Am I right?
This dude was so metal it was like if you turned that Game of Thrones badass beard dude into a soccer player with less hair. Actually he was like that other Game of Thrones dude, the one that has those crazy skin-tats and likes to eat human flesh. He was the physical embodiment of that Iceland viking clap thing and he wasn’t even from Iceland. He was that guy with the flamethrower guitar riding on a semi truck made of amps in Mad Max Fury Road.
What really makes Thomas Gravesen so cool is that he doesn’t fit within the traditional bounds of “footballer”; it’s not that he didn’t play football—he was good! Seriously! I’ll get to that!—it’s that the sport he was really designed to play was hockey. Thomas Gravesen was an enforcer. In hockey, an enforcer is a goon, a thug, a tough guy. Jay Beruchel, my man, made a fantastic movie about the last of the Goons. Called Goon. That was Thomas Gravesen, in a word. Goon. But in a good sense. Seriously. Watch the movie.
And you know what? We don’t give enough love to Thomas Gravesen. Sure, his face looks like a badly made pay-dough replica of Jason Statham. And yeah! The dude got in a ton of fights.
His career at Real Madrid was, actually, remarkably long given that his main accomplishment was getting in the above-pictured fight with Robinho. And, honestly, that longevity really speaks to his character—he managed to stick it out through the turbulent tenure of my boyfriend Vanderlei Luxemburgo then López Caro (remember that shit show?!) then a few months of Fabio Capello, who booted him because of, well, the aforementioned fight. Which I think is a crying shame because Gravesen was the absolute perfect Capello midfielder: someone with a surprisingly astute tactical instinct who was completely unwilling to play the ball, gratuitously violent, and a terror to opposing creative midfielders.
Unfortunately Capello had seen enough, and away he went, shipped off to Celtic— “He’s just a little bit particular. I don’t mess with him, he works well tactically. His behaviour is like this, and I don’t like it, everything has to be done like he wants it to be done” the manager famously said. “I don’t mess with him”.
Think about how absolutely fuckin’ metal that is. His manager, the Mourinho-before-Mourinho, the guy so tough he flipped the entire Bernabéu the bird, the guy who walked out with two huge middle fingers in the air after winning the most thrilling Liga title in my lifetime—that guy “doesn’t mess” with Thomas Gravesen.
Thomas Gravesen was so metal that the first compilation you get when you look him up on YouTube is all of his violent, dirty plays and his fights. It rules.
And his brand of metal wasn’t the kind of sheepish Pepe emo metal, the “oh shoot I didn’t see that man’s face when I stepped on it” metal; this was brash, in your face, do something metal.
Tactically, he is remembered as having played as a midfield destroyer, which is a quasi-technincal term for “kicked the living crap out of people who had the ball”—but he did play passably well in offensive transition, and fancied himself a strong shot. He had a knack for seeing spaces upfield, and had an almost uncanny ability to be in the right place to muscle someone off the ball. Just check out his truly fantastic performance against Barcelona in 2005:
This is a ridiculous thing to say but...he actually owned peak Ronaldinho in that match. Sure, Dinho danced and danced, but every time he tried to get closer to the half-spaces, Gravesen was there to muscle him off. It’s a professional, powerful performance. Metal, even.
So what do we make of this weird, metal, beautiful, goon?
Here’s what I’ll say: witness him!
Witness him so he may ride forever, shiny and chrome, upon the highways of Valhalla.
The opinions expressed are the author’s alone and are certainly not those of his employer. This article does not constitute legal advice. Gabe is the Editor-in-Chief emeritus of Managing Madrid and a co-host of the Managing Madrid Podcast; he rides forever, shiny and chrome.