How many Manchester City players of recent years would be included in the gilded team of Pep Guardiola? Some would choose Bell, Summerbee or Lee.
It is probably not necessary to present a case for Georgi Kinkladze. The video material will do that.
It's been more than two decades since the little Georgian painted his unique pictures across the lawn in old Maine Road. Such exact control, skill and imagination is now the norm in City. It was not then
The city legend Georgi Kinkladze returned to Manchester this week before the derby on Sunday
"I am blessed to come to England and play football," Kinkladze told Sportsmail this week. So I would not change anything. But sometimes I see how City plays and I think it would have suited me.
"It's like a team on a PlayStation, right?" Silva to Sterling to De Bruyne. Boom boom boom.
"If I had the ball now, I could pass it on to Aguero, without even having to look." I know it. But every skillful player believes he could play in this Guardiola team. It is not that easy.
"They would have to play 100 percent in every game, even Messi – if he did not play well – would be sitting on the bench.
& # 39; Except me? Yes, I think I would do OK now, even if I did not change my career.
"The most important thing when playing is the clapping of the fans. And when you retire, the most important thing to remember is this sound. I remember as if it had been yesterday. "
In Caught's The Landslide, Tim Rich's New Book about City in the 1990s, Noel Gallagher remembers the first day of the 1995-96 season. Kinkladze debuted against Spurs and the Oasis guitarist sat next to Terry Venables in the box of directors.
A young kinkladze in action for City against Sheffield Wednesday on Maine Road in 1996
"I thought," Jesus, that's either the scariest thing I've ever seen, or the best I've ever seen, "Gallagher said of Kinkladze.
Nineteen years later, Gallagher's brother Liam celebrated the title of the City Premier League 2014 in the Hilton Hotel Deansgate's bar when Kinkladze left the elevator.
"First he laughed at my shoes," Kinkladze smiled. "Then he kissed me and started singing the Wonderwall song, but with the different words. That was great, because it's really his song, but also my song and the song from City. "
To this day, the supporters of the city still sing the Oasis classic, rejiggte in honor of Kinkladze and his manager, the late Alan Ball. If the 45-year-old is spotted in the Sunday derby against United, we may hear it again.
"All the kinky runs are curvy. And all the goals that City achieves are blind. And finally … you are my Alan Ball ".
The longtime love affair of the city fans with Kinkladze is almost unique. It is rare that a player from such a poor team is so lovingly remembered. Many football fans of this era will remember Kinkladze's intriguing slalom hit against Southampton in his first season.
"Even United fans stop me and talk about it," Kinkladze laughed.
Less will remember that City was relegated to the club in two of his three seasons. When he left for Ajax in the summer of 1998, the club was in the third division.
But maybe this is the story of Kinkladze so magical.
When he had the ball on his feet and turned his unreadable hips on velvety pivots, there was some order in the chaos.
He said, "Running and dribbling was a gift, to be honest.
Yes, I practiced beating players, of course I did, but it was really instinctive.
Defenders would say they would break my legs, but the taller the defender, the better because I could just run past them. I did not speak English. During training, Alan Ball simply said, "Lads, give it to Gio."
"That was a big responsibility, but I did my best. Sometimes it worked, not always. After eleven games of the first season we had two points. "
Kinkladze came to Manchester as a sporty refugee from war-torn Georgia. He was raised by football-crazy dad Robinzon and was the star of the all-conquering Dinamo Tbilisi team, deliberately torn apart by a club president for fear of the safety of his players.
"He sent us all on loan to avoid the fighting," Kinkladze nodded.
The trial in Germany and Spain was unsuccessful, while Diego Maradona prevented a move to the Boca Juniors. "He was almost at the end of his career, but returned to Boca and played in my position," Kinkladze recalls. "I looked at him and thought," This guy is my hero. I can not compete with him for a position. "So I returned to Georgia. "After Kinkladze saw Georgia beat Wales twice in the European Championship qualifiers – the second that a ridiculous Kinkladze racquet won over Neville Southall from 20 meters – the city's president Francis Lee paid two million pounds to year old to England.
Oasis frontman Liam Gallagher (center) at Wembley Stadium 2011 was a fan of Kinkladze
Kinkladze lived in a hotel in Cheshire and came close to Lee and his family. "He would invite and feed me," Kinkladze said. "We are still in contact.
"My work was easy. Train and play and try to drive the car on the left side. I came a few times late for training because I could not understand the streets.
"There was no teaching English for me, so I learned it along with some swear words in the dressing room.
"But everything was high quality at City. Maine Road was good with a great place and the atmosphere was much better compared to the new stadium. It was wonderful. And the stadium was always full. Even in the lower sections, they came to us. "
Kinkladze's final act of a debut season, in which he scored five goals, was to play in one of the city's most infamous games.
After a 2-1 home win against Liverpool on the final day of the 1995-96 season, news suggested that one point would be enough to ensure the survival of the Premier League. City brought the ball to the corner flag and played the time. But the message had been wrong. City was relegated due to goal difference.
"That was so sad, it was awful," said Kinkladze. Steve Lomas stopped the game in the corner and someone on the court said, "Gio, it's OK." But the crowd began to scream, it was too late to react.
"It's been 23 years, but I still have memories of the game. I had come to England to win and this happened instead. The dressing room was like someone had died. I cried, I think. "
45-year-old Kinkladze spoke with Ian Ladyman of Sportsmail about his former club
Kinkladze earned good money in Manchester City and spent part of it on a £ 150,000 Ferrari Testarossa.
"Francis Lee told me not to buy, but I did not listen," he smiled as we talked in the Manchester Lowry Hotel's bar.
Kinkladze drove with his friend and teammate Nicky Summerbee in the car in front to train on the Princess Parkway in Manchester and turned over the Ferrari. In the back of the car was another friend, Paul Ashbee.
"I ran to the car and dragged him away," remembers Ashbee. "There was blood everywhere. I thought he was going to die. He had 30 stitches in his back and I remember calling Francis Lee from outside the hospital. That was not a good conversation!
"News at Ten was there and everything. It was a difficult time for Gio. It scared him. "
Ashbee is known in Manchester as the man who brought Oasis together. More important for this story is his longstanding friendship with Kinkladze.
Ashbee, a United fan, used to wash cars with Liam Gallagher for £ 10 each on the training grounds of the two Manchester clubs. A few years later, he met his friend.
The city is hot, with Sergio Aguero, Raheem Sterling and Bernard Silva (from left to right) in good shape
"I've seen a very shy boy, but a special talent," said Ashbee. "At that time we did not have much in Manchester. But it was a city that came to life.
"The music scene continued to grow, United began to smash it and then we had the poor old town. The same age.
"But they had this special thing. Gio had some sunshine through the clouds. "Kinkladze was in Manchester this week, visiting his son Saba, who lives in Cheshire.
He and Ashbee are also promoting a joint venture to import and export Georgian wine and "chacha", a Georgian brandy. The two men plan to open a bar in the northern district of Manchester. His name? Kinky's of course.
A shy man, Kinkladze has had some long interviews after leaving Ajax, Derby County and Rubin Kazan. He says his English is bad, but it is not
To this day, some of his former city teammates are questioning his legacy.
Striker Paul Walsh said Kinkladze was "the trigger for the city's problems" because Alan Ball told him "he has not achieved enough goals and has not tackled them, his overall contribution was not enough."
Georgian international Kinkladze made over 100 league games for City, scoring 20 goals
Another striker, the German Uwe Rosler, was more purposeful when he said, "Technically, he was the best I played with and he made us exciting. People just came to watch him. But he would not come to Guardiola's side because he did not work hard enough. "
Kinkladze, for his part, is phlegmatic. He insisted this week that he felt only friendship and respect from his teammates.
"We went out, socialized and had a good time," he said.
"I do not know what they said about me outside of the club, but I never felt jealousy or bad things, maybe some of them wanted to play the way I could, I do not know.
"But I was an attacking footballer, so I was always better with the ball than without." I was not a defender, right?
"We had 11 players in the field, not just I. Now look at the city, you have six attacking players, six, I do not think Silva, De Bruyne, Sterling and Sane are coming back to fight and defend, right?"
Maybe Kinkladze has unknowingly proven Rosler's point of view, but it does not matter. Nobody liked to play city games in the 1990s.
Kinkladze likes to return to his old club and still has contact with Summerbee, who now lives in Qatar.
He grimaces when we talk about the car accident, but not for long.
"After that, the car was ready," he smiled. Did I buy one more? Of course. & # 39;
Kinkladze is a rather shy man, but he spoke eloquently, though he said his English was bad
Kinkladze became interested in the summer of 1997 by Manchester United.
The city's second-tier season ended in 14th place after surviving the three managers Ball, Steve Coppell and Frank Clark.
Other clubs also wanted City's playmaker, but he remained remarkable. Before the last home game of the season against Reading signed 25,000 city fans a petition in which Kinkladze was asked not to leave.
He was then led alone into the center circle to wave to the crowd, many of whom were holding Georgian flags.
It may have offended some of its hardworking teammates – Rosler was angry – but it seemed to work.
"I stayed because the fans of the city stayed with me and I wanted to repay something," he said.
"I had an emotional connection and thought we would return to the Premier League anyway, I could have gone and earned more, and when I finally went to Ajax, they doubled my money, but it was not about love.
& # 39; United? Yes, this one was there. I would have been unpopular, right? At the time it was difficult for City when United was hammering all, but I did not think about winning medals when the United thing came up.
"They were our rivals, so I did not think about it.
"Anyway, the fans of the city had a better sense of humor and definitely better clothes."
Kinkladze was courted in the summer of 1997 by the local rivals Manchester United
In Kinkladze's third and final season, City did not come up as hoped. They went down. Once again.
Noel Gallagher's vision of the Apocalypse – "He will either win us the European Cup or take us to the fourth league" – threatened to come true, not in a good way. This time Kinkladze – isolated under manager Joe Royle – left.
Former managers tried to build their teams around the Georgian, but Royle would not put him on the left wing.
"I think he mistook me for Andrei Kanchelskis," Kinkladze laughed.
It seems contradictory to the popular tale of Kinkladze's time that he left City and scored only 20 goals in total. Maybe he was the right player for the wrong city team, but no supporter of the club would change a single piece of it, either.
"In a way, it was sad because I came here to win," he shrugged. "But we lost. A lot of. But I loved it and this is my second home. It surprises me that people are still staying here and saying, "Thanks for what you did. It was something special. That's very nice and that's important.
"The people here have always been like a family to me. As I said, I can still hear the applause and that's enough. "
The Bigun: Oasis, Manchester, Football & Me by Paul Ashbee will be released November 26 by New Haven Publishing Ltd. CLICK HERE TO BUY.