Why You’ll Like Him
Once derided by his club’s supporters, Song has persevered to emerge as a midfield stalwart.
If you want a player who started at the bottom and worked his way up, take a look at Alex Song. After a host of top clubs were looking to sign Song, he went to Arsenal and expectations were high. Instead, Song struggled and was loaned to Charlton Athletic.
After impressing with Charlton, Song returned to Arsenal and after going from chastised by the supporters, turned into a utility player. That changed in the past season when he thrived. His play went to a new level and he emerged as a dominant force in the center of the field, completing his rise from the bowels of the Emirates to the spotlighted one in the center.
Why You’ll Hate Him
Does he really want to play for Cameroon?
When Song first caught the eye on coaches at the youth international level, he chose to play for France. After that, he made a switch to Cameroon and has played for them ever since. Even so, how much stock do you put in the loyalty of a player who originally played for another country?
In a tournament like the World Cup, where the passion reigns supreme, a player who doesn’t have that same passion for his country is an outlier. That’s not to say that Song can’t have that same loyalty to Cameroon that his other teammates might have, but it’s worth questioning as it does go against the things that make the World Cup the world’s premier sporting event.
Age: 22 (9/9/1987)
Position: Midfield, center back
Club Teams: Arsenal (2005-present), Charlton Athletic (loan 2007), Bastia (2004-2006)
National Team Debut: Africa Cup of Nations vs. Egypt, January 22, 2008
World Cups: None
The cousin of long-time professional Rigobert Song, Alex Song was on club’s radars earlier than others and he got his start playing for the French club, Bastia. The midfielder started as a youth player with the club before moving up to the first team, where he made 32 appearances before trialing with Arsenal.
After a successful trial with the North London club, Song signed with the Gunners despite interest from other prominent clubs such as Manchester United, Internazionale, Juventus and Lyon. While he did earn spot time with Arsenal, Song did not impress and was subsequently loaned to Charlton Athletic.
In just five months with Charlton, Song was excellent. He showed great range and made an instant impact in 12 matches with the club. Despite not being able to keep Charlton from relegation, Song played well enough to earn the plaudits of multiple opposing coaches.
Back with Arsenal in the fall of 2007, Song saw his playing time steadily increase. Initially playing a bit part, Song began to earn occasional starts and by the 2009-2010 season, Song became an important part of the starting XI. Twice in the season he was considered Man of the Match and the difference in the Arsenal side with him on the field versus on the bench was apparent to all.
Initially a member of the French U-16 squad, Song went on to appear at two youth levels for Cameroon. Finally in 2008, Song made his senior international appearance and he sure made it count. His first match came in the 2008 Africa Cup of Nations, a tournament that Song helped Cameroon to a finals appearance in. His play was so excellent that he was named to the Team of the Tournament and earned Man of the Match honors in a semifinal win.
Song’s international career continued in 2010 World Cup qualifying and in the 2010 Africa Cup of Nations, where he was the only Cameroonian on the Team of the Tournament.
What to Look For
A player that is continuing his growth, Song has already grown into an impact player at the international level. In a formidable Group E, Cameroon will need Song’s steel in the center of the field versus Holland, Denmark and Japan. His strength in the tackle is nearly unmatched and he manages to do so while committing very few fouls.
Because Song’s range and tackling ability is so evident, his ability on the ball is often overlooked. He is strong on the ball and while he rarely makes the spectacular play, he makes the simple play at the right time with ease, an underrated quality. For a Cameroon team that sometimes struggles to find a rhythm and pace to their liking, Song’s ability to make the correct plays moving the ball from the back to the front is key.
Rarely will Song wow you. He isn’t the player that flashes across highlights around the world. He is a player whose name the announcer says time and time again, though, because he is always in the middle of the action. Just because he doesn’t make you rub your eyes doesn’t mean he’s not making an impact. Two major international tournaments, two Team of the Tournaments. That’s making an impact.
Ryan Rosenblatt has made his impact on SB Nation Soccer as a regular contributor in the lead-up to the 2010 World Cup. His work can also be found at Set Piece Analysts'.
For more World Cup coverage, visit the Dirty Tackle blog from our partners at Yahoo!