x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Willowy wanderer Wilhelmsson offers width and execution to Baniyas

The Sweden international, attacking from a starting position close to right or left touchline could be be a thrilling sight for Baniyas fans, writes Ian Hawkey.

Christian Wilhelmsson in action for Saudi Arabian side Al Hilal.
Christian Wilhelmsson in action for Saudi Arabian side Al Hilal.

Any professional who has accumulated 11 different clubs in as many countries in the space of 13 years is bound to be followed by the muttered question: Is it that he tires quickly of places, or that they tire of him?

Christian Wilhelmsson has an active agent, certainly, but he also has a portfolio of assets rare enough that coaches and strategists at clubs with resources keep making offers for the 33-year-old Swede. What Baniyas have acquired is a man with a strong streak of individualism but also in his vision of the game.

Wilhelmsson the dueller, attacking from a starting position close to right or left touchline can be a thrilling sight, with his confident close control, and the feints and sways of his tall, willowy frame. These aspects of the winger's craft please a crowd.

But Wilhelmsson's long tour around the glamour leagues of European football owes more to his fine execution of a piercing cross.

That skill persuaded the likes of Roma, under Luciano Spalletti, a coach who appreciates width; and Bolton Wanderers, then an English Premier League team whose attacking game plan prized swift service to a target-man, to recruit Wilhelmsson when still in his 20s.

Yet he has also spent a significant tranche of his career on the substitutes' bench, perceived as an impact player, one who can offer something unique, but under specific match conditions, a man to stretch a wearying defence rather than fray it for 90 minutes.

 

sports@thenational.ae