Column heroes of the movement: god of small things

He doesn’t touch the ball often – but when he does, he "puts the cherry in." Alex Meier is an example of how beautiful pragmatism can be.

Can also be angry: Eintracht Frankfurt’s Alex Meier Photo: dpa

Specifically, I can’t remember any goal from Alex Meier. I have a very clear idea of what Alex Meier goals look like, but I don’t have an Alex Meier moment in my brain.

It’s more a general vague idea of what such a goal should look like. Digging in is a word that describes an Alex Meier goal quite well. The typical Alex Meier goal goes like this: very short run-up, one to three touches of the ball, from medium close range, the ball pushed or flicked into the free corner, with the inside, with the right foot, done. Or, alternatively, the chipped cross, a short hop, a nod. Nothing that could be spectacularly filmed; arthouse material, if anything.

Basically, Meier’s body is not built for top-level sport. He’s too lanky, too tall, too awkward; not explosive enough. When he stands still, he pushes his head slightly forward, and his arms hang down from him like a weeping willow. And yet there is an elegance and nonchalance in his movements that feeds on pragmatism. It’s the glamor of efficiency whose foundation is hard craft. In times of the glass professional, Alex Meier gives the sport back its mystery because he leaves out what takes place off the pitch. You often hear that Alex Meier is a training monster, hardworking and focused.

Even knowing that, you don’t see it in his play. It has an unobtrusive matter-of-factness, and if you don’t look closely, you doubt whether it’s happening at all. Meier regularly has less than 40 ball contacts per game, with most ball boys achieving better figures. He is just under two meters tall and yet can hardly be seen. But from the few actions in which he does make his presence felt, he regularly scores in double digits per season; often enough, he is the crowning glory of Frankfurt’s attacks, the point at which their offensive construction comes to rest. In the words of Thomas Schaaf, "Meier makes the cherry pure." So simple sounds what can be so beautiful.

Alex Meier, when he speaks, speaks little. He doesn’t need many ball contacts, and he doesn’t need many words to get to a punch line. When the Kicker conducts an interview with him, the answers are shorter than the questions. In the Kicker! The once asked about his hobbies ("Fishing? Darts? Golf?"), and Alex Meier said, "I like to take naps." He answered the FAZ when asked whether he was fit enough to run a marathon after intensive preparation: Probably yes, it would just depend on the time, but why run a marathon at all?

He’ll be 34 in January, and so far he’s gotten a little better every season. In Frankfurt, they call him a soccer god, and that’s what he is: a god of small things. Alex Meier’s motto, if he had one, would be: I don’t like to be in the foreground, I prefer to withdraw into the center of attention. That’s where he stands, Alex Meier, and that’s where he belongs.

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