All for freedom and for pleasure, nothing ever lasts forever.
Watching Ruben Neves was always too joyous to allow us to feel that it ever would.
That we knew we were watching a genius at work was to know we had to live in the moment for every second we saw him because we knew he wouldn’t be around for much longer.
It’s the way the water flows, yeah that’s the way the story goes.
But sweet lord, what water. When streams were ripe and swelled with rain, our wonderkid created the single most joyous footballing moment of my life – whilst simultaneously making me question the very meaning of it to begin with – with *that* volley against Derby. April come he will.
Not content with painting this dreamy work of art to trump all goals before, but he made 12 months of studying Descartes at university seem worthwhile and left me questioning whether it even happened in the first place. So pure was his strike that it transcended a ball hitting a net and got me thinking of the French philosopher and what we can perceive as reality and what is pure illusion. I’m still not sure what category it falls into having watched it back a thousand times.
‘I think therefore I play.’
As the ball arrowed through floodlit skies that evoked memories of Sir Billy, Stan and dad, a tiny bit of my heart broke, realising in that nanosecond that I’d reached absolute fulfilment. Now it is breaking again, not that you can die from a broken heart, I’ve been told. It will only feel that way when I see him in another shirt.
It was Ruben Neves’ intangible quality of making time stand still which I just can’t envisage feeling again. The strike against Manchester United – the pureness of which was even too much for the VAR dictators at Stockley Park to disallow – was so irresistible that it caressed the South Bank net and the hands of the stand’s famous old clock at the very same time.
Whether he was volleying one into the top corner or lobbing effortlessly into the same place against Watford, time slowed to allow us to appreciate the strike in the manner he had in mind when creating it.
When ‘Big Six’ fans ask me if he’s any good, I want to tell them that he took me to heaven for a split second once, just to let me know what it felt like.
‘He’d do well for you,’ I reflect with a smile.
I know I’ll never be able to get there again. Not now Ruben Neves isn’t on the park. Not so much a case of not wanting to fall in love again, but knowing that I never will.
What a wicked game he played.