Manchester United legend Paul Scholes, he who sits atop the totem pole as probably the greatest midfielder English football has ever produced, is celebrating his 46th birthday.
Seven years now since hanging up his magical boots for the second time in a mesmerising career on the pitch, Scholes has continued to ply his trade as both a pundit and a coach.
Needless to say, United fans would give both arms and legs to have a player of Scholes’s ability in their current squad to shore up their defenses and improve the strike rate.
Scholes, perhaps more than any other player in recent English football history, still commands the universal mutual admiration and respect of his peers, with most of his former team-mates unabashedly naming him as the best player they ever played with – even ahead of the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo – while various high-profile opponents have also been full of praise for the midfield maestro down the years.
The likes of Zinedine Zidane, Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Pele and Pep Guardiola have all spoken exuberantly with high praise of Scholes for his stellar performances in the past.
When asked what he thought about receiving such lofty praise from football’s biggest names, Scholes’ response nipped it in the bud in summing the man up perfectly.
Speaking to beIN Sport, he said:
“Embarrassed mainly, erm… but flattered as well to get these kind of comments from these people.
“These aren’t just run-of-the-mill players and coaches. These are the best players who played the game: Zidane, Messi, Ronaldo.
“It’s really nice and, erm… it gives you a boost when you read stuff like that.
“Is it true? Don’t know what they think, so I’ll take it.”
That’s Scholes in his classic best. Totally unassuming and modest, ironically at the receiving end of a deluge of praise, yet far from the best at accepting compliments.
Here are some of the best quotes about Scholes from the other legends of football.
Pele: “If he was playing with me, I would have scored so many more.”
Lionel Messi: “At La Masia his name was mentioned a lot. He’s a teacher.”
Zinedine Zidane: “My toughest opponent? Scholes of Manchester. He is the complete midfielder.”
Cristiano Ronaldo: “Scholes is the best I’ve played with and he helped me a lot when I was young. He’s amazing.”
Xavi: “For me, he’s the best central midfielder I’ve seen in the last 15, 20 years.”
Thierry Henry: “I can’t understand why Scholes has never won the player of the year award. He should have won it long ago. Maybe it’s because he doesn’t seek the limelight like some of the other ‘stars’.”
Cesc Fabregas: “He is the one whose level I aspire to. He is the best player in the Premier League.”
Roy Keane: “An amazingly gifted player who remained an unaffected human being.”
Pep Guardiola: “Out of everyone at Manchester United, I would pick out Scholes – he is the best midfielder of his generation. I would have loved to have played alongside him.”
Laurent Blanc: “I tell anyone who asks me – Scholes is the best English player.”
Dimitar Berbatov: “Nobody else can play the way Paul Scholes does.”
David Beckham: “He’s always one of those people others talk about. Even playing at Real Madrid, the players always say to me ‘what’s he like’? They respect him as a footballer and see him as the ultimate.”
Patrick Vieira: “The player in the Premiership I admire most? Easy – Scholes.”
Ronaldinho: “I want to pass like him. Who taught him how to do that?”
Ronaldo (Brazilian): “He’s the phenomenon.”
Bruno Fernandes: “I think Scholes was one of the best midfielders in the world. For England, a lot of people talk about Frank Lampard because he scored a lot of goals of course, one of the best in England too, you have Steven Gerrard too, but I think Scholes is the one who makes more difference than anyone else.”
Luis Figo: “I’m star-struck when I see Paul Scholes because you never see him. On the pitch, you can’t catch him. Off the pitch, he disappears.”
Gary Neville: “I wouldn’t swap Paul Scholes for anybody. He is quite simply the most complete footballer I have ever played with. He is the best.”
Sir Alex Ferguson: “I think Paul Scholes is the best player in England. He’s got the best skills, the best brain. No one can match him. There isn’t a player of his mould anywhere in the world. Paul is irreplaceable.”