LONDON – Jamaican sprint king Usain Bolt believes he is good enough to play for English football giants Manchester United, but two former players from the English Premier League are not convinced.
Bolt may be the fastest man on the planet, but that is not enough for Andy Townsend and Gareth Southgate, who say it takes more than speed to make the cut.
Townsend and Southgate, who are now football pundits for British broadcasters, were speaking at a conference in London yesterday to promote the upcoming Premier League season.
After the talk, ABS-CBN Europe asked Townsend what he thought of Bolt’s desire to land a trial at United.
“I think he’s quick enough to get a game, put it that way,” said Townsend, a former Republic of Ireland international who played for clubs like Chelsea and West Bromwich Albion.
“Speed and athleticism is a fundamental part of any sport nowadays, and certainly football is no different, but you need a little bit more than that,” he added.
“I’ve seen a lot of quick players over the years who have unfortunately not made the grade.”
Townsend added it would be “fantastic” and “amazing if Bolt was also as good at football” as he is at sprinting. However, he said he would have to see the 25-year-old in action first before giving his assessment.
“When he is running and he’s heading for the tape, no one can get near him,” Townsend said. “But if he’s got a ball at his feet, I’d like to see how good he is.”
Ex-England defender Gareth Southgate, who used to play for clubs Aston Villa and Middlesbrough, kept things in perspective.
“It would be great if it could happen, but we have to understand that to be at the highest level in any sport, you have to dedicate a lot of years and training,” Southgate said.
“There’s a big difference with being quick in a straight line and being skillful enough, and tactically aware, and physically strong enough to cope with a different sport, different set of training, a different regime,” he added.
“I think you have to maybe start at a level slightly below Manchester United if you want to do that,” Southgate advised.
Bolt, who is still competing in the London Games, is a life-long fan of the Red Devils and recently reiterated his desire for a trial at the club.
He told newspaper The Sun: “People think I am joking. But if (Manchester United manager) Alex Ferguson called me up and said, ‘Okay, let’s do this, come and have a trial,’ it would be impossible for me to say no.”
“I would not take up this challenge if I didn’t think i was good enough. I am a very accomplished player and know I can make a difference,” Bolt said.
A highlight tape created by Bolt was recently uploaded to YouTube, which shows the champion sprinter playing football with some friends before the Olympics.
In the video, Bolt tells the cameraman to make sure the footage reaches Ferguson.
It appears that Bolt has found an ally in Man United defender Rio Ferdinand, who recently tweeted Bolt: “If you want that triat at Man Utd shout at me, I’ll speak to the boss!! Well done in 100m.”
Bolt, who broke his own Olympic record with a time of 9.63-seconds in the 100-meters last Sunday, replied: “After the Olympics we work on that... lol... thanks man.”
Bolt still has the 200-meters final to think about, which is taking place later this Thursday (early morning Friday in Manila). If he manages to defend his crown, he says it will seal his status as an Olympic legend.