Growing up I picked bizarre footballing heroes.
For me the best players were the ones that made things look easy, with as little effort as possible, the ones who looked like they were playing 5-a-side with jumpers for goalposts when in fact they were surrounded by tens of thousands of impassioned supporters.
Matt Le Tissier, Andre Kanchelskis, Eric Cantona … Eidur Gudjohnsen.
The former Chelsea star was an absolute hero of mine growing up, and still to this day I check the results of every Club Brugge match just to see how ‘Eid’ got on.
I was fortunate enough to bump into a pair of Icelandic legends the other night in a random outing in Reading. Me and a friend spotted Brynjar Gunnarsson across the bar and then a giant, looming Herman Hreidarsson interrupted our conversation to ask if we were from Iceland.
They were very friendly, and we spoke for a good 20 minutes with the topic of the game against Croatia obviously coming up - and the topic of what would be Gudjohnsen’s last ever game for Iceland, should they not win the game.
For Gudjohnsen victory against Croatia would have given him the opportunity to finally grace a World Cup - and not join the list of world class talent such as George Best, Alfredo Di Stefano and Ryan Giggs who never have and never will.
Unfortunately last night appears to have been his final game for Iceland - after they were defeated 2-0 by Croatia - and after the game emotional tributes came in from all over.
Copenhagen midfielder Rurik Gislason perhaps said the most poignant statement on the national hero:
"This is a living legend in local football and an honour to play with him. I've learned an incredible amount from him. This man will be loved by the Icelandic nation as long as he lives.’’
Quite a statement, and Gudjohnsen himself faced the cameras after the game - where he was clearly misty eyed from the beginning.
In the end it was too much for him, and after a big gulp of air he managed to finish the interview, embrace the journalist and walk off.
It is a sad sight to see, that this legend who dreamed of signing off on the biggest stage has his hopes crushed so close to the finish line.
But after a club career that has taken in the likes of Chelsea, Barcelona, Monaco and Spurs; and an international career spanning 17 years and over 70 caps, he can look back on it all with pride.
Even if the World Cup dream was never meant to be.
image: © Live4Soccer(L4S)