Sol Campbell, an EPL colossus

Sol Campbell...there was a time when he was among the most sought-after talents in the world.-AP

Beneath the athleticism and talent, there was — and still is — a fragile sensitivity that is in stark contrast to the defender’s commanding presence on the pitch, writes Michael Klimes.

In a game where scoring goals and covering yards tends to make the headlines, Sol Campbell has still managed to emerge as one of the best players in the Barclays English Premier League over the last decade.

The London-born defender turns 35 in September and although his best years are surely behind him, there was a time when he was among the most sought-after talents in the world.

In 2001, after being extremely successful and establishing himself as a firm fans’ favourite at Tottenham, Campbell shocked the club’s fans by deciding to move to arch-rivals Arsenal. It was a transfer that brought him a degree of notoriety, and, in certain quarters, outright hostility.

Campbell — who graduated from the FA School of Excellence — made his senior career debut for Spurs in December 1992 against Chelsea and made an instant impact following his introduction as a substitute, scoring during the 2-1 defeat. He went on to win the League Cup in 1999 and make over 300 appearances for Spurs, many as club captain, a factor that made his departure from White Hart Lane to Arsenal even harder to take for the Tottenham faithful.

The defender forged his reputation at Spurs where he was a permanent rock at the back and a larger than life character standing at 1.88 metres tall. He is, in many ways, the antithesis of somebody like Cristiano Ronaldo, both in personality and style of play.

Ronaldo’s style of fast and fancy football: delivered from a lithe and compact frame, and the ease with which he controls the media like he controls the balls he gracefully dribbles, could not be further from Campbell’s reserved manner.

However, beneath the athleticism and talent, there was — and still is — a fragile sensitivity that is in stark contrast to his commanding presence on the pitch. This revealed itself after he arrived at Arsenal and he found the antagonism harder to bare. Nevertheless, he formed a strong partnership with Tony Adams in the 2001/02 season to help the Gunners win the EPL and the FA Cup. During the 2003/04 campaign, Arsenal conceded just 26 league goals as Arsene Wenger’s men regained the title and also won the FA Cup in 2003 and 2005.

Campbell, though, was then hampered by a loss of form and a string of injuries and left Arsenal in July 2006. However, he had one moment of concluding glory that reminded everyone of his quality when he scored a goal from a Thierry Henry cross in the 2006 UEFA Champions League Final, which the Gunners eventually lost 2-1 to Barcelona.

He made 197 appearances for the club in total before going in search of a “fresh challenge”, which saw him join Portsmouth. Again Campbell’s leadership skills came to the fore as he was installed as Pompey skipper and he led them to glory in the 2008 FA Cup.

Campbell is currently a free agent after his contract at Fratton Park expired earlier this summer and he has been linked with Blackburn, Aston Villa, Newcastle and St. Etienne.

Ever since Campbell joined Arsenal in 2001, he has been subjected to a torrent of abuse whenever he has faced Spurs fans still smarting from his decision to join the club’s bitterest of rivals. Latest reports suggest that he is to be engaged to interior designer Fiona Barratt. As befitting a man of Campbell’s physical stature, a Range Rover Sport 4.4 V8 HSE and a BMW X5 4.81SE are among his rides.

Factfile Name: Sol Campbell Position: Defender Club: Unattached D.O.B.: 18/09/1974 England caps: 73 England goals: 1 England debut: May 1996 v Hungary Moment to remember

Campbell became England’s second-youngest captain behind Bobby Moore when he was handed the armband during a goalless draw against Belgium in 1998. The record, however, proved short-lived as Michael Owen pinched that particular mantle four years later. Nevertheless, Campbell is still the only English player to have competed at six consecutive major international tournaments, a run that included the 1998, 2002, 2006 World Cups and the 1996, 2000 and 2004 European Championships.

Moment to forget

Campbell was hauled off at half-time during Arsenal’s 3-2 home defeat against West Ham in February 2006 after seemingly being at fault for two goals. He then left Highbury without watching the remainder of the game.

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