the players on the pitch, some of whom had to go and find him. That caught the eye, and from that point on a lot of us were annoyed with him.
He thought he was better than Celtic, and better than Scottish football. His cheap parting shot at us, and of how his national coach wouldn’t select him because “goals in Scotland don’t count as much as goals elsewhere” was ridiculous. Playing in Scotland was no barrier to Lustig, Larsson or Mjallby playing in the Swedish national team; but they were more determined, worked harder, and produced more than Guidetti could be bothered to.
He scored four times for Celtic in his last 20 odd games. What does that tell you? At Celta he has a goals to game average of around one in five, which is in line with that. He has scored once in twelve international appearances. Opportunities have come his way over the course of his career, and he has squandered each and every one of them.
Guidetti has enough about him that he’s managed a career, and he will continue to have a lucrative one. He’s not an Islam Feruz type, who’s attitude has ruined any chance he had. But he’s still a young guy, and you have to wonder where he’ll be playing in five years.
I would guess it will not be for a top team.
Last night was satisfying, but it can do him good. He’s a guy who needed brought down a peg or two, and perhaps the game will act as a short-sharp-shock and bring him back down to earth. He knows he made a mess of it; if he doesn’t find a way to blame that on someone else it might be just the spur he needs to get his career back to the place he wants it.
Or maybe not.
It’s very much in his own hands, but for 90 minutes last night I took great delight in watching it slip through his sweaty fingers. He told the press recently that he “didn’t fancy Ross County away.” Well, watching him last night you couldn’t have helped but notice that he’s simply not at the right level for Manchester United away.
“I live for ‘We did the impossible”, he said at the end of that interview.
Last night he missed an open goal.
Perhaps he’d have found the impossible easier.