As the citizen of a country that considers John Kruk to be an actual qualified sports tele-journalist, I feel a bit bad about excerpting Barney Ronay’s evisceration of the pleasant-but-dippy Jamie Redknapp in Friday’s Guardian. However, whether England’s soccer pros are consider “top players”, “top top players” or “top X 20” players is either, in Ronay’s view, “a compounding of absolutes”, or more simply totally the fault of the former Liverpool midfielder turned pundit.
Redknapp often concludes his entertaining digressions with the phrase “We’re talking about top top players, Ruud – top top top players”. No doubt this has had a profound influence. Like the kind of people who shout “Murderer!” and “Give Denise’s baby back!” in the street at off-duty soap actors, there are those who have perhaps become confused by Redknapp’s TV persona and genuinely consider him to be a footballing oracle, the voice of what Pelé once called “the top top game”.
It is above all a crisis of diminishing superlatives. The concept of top top sprung out of a superheated Sky-driven Premier League where everything is great pretty much all the time. How do you express excitement or even mild approval in a world where the emotional barometer is continually pitched at a level of damp-eyed superbity?
In theory, this is an open-ended scale. Redknapp might remark in passing: “You look at Wayne Rooney, Ryan Giggs – these are top top players.”
“Yes, Jamie,” you’d say. “But you look at Xavi, Iniesta – these are top top top players.”
“Lionel Messi, Nandor Hidegkuti, Garrincha, Hot Shot Hamish, the Honourable Alfred Lyttelton – you’re talking top top top top top players,” Jamie would insist, becoming agitated.
And so it is that fresh mezzanine levels of topness just keep opening up, secret doors, priest holes, tower rooms, private elevators, Jamie ushering you ever upwards though VIP suites of vertiginous approval and into a realm of pure top top top top top.