HARRY MAGUIRE is rapidly becoming the most wanted defender in English football.
"He’s a joy to watch said German World Cup winner Jurgen Klinsmann as the former Sheffield United defender and lifelong Blades fan set England on their way to a first World Cup final in 28 years.
Maguire opened the scoring with a powerful first-half trademark header in a comfortable 2-0 win against flat-footed Sweden in the Russian city of Samara. It sent the watching nation wild with delight and paved the way to only England’s second win in knockout football since 2006. The first, of course, against Colombia on penalties four days earlier.
“You can’t do better than that to score a goal in the World Cup. To help send us through that’s the main thing.” said the modest 25-year-old. His club Leicester City will do well to keep hold of the player before the transfer window shuts on August 9. The Foxes bought him from Hull City for £17million. Since then his value has escalated and his performances in Russia this summer have increased it further.
The nation – and leading club managers – are suddenly discovering what Blades fans have known for years. That Maguire is a class act. First glance of his 6ft 4ins frame and some have been misguided into thinking he fits the description of a stereo-typical English defender. But anyone who watched his career develop from the early stages knows that couldn’t be further from the truth.
A giant of a man yes, but fleet of foot. An intelligent, ball-playing centre-half who favours driving forward at every opportunity. Defending or attacking he is just as effective in both boxes and gives any team he plays for an extra threat in opposition danger areas.
Ex-England and Arsenal defender Martin Keown, sitting in the BBC commentary box alongside Guy Mowbray, was already a huge admirer of Maguire. During this performance he suggested that England “just can’t do without him” his influence is so great. Keown went on to compare his effect on the team as that of 1966 World Cup-winning England captain Bobby Moore. That was pushing it somewhat, but you get the drift.
“I couldn't be happier for a player. You see his route into the game but all the big clubs will be chasing him when this tournament is over,” said Keown who revealed that Arsene Wenger’s concern about Maguire’s mobility had put paid to a bid from Arsenal.
Somebody [Keown confirmed it was the former Arsenal manager] asked me to take a look at him and I thought he was a decent player,” he explained. “They thought he was a big player but was he going to be mobile enough? I think he’s gone on to prove all the qualities he needs to be a top player.”
Wenger was critical of another former Blade and Sheffield United fan, Kyle Walker, during this World Cup claiming he “was not a defender”. The remark prompted Ron Reid, United’s former Academy manager where Walker began his career, to say: “Arsene Wenger says he doesn’t think Kyle Walker is a defender. Well, I beg to differ. If Arsene Wenger knew what a defender was he’d still be in a job at Arsenal.”
Tottenham's Dele Alli headed home England’s second goal after the break to ensure their place in the last four against Croatia on Wednesday at Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium, where the final will also be played.