My Perfect World XI

keki/Fotolia

As it’s my birthday today, I wanted to put-together my perfect team.  I set some simple rules that I thought were fair.  The first being, I would not select any player I did not watch myself, so you won’t find any mentions of Pelé or Franz Beckenbauer.  Secondly, I only picked players that could fit into a 4-4-2 formation.  Another words, each player selected actually plays, can play or has played in that position.  Lastly, I did not limit myself to any particular generation, as there are some outstanding players playing right now.

So here it is, My Perfect World XI:

Goalkeeper

PETER SCHMEICHEL

One of the all-time greats, Schmeichel was one of the game’s best shot-stoppers.  His success started early after winning the 1992 European Championship with Denmark and was a key figure in Manchester United’s glorious treble-winning season in 1999.  For me, he was the greatest I’ve seen between the posts.

Right-back

DOUGLAS MAICON

The right-back position was the hardest to choose but when I had a real think about it, it wasn’t so hard after all.  Brazilian, Maicon, is one of the strongest, fastest and talented right-backs I’ve ever seen.  Granted he plays for my beloved Inter, but he has bags of ability.  He’s not your typical defender either, he likes to get forward and score with his powerful shots from outside the box, and he’s not reached his peak yet.

Centre-back

RIO FERDINAND

In the modern game you need a tall, strong and mentality-tough centre-back to keep your defence solid.  Ferdinand is physically imposing, uncompromising and committed to winning.  He was a key part of Man United’s run to the double last season.  He is good at heading the ball out of defence and for a big guy can dribble, shoot and pass surprisingly well, perhaps that’s due to him being a striker in his early days.

Centre-back

FABIO CANNAVARO

Cannavaro is a supremely gifted player, both technically and mentally.  He captained Italy to a World Cup win in Germany during 2006 and has been a consistent performer over the years for the top-Clubs he’s played for.  I like my centre-back pairing to be one big, one small to add balance, so along with Ferdinand the opposition’s strikers’ would have an arduous task.

Left-back

PAOLO MALDINI

Maldini is simply the greatest defender that’s ever lived.  He is 40 years old and still playing for AC Milan in the big-matches.  What a stellar career he’s had, of the many accolades he’s won, nothing could top 5 European Cup/UEFA Champions League winner’s medals.  It will be a sad day when he eventually retires.

Right-midfield

CRISTIANO RONALDO

Ronaldo is the man of the moment.  His step-over’s and dazzling moves have opponents and the crowd awestruck.  2008 was a year to remember for Ronaldo, he won almost every major award in the game.  The Ballon d’Or, FIFA World Player of the Year, Barclays Premier League Player of the Year, and the list goes on…

Centre-midfield

LOTHAR MATTHÄUS

I grew-up right at the time when Matthäus was Europe’s best football player, no wonder I still idolise him.  He was part of the West German-trio, which also included Jürgen Klinsmann and Andreas Brehme, to arrive at Inter during the days when Serie A was the best league in the world.  The then, West Germany captain, was a fierce competitor and strong leader on the pitch.  I would pretend to be Matthäus in my backyard when kicking the ball around.  When Pelé announced his 100 greatest players, there were only two Germans: Beckenbauer and Matthäus.

Centre-midfield

ZINEDINE ZIDANE

Rarely do we see a player who makes playing the game at the highest-level look so easy.  Zidane was a magician with the ball; he could do anything with it.  Whether the challenge was for Club or country, Zidane was ready to play.  He will always be remembered for his disgraceful head-butt on Marco Materazzi during the World Cup Final in Germany, his last.  But, that incident should never take-away the fact that he is arguably the best player to have ever represented France.

Left-midfield

LIONEL MESSI

Messi is a raw-talent.  He is certainly the most explosive player in the game today, his dribbling skills ensure his ability to take-on his man ends the way he chooses, on most occasions.  He can split a defence with a sublime pass; score goals that will leave you gob-smacked and use his pace to keep his opponents’ ball-watching.  Messi will be voted World Player of the Year sooner rather than later.

Striker

DIEGO MARADONA

I had the pleasure of watching Maradona play for Argentina against the Socceroos in 1993.  We drew 1-1 in Sydney and had to win or get a score-draw higher than they did to knock them out of qualifying for the 1994 FIFA World Cup to be held in the USA, we didn’t.  Maradona was an inspiration to many, his talent was obvious to see from the moment he stepped-out onto the pitch.  His legendary-status in Naples was so powerful that many Napoli fans went for Argentina when they played Italy in the 1990 World Cup; such was the power of the diminutive player.  He is the world’s greatest player of all-time in my eyes.  Maradona and the ball were one.

Striker

THIERRY HENRY

Henry has to be the Barclays Premier League’s best-ever striker.  He was pivotal in Arsenal’s success during their back-to-back titles and scored some of the most phenomenal goals I’ve had the pleasure of seeing.  The Gunners’ boss, Arsene Wenger, used Henry to great-effect; the beautiful football they played was largely due to the work of Henry and his remarkable talent.  He is now starting to find form at FC Barcelona; he scores goals for fun.

Manager

JOSÉ MOURINHO

There have been some fantastic Managers over the last century, some have been great motivators, others supreme tacticians, Mourinho is both.  When he won the UEFA Cup in 2003 with FC Porto, then backed it up with the Champions League in 2004, his stocks had started to rise dramatically.  His detailed working methods and brutal discipline brought silverware to Chelsea, he is continuing his success at Inter in the pursuit of another European title.  He’s the self-proclaimed Special One, special indeed.

Assistant

LOUIS van GAAL

The Dutch-master, van Gaal was the Manager of Ajax Amsterdam when they lifted the Champions League trophy in 1995.  Interestingly, Mourinho was his Assistant at Barcelona.  The man is a pure trainer and student of the game.  His thirst for knowledge and passion for developing players is second to none.  He’d be my choice to take-charge of the Socceroos.

Subs

It was a very difficult choice picking the team above, in many positions, so below is a list of my substitutes who would quite easily fit into this team.

GIANLUIGI BUFFON

For many years now, Buffon has been at the top of many lists when ranking the world’s best goalkeepers, he narrowly missed-out on my number 1.

DAVID BECKHAM

Perhaps the best crosser of the ball ever, Beckham is a true professional and superstar brand.  Beckham built his career on his pinpoint free-kicks and range of passing, it’s just a shame his credibility is questioned because of his not so posh wife.

MAKÉLÉLÉ

To have a position on the park named after you warrants a place on my team.  The holding-role or anchor in midfield is commonly referred to as the “Makélélé” position.  Once he left Real Madrid they were never the same without their sheppard, his influence on Mourinho’s Chelsea team made him indispensible.

FRANK LAMPARD

Super Frankie Lampard!  Lamps is one of the nicest most professional players in the world.  He is also the Premier League’s highest goal-scoring midfielder of all-time.  He can win the ball, pass, shoot and score wonderful and important goals for you, a must on any team.  Plus, he plays for Chelsea.

KAKÁ

Kaká may belong to Jesus but he also belongs to the people of Milan.  After turning-down a transfer-record move to Manchester City, Kaká has displayed the highest level of integrity to the game, which has been lost on many other players of his generation.  He is also a very talented player and exciting to watch.  I could’ve easily picked him ahead of Zidane if it weren’t for a bit of nostalgia.

So there you have it, my perfect team.  I’m sure if I revisit this list in the coming months I would be tempted by some other outstanding players, but there is no doubt this group were and still are amazing gifts to the world game.

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