Before the rather tumultuous real-life occurrences set us back a week in our all century baseball team, a thought was shared between two football fans on a sort of “all world team” that would pulverize the MLS in any way, shape or form. We selected our starting eleven, but decided that given the circumstances, we couldn’t settle on just eleven of the world’s best. So, we built an entire team, and the concept for today’s feature began to take shape. Today’s effort is not the work of one person, but four dedicated football fans of different loyalties. Joining the fun today are:
Eric Major – Frequent Contributor to Happy Hour and Co-Team Architect
Shawn M. Smith – IP Music Staffer and Guest Commentator
Beadle – IP Forum Moderator and Guest Commentator
Steve Price – Co-Team Architect and Cool HTML Generator Guy
So, with our crack Football Minds Anonymous team ready, we bring to you a special feature here to Inside Pulse Sports. Presenting the 2006 All-World Football Team! And of course, by football we mean club football, or association football… or international football, or that maligned and bastardized version of the game, soccer.
The logistics of the team, such as the name and crest are really unimportant in the grand scheme of things, although for the sake of creativity we’ll jump into it a little bit. The unofficial name for the project was the All-International XI, before the XI became a squad comprised of subs as well. Though it’s not the most imaginative title ever created, the official name for the squad is Pulse F.C. The squad uses the Dominion as its nickname, thanks in part to its slogan “Absolute Dominion”, which translates into “total power” over the rest of the football world.
Pulse F.C. Kits: Home Colors (L) and Away Colors (R)
Now, there were some ground rules laid out by Eric and myself before we undertook this project. First, there was the understanding that we wouldn’t “load up” like a baseball all star team would, meaning players on this squad are only placed at their position. In the case of a player like Ronaldinho, who plays both the midfield and forward positions, this rule can be stretched a bit. Second of all, we laid out the starting players with a 2-4-4 formation in mind, to basically get a better midfield and defensive representation out of the squad. Third point: only active players were selected for this squad, which is a big reason why Zinedine Zidane was left off the squad. Jaap Stam, on the other hand, is still active in his club career, so he was fair game. Finally, in order to put a cap on the players used, the roster was limited to twenty three players: eleven starters (as we call them, the Starting XI), and twelve reserves, broken down with three reserve strikers, three reserve midfielders, four reserve defenders, and two reserve goalkeepers. Since there’s no real need to tackle the issue of a manager for this squad, we chose to omit that part of the process. So, without further adieu, allow me to introduce the very first incarnation of the Pulse Dominion!
Crest of the Dominion, Pulse F.C.
There are five forwards selected for the squad, with three FA Premier League teams and one team from the LFP, commonly known as “La Liga” represented. England, Ukraine, Brazil, France, and the Netherlands are represented by these players.
Andriy Shevchenko, Chelsea F.C. – A Ukrainian born striker, Shevchenko helped lead A.C. Milan to a Champions League win in 2003, as well as a victory in that year’s Italian Cup over Juventus. Shevchenko also contributed to the victory of A.C. Milan in the 2003 UEFA Super Cup. Shevchenko was named the captain of the Ukrainian National team in the 2006 FIFA World Cup.
Ronaldo, Real Madrid – A striker for the Brazilian national team and Real Madrid, Ronaldo is a prolific superstar with a history of big time performances. A leading contributor in the 1994 and 2002 World Cup victories of Brazil, Ronaldo is a three-time FIFA World Player of the Year award winner, an honor shared only by former Real Madrid teammate Zinedine Zidane.
Ruud van Nistelrooy, Manchester United – Nicknamed “the Flying Dutchman”, Ruud van Nistelrooy has compiled twenty eight goals in fifty four international appearances for the Netherlands, including the most recent World Cup in Germany. A marquee player for the universally known Manchester United club in England, van Nistelrooy is currently in the process of transferring to a new team, bringing the talent of one of the world’s best strikers with him.
Thierry Henry, Arsenal F.C. – Known worldwide as one of the best, if not the best finishers on the pitch, Thierry Henry is a key component of the French national team which won the 1998 World Cup and advanced to the 2006 World Cup finals, only to lose to Italy on penalty kicks. As a striker for Arsenal, Henry has amassed the most goals of any other player in club history (both in Premiership play and other competitions), and is among the highest paid players in the world.
Wayne Rooney, Manchester United – Rooney, one of the best young players in the world, is one of the best offensive weapons available to both Manchester United and the English National Team when healthy. Having scored twenty seven goals in sixty five career appearances with Manchester United, Rooney is known both for his temper and his striking similarities to the legendary PelÃƒÂ© at this point in his career, which more and more people have begun to make the comparison between.
There are seven midfielders selected to the squad, with three Italian Serie A clubs, an Italian Serie B club, a Spanish La Liga club, a French Ligue 1 club and an FA Premier club represented. Italy, France, Brazil, and England are represented by these players.
Andrea Pirlo, A.C. Milan – A noteworthy member of the 2006 World Cup Champion Italian National Team, Pirlo made his presence felt in Germany in what was his first World Cup appearance. Pirlo was given “Man of the Match” honors three times during the World Cup, including the final against France, where he scored the first penalty kick for Italy. He also assisted Fabio Grosso in what would become the winning goal against Germany in the semifinals. Pirlo is a member of A.C. Milan in the Italian Serie A.
Francesco Totti, AS Roma – The captain of the Italian National Team during the 2006 World Cup in Germany, Francesco Totti is regarded as one of the best attacking midfielders in the world. Known for a variety of traits including his scoring, passing, and game reading ability, one could argue that Francesco Totti is perhaps one of the best football players in the world today. Totti has amassed 125 goals in 335 career appearances with AS Roma of Serie A.
Franck RibÃƒÂ©ry, Olympique de Marseille – Tough enough to survive getting thrown through a car windshield at age two, Franck RibÃƒÂ©ry is potentially on the move to a new club, potentially as high profile as Tottenham Hotspur or Arsenal. His talents are sought all over Europe, and for good reason: RibÃƒÂ©ry has a game-changing presence, be it with Galatasaray of Turkey or Olympique de Marseille in Ligue 1. An attacking midfielder with the ability to play the wings, RibÃƒÂ©ry is considered the frontrunner to assume Zinedine Zidane’s position as Captain of the French National Team.
KakÃƒÂ¡, A.C. Milan – Association Football’s walking rendition of “Touchdown Jesus”, KakÃƒÂ¡ has a combined thirty three goals in one hundred and thirty four total appearances with A.C. Milan, helping lead the club to a Champions League win in 2003 along with former teammate Andriy Shevchenko. KakÃƒÂ¡ is regarded by some as pound for pound one of the best talents on the Brazilian National Team, and one of the game’s rising young stars. An attacking midfielder of the highest order, KakÃƒÂ¡ has a knack for scoring incredible goals. His April 9th Hat Trick versus Chievo Verona stands out as one of his finest club performances.
Patrick Vieira, Juventus F.C. – A first choice midfielder for France since his 1998 World Cup performance, Patrick Vieira has been called one of the best footballers in the world by teammate Thierry Henry. His club career has taken him from the Premiership to Serie A, while the midfielder is perhaps best known for captaining Arsenal to its famed unbeaten season in 2003-2004, where they won the FA Cup after Vieira’s penalty kick sailed in against arch rivals Manchester United. Vieira also scored a crucial goal in France’s opening round match against Togo, which helped the French stave off elimination during group play.
Ronaldinho, FC Barcelona – Although Ronaldinho as a midfielder may raise eyebrows, Ronaldinho himself has raised eyebrows all over the world as one of the game’s greatest players. Despite questions over his interest and investment in the Brazilian National team, the fact remains that “Little Ronaldo” is among the best of the best on the pitch, possessing dribbling skills second to none. Both a striker and a midfielder and a two-time FIFA World Player of the Year award winner, Ronaldinho has forty one goals in ninety six appearances with Barcelona, helping them win 2005/2006 La Liga.
Steven Gerrard, Liverpool F.C. – Noted as one of the greatest English players of this era, Steven Gerrard has set the benchmark for a midfielder in today’s game. A key component in the powerful Liverpool squad that won the UEFA Champions League in 2005, Gerrard is one of the best two way players in the Premiership, renowned for his long shots and his energy on the pitch. The midfielder was a rare bright spot for England in the 2006 World Cup, scoring crucial goals to help England advance and stave off elimination. His header in the 85th minute of the England/Portugal game equalized and sent the game down the path towards penalty kicks. Gerrard is a potential candidate for the captain’s band for the English National Team.
There are eight defenders selected to the squad, with three English Premier clubs, two Spanish La Liga clubs, and Dutch Eredivisie club and an Italian Serie A club represented. Italy, England, Brazil, Spain, Finland, and the Netherlands are represented by these players.
Alessandro Nesta, A.C. Milan – Known for his tackling skills and his field intelligence, Nesta is regarded in football circles as one of the world’s top defenders. Emerging on the scene with SS Lazio and their Italian Cup victory over A.C. Milan, Nesta has applied his trade for the Rossoneri since 2002, and has since helped bring in hardware for Milan, including the Scudetto, the Italian Cup, the Champion’s League win in 2003, and the European Super Cup. PelÃƒÂ© included Nesta among his greatest living football players, while analyst Tommy Smyth projected the Italian as the world’s top defender, and one of the best five playing in Germany, although an injury in group play prevented him from fulfilling these expectations.
Ashley Cole, Arsenal – An energetic and tough minded defender, Ashley Cole is a fixture of the English defensive unit. A high-profile member of Arsenal, Cole played a significant role in England’s 1-0 victory against Ecuador by blocking a Carlos Tenorio shot. With three FA Cup and two Premiership wins in his rÃƒÂ©sumÃƒÂ©, Cole has made headlines for his impending move to a new club, potentially the high-spending Chelsea or even Real Madrid.
Cafu, A.C. Milan – A veteran of five separate club teams in his professional career, the Brazilian captain is a veteran of two World Cup victories with Brazil, along with a slew of club titles in both South America and Europe. An aging superstar, Cafu helped capture the Serie A title for AS Roma in 2001, then moved to his current squad, A.C. Milan in 2003 to join fellow Brazilian superstar Dida on the pitch. Cafu has announced his intentions to play for Brazil in the 2010 World Cup, despite being forty years old when the forthcoming World Cup begins.
Carles Puyol, FC Barcelona – The captain of powerhouse FC Barcelona and a first choice inclusion for the Spanish National Team, Carles Puyol garners serious recognition as one of the world’s best defenders. A versatile athlete, Puyol has the ability to play as a full-back and centre, and has the ability to attack if necessary. Puyol is an extremely disciplined player, allowing him to control games through the virtue of his field awareness and his incredible talents on the pitch.
Fabio Cannavaro, Real Madrid – Along with Alessandro Nesta, Fabio Cannavaro helps form one of the world’s most impressive defensive pairs in World Cup play. The captain of the reigning World Cup Champions, Italy, Cannavaro is a premier defender for any team that he plays on. Known as one of the best defenders of the last two decades, Nesta has helped bring success to two Serie A teams – a UEFA Cup and Italian Cup in 1998-1999 with Parma and the Scudetto with Juventus in 2005 and again in 2006 (though all honors have since been stripped from Juventus) – and now plies his trade with Real Madrid in La Liga.
Jaap Stam, Ajax Amsterdam – Nicknamed the “Rock of Kampen”, and known for being one of the best Dutch footballers in the world, Jaap Stam is a premier defender in the game. Stam spent considerable time in both the Italian Serie A, first with S.S. Lazio and then with A.C. Milan, and with Manchester United in the Premiership. While playing with Manchester United, Stam collected wins in the Premiership, FA Cup and UEFA Champions League during three years with the club. A fixture of the Netherlands football club for many years, Stam had his best performance in the 1998 World Cup, helping the Netherlands finish fourth, although he has not played nationally since 2004.
John Terry, Chelsea F.C. – A polished tackler and chiseled field general, John Terry is not only one of Chelsea’s most important players, but also one of England’s most important players on the world stage. Despite only three years of service to the English National Team, Terry has already been named to the World XI team of 2005, and voted as the Player of the Year by his fellow English footballers in 2004-2005. Terry is the captain of a Chelsea squad noted for its stingy defense, highlighted by a marvelous run during the 2004-2005 campaign in which Terry and the defensive line allowed only fifteen goals during the entire season.
Sami HyypiÃƒÂ¤, Liverpool F.C. – A tall and experienced defender from Finland, Sami HyypiÃƒÂ¤ has become a huge part of a Liverpool defense that has propelled the club to numerous titles since his arrival in 1999. As a co-captain in 2001 with Robbie Fowler, HyypiÃƒÂ¤ and Liverpool won a trio of major championships: the Worthington Cup, FA Cup and UEFA Cup all in the same year. He also helped lead Liverpool to the 2004-2005 UEFA Champions League victory along with Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher. Sami HyypiÃƒÂ¤ has made over three hundred and seventy career appearances with Liverpool, scoring on a fair amount of set plays along the way.
There are three goalkeepers selected to the squad, with an English Premier club, an Italian Serie A club and an Italian Serie B club represented. Brazil, Italy, and Germany are represented by these players.
Dida, A.C. Milan – The goalkeeper for the powerhouse Brazilian National Team, Dida has amassed a collection of championships during his storied career, ranging from a 2002 World Cup victory with Brazil to a slew of victories with A.C. Milan, including the Italian Cup and European Super Cup in 2003 and the Serie A in 2003-2004. Allowing only two goals in the 2006 FIFA World Cup, Dida has consistently ranked among the top three goalkeepers in the world by the IFFHS, finishing third in 2004 and second in 2005. Dida is considered to be one of the best goalkeepers playing in Europe today, and one of the best penalty kick stoppers ever.
Gianluigi Buffon, Juventus F.C. – The goalkeeper who led Italy to the 2006 FIFA World Cup win, Gianluigi Buffon was the consensus IFFHS selection for World’s Best Goalkeeper in 2004, and earned Best Goalkeeper honors in Germany in 2006, allowing no goals for 453 minutes (two goals allowed during the World Cup, including an own goal and a penalty kick), fifth best all-time. Buffon was also crowned Most Valuable Player and Best Goalkeeper during the UEFA European Football Awards in 2003. While playing for Juventus, Buffon propelled his team to a host of Serie A titles, and plans to remain with the club despite the match fixing scandal that has demoted Juventus to the Italian Serie B.
Jens Lehmann, Arsenal F.C. – The goalkeeper for Arsenal in the EPL, Jens Lehmann is noted as one of the world’s best, and most aggressive goalkeepers. An ill-tempered footballer at times, Lehmann joined his current club in 2003, promptly helping Arsenal to an unbeaten domestic campaign in the Premiership in his first season, the first time such a feat had been accomplished since the 1880s. With the FA Premiership Win in 2003, along with several FA Cups since, Lehmann has become a fixture of both the German National Team and his club team, although his red cards sometimes overshadow his performances on the pitch.
The original concept of the team (when it was only eleven players) was to field a team that would not only crush any MLS all star team, but draw the attention of the casual sports fan here in the States. When the concept blossomed into the project at hand, Eric and I were able to incorporate more players onto the squad, which probably makes the list less controversial than it otherwise would have been. Still, there were plenty of players left off the squad, while the K-League and Argentina are also absent.
Going with a 2-4-4 layout in mind, there are only so many strikers that you can take before some are left out. So, as much as Emile Heskey means to me on my FIFA clubs, there was no point in sticking him ahead of Wayne Rooney or Ronaldo. The two starters, Thierry Henry and Andriy Shevchenko were selected for obvious reasons: Shevchenko is the most under-covered superstar in the United States, having talent that rivals the best strikers in the world. Thierry Henry, meanwhile, is the best finisher in football in my eyes. Backing them up are a trio of scorers: Ronaldo, despite criticisms of his conditioning and play at the 2006 World Cup, is still Ronaldo, and no dream team is truly complete without him. Manchester United’s former standout Ruud van Nistelrooy is one of the game’s most feared scorers, along with Wayne Rooney, one of England’s best strikers.
The midfielders were both the easiest and hardest to choose, in large part because including players like Ronaldinho could push other midfielders off the squad. England’s Steven Gerrard is one of the best midfielders in the world today, and was an easy inclusion on the list, as was Franck RibÃƒÂ©ry and KakÃƒÂ¡. Almost every midfielder on the squad has the ability to score, which is highlighted by the inclusion of a player like Ronaldinho in the midfield as opposed to a forward slot. Andrea Pirlo, Francesco Totti and especially Patrick Vieira are easy inclusions on the list.
Players like Alessandro Nesta, Fabio Cannavaro, John Terry and Cafu were a given for this squad. In defenders, we were looking for not only good tacklers, but leaders on the field that would be able to support the midfield in transition. Including guys like Ashley Cole and Jaap Stam, Sami HyypiÃƒÂ¤ and Carles Puyol serves two functions: one, to maintain the level of play that the starting defenders play at, and two, to add depth to the squad itself.
Carrying only three goalkeepers, this position was probably the hardest of all to select for us. We both chose three that we felt would be represent the team, although the inclusion of Jens Lehmann was pretty much a guilty pleasure of mine, since I hold my allegiances with Arsenal F.C. Dida, the Brazilian keeper is a stout net minder with a long track record of successes in both club and international play. His ability to block penalty kicks is a huge bonus. The starting keeper is unquestionably Gianluigi Buffon, who was the rock in the net that Italy had to have to compete in the World Cup. His presence among the defensive line may lead many to view the 2006 Italian team as one of the best defensive units of our generation.
Eric Major, a supporter of Liverpool, was an architect and cohort in designing and selecting the twenty three squad members. He also was apart of the selection process of the Starting XI. Here is his analysis of the starting players, and why they were chosen to start.
Henry, aside from being the best French player ever who isn’t named Zidane. He led Arsenal to a pair of Premiership titles, as well as almost capturing the European Cup (Champions League) this past season. He didn’t have a bad World Cup, but I don’t know that I could say he did spectacularly. Seeing as how he was overshadowed by Zidane, I don’t think he truly performed to the level that he has come to be known for. But that isn’t his fault, I think Zidane wanted to go out with all eyes on him, which they eventually did. Personally, I think Henry is the best player that France has, and he could potentially lead them to another World Cup in 2010.
I got my first taste of Shevchenko during that crazy Champions League final match between AC Milan and Liverpool, in 2005. He, along with Crespo, ran that Liverpool back line ragged. I think Shevchenko got spared my hostility because Crespo seemed to be in every play. Shevchenko also has a European Cup to his name, from 2003, when AC Milan defeated Serie A rivals Juventus. Trying to figure out how that happened just confused the hell out of me. Shevchenko also captained the Ukraine into the round of 8 in the World Cup, before falling to eventual champions Italy. Now that Shevchenko is playing for Chelsea, he can help the Blues secure at least one more Premiership title, and a number of other titles.
At the store I work at, there’s a Jamaican guy, I believe who routinely wears a Totti AS Roma jersey. Apart from being on that absolutely stellar Italy team, that made every team that they played against look like idiots. Unfortunately, I haven’t had a chance to see much of Totti while he plays for Roma. I just know from the things that I’ve read about him, that he’s a force in the midfield, and always a scoring threat.
I love this guy. So much so, that I don’t know where to start, in fully describing him. Gerrard is probably my favorite footballer behind Michael Owen. It also doesn’t hurt that Liverpool is my squad. The thing about Gerrard that separates him from the Beckhams of the world, is that Gerrard isn’t afraid to get his nose dirty. He goes out every match and works his arse off. Plus, as a captain, he leads by example. The best example of this, was his goal, in that same Champions League final against AC Milan, where he started the comeback for Liverpool. In my mind, there’s only one other man who embodies what it means to be a captain, and that man is Steve Yzerman.
Ronaldinho, aside from playing for a Brazil team that was over hyped, played for the FC Barcelona team that was touted as the best team in Europe this past season. With his presence, Barca has turned into a team that could dominate Spain, and subsequently Europe, in a way that their rivals Real Madrid could only dream of. As long as his goal production stays up, Ronaldinho will continue to lead both Barca and Brazil to success.
Kaka was a part of that AC Milan squad that had that awesome match against Liverpool for the European Cup. Kaka was named the best midfielder during the 2005 Champions League, as well as helping to lead Milan to the Italian Super Cup. He’s also helped lead Brazil to numerous cups. I would venture to guess that Milan will be building the club around him, since they lost two of their best scorers in Shevchenko and Crespo.
You want to talk about players who impressed me, during the World Cup, then look no further than Cannavaro. As captain of Italy’s squad, he had to hold the team together through the adversity of the match-fixing scandal, as well as the attempted suicide of a friend of various members of the squad. Not only did Cannavaro hold the team together, but he led them to greatness. At the same time, Cannavaro managed to bring Italy together and reinvigorate both national pride and a love of futbol in his scandal ravaged nation.
Being that I’m a Liverpool supporter, I absolutely love Sami. He can do everything. Very few people manage to get around him, when he’s on defense. He can be another scoring threat on set pieces. Plus, he always looks like he’s having fun. Sami, sharing the captaincy along with Robbie Fowler, led Liverpool to their Treble Cup (Worthington Cup, FA Cup, UEFA Cup) season in 2001. Currently, Sami along with Jamie Carragher lead the Liverpool defense, which will most likely produce success for the squad.
Cafu helped lead that awesome Brazilian defense that won a pair of World Cups. He was the first man to appear in three World Cups, and he is currently Brazil’s captain. He is known to move up from defense to assist on the attack. He has declared his intention of leading Brazil during the 2010 World Cup, which will most likely make Cafu the first man to play in 4 World Cups.
I personally rode Terry rather hard during the World Cup, though not as hard as I rode Beckham. It was during the England match against Portugal that Terry impressed the hell out of me. As a defender, he’s as tough as they come. He’s also a big reason why Chelsea has experienced the success that they have. With Terry at the helm of the defense, they only conceded 15 league goals in 2005, which is an amazing feat. Even more amazing is that Chelsea doesn’t look to be relinquishing their dominance any time soon. Plus, Terry, along with Steven Gerrard, are in the running for the captaincy of England’s national squad. I personally can’t think of anyone who could rally the team better than he or Gerrard.
With Cannavaro and Nesta playing defense in front of him, Buffon didn’t have to do much work during this World Cup. However, when he did, he made virtually every shot he saw look like it was moving in slow motion. Buffon absolutely dominated the World Cup, conceding a total of 4 goals. Plus, he is the keeper for Juventus, who have absolutely dominated Italy. Despite the match-fixing scandal, I wouldn’t doubt that Juventus will return to prominence in Italy.
To be completely honest, the whole notion of a super team never really crossed my mind as a feature here for Inside Pulse. However, when it became apparent that this was in fact going to become a reality, I put out a call for a personality here at the Pulse to offer counterpoints, opinions and criticisms of the squad we’ve assembled. Lo and behold, we have a couple of guest commentators that examined the roster and gave their critiques for the feature. First up, a very special appearance by Inside Pulse Music’s very own Shawn M. Smith, who took time out of his schedule to write up a detailed piece on the roster. While you’re surfing the net here, you should definitely check out Shawn’s new digs over at Music, which can be accessed by clicking the blue text. Be careful, it shall own your soul, feeble humans.
Andriy Shevchenko, Chelsea F.C.
Former AC Milan striker and the man that carried the Ukraine to the round of 16 (before losing to eventual champ Italy 3-0,) Shevchenko is a footballer through and through. Named in 2004 by Pele himself as one of the 125 greatest living players, “Sheva” scored a blistering 108 goals in his first 180 matches in Serie A.
Ronaldo, Real Madrid
Real Madrid’s own “Fat Bastard” is a juggernaut. Three weeks ago, he became the greatest scorer in World Cup history with a futsal inspired deke of Ghanaian ‘keeper Richard Kingson. While the media scrutinize his every meal, Ronaldo’s gap-toothed smile and nose for the goal set him apart. He isn’t nuts like Wayne Rooney, or as dependable as Thierry Henry, but when he shows up to play, he wins.
Ruud van Nistelrooy, Manchester United
A class-act selection. After a dispute with Man U trainer Sir Alex Ferguson that lead to his ban from Roy Keane’s testimonial match, Ruud didn’t slam his boss in the press. He had a quiet World Cup with the Netherlands, and appears to be headed to Bundesliga giant Bayern Munich, a move that might just “toughen up” a player that tends to underachieve internationally.
Thierry Henry, Arsenal F.C.
Dependable. Forget Zinedine Zidane, the inspirational leader of France, Henry is the king. The scariest thing about Henry is that at 28, Henry hasn’t even tapped his potential, despite having scored 187 goals in 358 professional matches (he’s also scored 36 goals for France in 84 caps.) This guy will only get better with age, not unlike the wine from his native land. Having guided Les Bleus to their third major final in 8 years while spearheading FIFA’s campaign to “erase racism,” Henry has shown a grace and poise that few international players can match. Unlike David Beckham, he will never be considered over-rated; Thierry Henry delivers. Quite possibly my favorite player in the world.
Wayne Rooney, Manchester United
Forget the silly dismissal against Portugal and the subsequent maelstrom. The former FIFPro World Young Player of the Year is a “bulldog.” A fiery young talent who made his debut for the English Nationals at 17, Wayne has shown so much promise that even the legendary George Best said: “You go through all the greats at Manchester United and you’ve certainly got to put him in there.” All this praise for a man that hasn’t scored for England since Euro ’04.
Midfielders No Michael Ballack?? Wanted overrated stars, RibÃƒÂ©ry, Totti, Pirlo, but no FIGO?
Andrea Pirlo, A.C. Milan –
A defensive liability who has adequate “muscle” supporting him in the midfield with both Milan and the Italian Nat’l Team, Pirlo is known for his ability in dead-ball situations. Need a crucial kick taken, this is the guy.
Francesco Totti, AS Roma –
Over-rated Italian. Honestly, Totti has done nothing of note internationally, as he serves in a secondary role with that team behind Italy’s playmaker, Pirlo. I would much rather have seen Michael Ballack, Tomas Rosicky or Luis Figo here, as if we were looking for style over substance, Totti is a consensus pick. He disappears for stretches of matches.
Franck RibÃƒÂ©ry, Olympique de Marseille –
The French spark plug is being deemed the successor to Zidane in that camp. I can’t say I disagree. Prior to this year’s World Cup, I heard very little of him, but his determination and hustle stood out. At 23, he still has many years ahead of him, and it’s inevitable that he will have suitors lining up to steal him away from his homeland. Of note: he played in Turkey in 2005 for Galatasaray, a club that former U.S. goalkeeper (and current Blackburn Rover) Brad Friedel played for 10 years earlier.
KakÃƒÂ¡, A.C. Milan –
56 goals in 193 matches isn’t a bad way to start your career. I do agree that most of the “prettiest,” skillful players play their club soccer in Italy. It’s a good environment to learn the game. The Brazilian impressed-in-spurts in Germany last month, but the jury is out on whether or not I feel he deserves mention here.
Patrick Vieira, Juventus F.C. –
With 6 goals in 95 international matches, Vieira is an inspirational leader known more for motivating others to succeed than impacting the score himself. During qualifying for the latest World Cup, Vieira could not get the team on the same page. His solution: convince Zidane to come back AND give up the armband. This dude is a class act. He knows his role is to make everyone else look great, but he handles it well.
Ronaldinho, FC Barcelona –
Ronaldinho. Skill, skill, skill. Whether in the Barca kit or the Brazilian yellow, his charm and technical ability are unmatched. Sure, there are videos of this guy pulling unheard of stunts with a soccer ball, but he wasn’t a factor in Germany. He’s only 26, so he still has a decade to add to his legacy. In order to go down as not just one of the best Brazilian midfielders ever, but the best EVER, he needs to lead Brazil to a Cup victory. The big cup, not just a professional one.
Steven Gerrard, Liverpool F.C. –
This is the number one guy I would build a team around. Having graduated from the Liverpool youth system, he knows his way around the pitch. Tireless worker who never vanishes, is always around the ball, and makes his teammates better. England 2010? If the team is built around this stud and Wayne Rooney, the Brits will have something to look forward to.
No PHILIPP LAHM? He’s the reason that Jens Lehmann didn’t get the boot after his crap performance against Costa Rica. Lahm locked the doors to the cage until extra time against Italy in the semis. His performance was heroic and made people like myself forget that Oliver Kahn wasn’t playing, which was something we noticed after game one.
No Lilian Thuram? Cannavaro and Buffon owe a lot of their success to the French defender. After the three were reunited in Juventus, the went on a crazy defending rampage, leading the team to Serie A titles that have since been stripped due to the stupid match-fixing scandal.
Alessandro Nesta, A.C. Milan –
Even though Tommy Smyth named him one of the top five players from this years, I just don’t buy it. Not sure why, he just irks me.
Ashley Cole, Arsenal –
When Real Madrid expresses interest, you are either really good or super-hyped. The 25 year old Englishman of Barbadian descent is one of the few true left backs in the world. The other is Philip Lahm, who didn’t even touch this list. Cole is a Gunner, and one of two that I respect. With questions about Cole’s sexuality swirling, the man named Ashley still delivered strong play that silenced his critics. He and Henry make me proud to watch them, as even in the face of crazy adversity, they are unflappable.
Cafu, A.C. Milan –
In 2002, Cafu became the first man to play in THREE World Cup Finals (the match, not the tournament.) He’s hard-nosed and reliable. Intense and intimidating, even at 36, Cafu has speed to spare. Has an outside shot at making it 2010 in South Africa if he doesn’t retire from International play sooner.
Carles Puyol, FC Barcelona –
An attacking defender whose tactics rarely see him booked in club or international competition, Puyol is world class. Voted the “Best Right Back in Europe” by UEFA in 2002. If he can hold his own against players like Ronaldinho in practice, no wonder this guy is getting such praise.
Fabio Cannavaro, Real Madrid –
Dolce & Gabana fragrance and clothing model in his free time, Cannavaro is as much a sex symbol in Europe as David Beckham. The biggest difference between the former English skipper and Fabio is that one can defend. There won’t be movies made about Cannavaro’s exploits, but their should be. His play in Germany pushed his team past a stonger Germany team, as his power and skill in the back served notice that Italy was the best defending team of the tournament.
Jaap Stam, Ajax Amsterdam –
Not a fan. He’s not very strong in the air, and has no counter-attacking ability whatsoever. I like versatile defenders. He isn’t one.
John Terry, Chelsea F.C. –
Future English Captain? Check. Led one of the greatest defenses in EPL history when he lead the 2005 Chelsea squad that allowed only 15 goals in league play. Yeah, he did that one too. Terry is a great soccer/football player. Good instincts, good organizational skills, and a guy who goes all out every time he’s on the pitch.
Sami HyypiÃƒÂ¤, Liverpool F.C. –
It’s too bad that Hyypia is Finnish, for he might never get a shot at showcasing his skill on the world’s biggest stage. Can’t list him among the best without noting he has only professional success, and not representing his homeland, not can I?
Dida, A.C. Milan
One could argue that there are better ‘keepers in the world than Dida. However, with 13 professional and international championships to his name, Nelson de Jesus Silva, has backstopped many of the best teams in the world. Whether playing with fellow Brazilians in World Cup competition, or stopping shots from the world’s best in Serie A, Dida exudes a strong, silent confidence that allows his teammates to take chances. Is he better than Petr Cech? In 2004, he was voted the best ‘keeper in the world ahead of the
aforementioned Chelsea netminder, and finished second in the voting just a year later.
Gianluigi Buffon, Juventus F.C.
Buffon not only managed to single-handledly guide the Azzurri to this year’s World Cup title, he also has the record for richest transfer fee for a goalkeeper ($62 million) when he was moved from Parma to Juventus in 2001. Blocking out the match-fixing scandal that surrounded the team on their quest for international glory, Buffon allowed only two goals in Cup play: a penalty kick to Zidane in the final and an own goal against the U.S. He’s flashy, but not like the worst ‘keeper to have ever won a World Cup (Fabien Barthez.) Instead, Buffon’s strengths lie in his shot-blocking and set piece defense, two skills that cannot be taught. You either have “it,” or you don’t, and luckily for the hundreds of thousands watching the final in Circus Maximus in Rome, Buffon does.
Jens Lehmann, Arsenal F.C
I cannot stand Jens Lehmann. Oliver Kahn is the only goalkeeper to be awarded the Golden Ball (World Cup MVP in 2002) and he SITS ON THE BENCH? Ridiculous! Being an enormous fan of the German club Borussia Dortmund, I have never forgiven Lehmann for the events that transpired on December 19, 1997. Schalke 04’s Lehmann became the second German goalkeeper to score in a match (not on a free kick or penalty) in a game against their main rival, Dortmund. From an apparent offside position, Lehmann knocked the ball past the Dortmund ‘keeper to knot the score at 2 in the 90th minute. I don’t hate him. I firmly believe that Germany’s best goalkeeper was “riding pine” in ’06. Kahn is a better shot-stopper, better communicator, and organizes a more efficient defense. Look at the first game of this year’s cup: Lehmann allowed two goals to Costa Rica. Costa Rica only managed one more goal in the tournament. Lehmann is over-rated, and I would much rather have seen Pascal Zuberbuhler of Switzerland/West Bromwich Albion here. He is the first goalkeeper to not allow a single goal in World Cup play (400 minutes) and still be eliminated from the tournament, a game that the Ukraine won in a penalty shoot-out. Sure, Zuberbuhler couldn’t catch a cold, but we could have tossed the guy a bone.
Next up, another Inside Pulse staffer that answered the call of duty here, submitted his commentary on the team we’ve built up. Many of you who are active in the forums know Beadle, a forum moderator here with us at the Pulse. A diehard football fan, he has some interesting perspectives on the all star roster, with an additional starting lineup to boot!
Well I’ve got to say firstly that I strongly approve of the squad. There’s a couple of changes I’d make, but then no two lists are ever the same in this kind of thing.
As far as the Keeper goes, Buffon is a shoe-in. Best keeper in the world, bar none. Great choice.
Ditto the strikers. Henry and Shevchenko are the best two strikers in the world right now. Absolutely nailed that one. Plus they’d play very well together. Shevva can play with his back to goal and lay on the flicks for Henry’s bursting pace. By the same token, Henry can create chances by running from deep and generates an extraordinary number of assists for a striker, something that Shevva (as the best finisher in world football) would thrive upon.
So, now onto the areas I have more problems with. Midfield first. Now don’t get me wrong. Totti, Gerrard, Ronaldinho and Kaka are probably the best four creative midfielders out there at the moment. But that’s exactly where you hit your problem. They’re all at their best going forward. There’s no-one there to get them the ball in the first place. Gerrard can play as a ball-winner, but if you make him do that role then you stifle his natural attacking instincts. And there are better ball-winners out there. In your squad, you’ve only got Vieira whose natural game is to break down opposition attacks, win the ball, and lay it off to more attack-minded colleagues. But I’m sad to say old Pat’s past his best now. The single best ball-winner in world football (IMHO) in Gennaro Gattuso (AC Milan & Italy). He’d work best as the foil for the others. Which means you have to drop someone. And I’d go for Totti to be relegated to the bench (fair swap – one Italian for another). The reason is that while Ronaldinho can play wide left, only Gerrard can play wide right. And Totti’s game is a bit too similar to Ronaldinho’s anyway (although probably less technical and more thoughtful). They might get in the way of each other. So this makes Ronny on the left, Stevie G on the right, Kaka as the playmaker in the middle, and Gattuso as the enforcer.
Defence next. Well the first thing that stands out is that you have 3 centre-backs and only one full back. So the first thing I’d do is put on a left back. And the only one on your list is Ashley Cole. So he’s guaranteed a starting place. Sami Hyypia is the man to miss out, because his game is very similar to JT’s, but without so much drive these days. They’re both a bit static, good with their heads at both ends of the pitch, and effectively act as a wall and the defensive leader. So Terry stays, Sami goes. I’d debate the relative merits of Nesta and Cannavarro, but they’d both be an effective foil for Terry, so Fabio can stay there. Then right back. A few years ago, Cafu would have been a synch at right back. The legs aren’t quite what they used to be though, so I think he’d need replacing. So it depends on what you want out of your full-backs – ultra-solid defensively, or supporting the attacks more on the overlap with the wide midfielders. Carlos Puyol would give you the former, but the best in the world right now at the latter would be (yet) another Italian, and one who’s not on your list – Zambrotta. Since you’ve got Ashley Cole on one side, if you go defensive on the other then you unbalance the side, and leave Stevie G trying to cover too much ground on the right side of midfield. So I’d go Zambrotta.
Which make my final list:
Zambrotta (Interestingly only Italians and English in the back five)
But that’s just my list. Yours was a great one too. Thanks for letting me give my thoughts.
Again, a huge thanks to Shawn M. Smith, Beadle, and Eric Major for their help in making this bad boy more than just a time waster. If you agree or disagree with the thoughts expressed in this feature, be sure to send them our way here at Inside Pulse, and we’ll be sure to give them a look. All in all, I hope you enjoyed a little slice of football Heaven, and we’ll be seein’ ya.