Former Chelsea and Porto star Deco believes Manchester United great Paul Scholes’ rare style of football makes him the best English midfielder he has played either with or against, ahead of Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard.
The debate as to which of the three former England internationals was the greatest is a popular one.
Gerrard was the leader at Liverpool for 12 years but for all his ability never won the Premier League. His leadership in big games and talismanic presence, however, is what separates him, attributes most notably exemplified in 2005’s Champions League final.
Meanwhile, Lampard was uniquely capable, for a midfielder, of finding the net at Chelsea, eventually setting the club’s all-time goalscoring record with a total of 211 strikes.
Scholes, however, possessed passing ability second to none and a continental style that drew admiration from the likes of Xavi, who named him as the best central midfielder he had seen in the last 20 years, as reported by the Guardian.
Deco played alongside Lampard at Stamford Bridge for three years after his Barcelona days ended and also shared the field with Gerrard during a Champions League game in 2007, which Liverpool won 2-1 at the Nou Camp.
They have also faced up in international tournaments where, in 2004’s Euros and World Cup 2006, England lost on penalties to Deco’s Portugal.
“I played with and against so many fantastic players in midfield like Gerrard,” Deco told Squawka. “I had the opportunity to play with Lampard together at Chelsea. I think, because he was a different type of player to all other types of English midfielder, Paul Scholes was the best player that I saw playing for an English midfield and one of the best players in the world.”
Deco also believes that the emergence of players who can distribute the ball well, like Xavi, is why possession football has dominated in recent years.
“I think at the moment there are some great players like that,” Deco said. “At Madrid, Modric. Iniesta is still playing. Xavi. In my generation, Paul Scholes was a player like that. There are not so many players with this style because I think most of the players are box-to-box, not about controlling the game, keeping the balance of the team.”
The ex-Chelsea star added that England’s current generation could be missing someone like Scholes.
“Maybe it’s the generation, but I think this kind of player always exists. England has a lot of fantastic players. What I say is that in midfield, with his style Scholes could play at any club.”
In terms of how goalscoring records stack up, Lampard scored 177 Premier League goals while Gerrard hit 120 in 504 appearances.
Scholes, meanwhile, scored 107 in 499 league games for United.
All three players have gone down in Premier League history as great talents, but the debate over who was the best will rage on for years to come.
Squawka were talking to Deco at Heineken’s #ChampionTheMatch event in Greece.