So who was finest Pompey midfielder of modern era?

Andres D'Alessandro gets mobbed by Pompey fans after the Great Escape was completed at Wigin
Andres D'Alessandro gets mobbed by Pompey fans after the Great Escape was completed at Wigin
Nathan Thompson, right, has returned from injury. Picture: Sarah Standing

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The crying shame was it lasted just 13 games.

But what a beautiful three-and-a-bit months it was, a tryst which left an indelible imprint those involved in the romance will never forget.

Andres D'Alessandro in action for Pompey

Andres D'Alessandro in action for Pompey

Last week, we racked our minds for the best Pompey striker of the modern era.

Yakubu got this observer’s vote. A decision backed by 24 per cent of you amid an online vote of nearly 1,000.

If that was a tricky shout to make, coming to a definitive decision over who was the finest midfielder of the same period challenges further.

But you’d go a long way to find a player who produced finer quality in his time in royal blue than Andres D’Alessandro.

Okay, okay, in a clinically objective assessment there’s a strong case to say the best we’ve had is Lassana Diarra.

The Frenchman was a world-class player who wore royal blue when he was world class.

Unlike a certain Croat magician who will be undoubtedly near the top of the pile for many, we saw both D’Alessandro and Diarra at the peak of their powers.

And their place in a Pompey starting XI ensured the team’s performance was lifted.

As much as we fawned over his brilliance, accommodating the Robert Prosinecki Show within the framework of a functioning team proved a continual problem for Graham Rix back in 2001-02.

Harry Redknapp made all the right noises about Prosinecki’s quality but didn’t want the same conundrum after succeeding Rix.

So Prosinecki was thanked for the body swerves and memories, as Redknapp turned to a signing who elevated a talented side into title winners.

Paul Merson’s arrival resonated around a dressing room of promising players. His presence alone made Matt Taylor, Gary O’Neil, Kevin Harper & Co better footballers.

His 12 goals were a small part of the tale, as the assists and magic flowed from the title-winning captain.

They may have been ramshackle training and match-day facilities by his standards but Merson bought into the club and the city’s make-up.

He certainly gave them to us but Pompey also provided late-career memories for Merse to cherish. All major factors in why he’s a hall of famer, despite just 49 appearances.

In contrast, Pompey always felt like a stop-off of convenience for Diarra, as he marked time before heading towards the level he was destined for.

The fact Redknapp remarked ‘enjoy him while you’ve got him’ at the midfielder’s unveiling in 2008 was always revealing. Diarra made just 22 league appearances in his year at Fratton Park before leaving for Real Madrid.

D’Alessandro, though, was a player of similar gravitas who bought into Pompey and everything about the club.

A player who a few years previously was one of game’s hottest young properties after winning the World Youth Cup alongside Javier Saviola for Argentina.

A player of quite remarkable talent, prepared to marry his ability with a work-rate few others of his kind are either inclined or able to match.

It was the former pizza delivery boy who was there every step of the way through the six wins and two draws from nine games which became the fabled Great Escape of 2006.

No-one played a bigger or more significant role than the little maestro in that improbable and joyous run to Premier League safety.

A personal top five of modern-era Pompey midfielders would read something like: 1 Paul Merson. 2 Andres D’Alessandro. 3 Barry Horne. 4 Lassana Diarra. 5 Robert Prosinecki.

But when the judging turns to quality and impact, there’s a compelling argument to opt for the little maestro from Buenos Aires.