Ultimate Elevens – Eddie’s XI
Posted by eddiev18 on December 24, 2008
Here’s my Ultimate Eleven. Let me know what you think of it!
Formation-wise, I was toying with a 3-5-2 formation with wing-backs, mainly because Roberto Carlos is without a doubt the best attacking full back i’ve ever had the pleasure of watching. Also, if you add John Terry as an extra centre-back, the defence would have been solid as a rock. However, the absence of an attacking right-back of similar quality to Roberto Carlos, and the inability to include anyone from the veritable smorgasbord of exciting wingers I’ve seen over the years, made me favour the more traditional 4-4-2 formation.
If it wasn’t for a five month spell living in Madrid back in 2004, I’m very aware that my team would be totally different. However, I was lucky enough to be in the Spanish capital when the ‘Galacticos’ era was in full swing, which is why four players from that Real Madrid team (Casillas, Roberto Carlos, Figo, and Zidane) make it into my XI. Unlike their team though, mine would conquer because it has, in my opinion, two world-class centre halves and the best defensive midfielder I’ve seen in 20 years following the game – Patrick Vieira (only Dunga and Makalele come close to him and, as a Spurs fan that’s tough to admit!).
That isn’t to say that my team lacks flair. Not in the slightest. With Figo and Ginola providing the width and wizardry on the flanks, and Zidane in his best position (operating behind the strikers), they’d provide plenty of goals from midfield and ammunition for the two strikers.
Picking two strikers was the most difficult decision I had to make, mainly because the list of players I could choose from was so massive! However, I wanted a partnership – two players who would work well with each other. It was important that one of them was an intelligent footballer, with a good eye for a pass, and the ability to drop a little deeper to link up with Zidane and the wingers. I managed to get the list down to the following players: Ronaldo (the fat one), Sheringham, Berbatov, Rooney, Raul, Etoo, Owen, Shearer, Henry.
I decided that Sheringham was going the play the slightly withdrawn role, that was a pretty easy decision, and I was seriously considering pairing him up with his old ‘SAS’ strike-partner Alan Shearer. However, Thierry Henry was incredible at Arsenal, probably the best player ever seen in the Premier League, and I felt the team needed a little more pace. Sheringham and Henry, that’ll do just fine!
Goalkeeper: Iker Casillas – Now regarded as one of the best in the world, Casillas is treated like a golden-boy in Madrid, in the same way that Raul is. A product of the youth academy, he made his debut for Los Blancos at 19, and hasn’t looked back since. Combining incredible agility with a terrific ability to command his area, this guy would have kept so many more clean sheets in his carreer if it wasn’t for his club’s ability to ignore the value of quality players in defence. I wanted to pick Peter Schmeichel, but I never saw him live, and I reckon he’s by far a better goalkeeper than James and Barthez.
Right Back: Christan Panucci – I haven’t seen too many outstanding right backs in my time. It’s the sort of position where, if you do a good job, you’re not noticed by the fans – you just quietly get on with it. Panucci is different though. He comes from an era in Italy that produced a whole plethora of fine defenders (including the likes of Maldini, Costacurta, Cannavaro, Nesta), and I have always been hugely impressed by not only his versatility (he can play superbly in any position across the back-line), but also his stamina, and determination to stick to his task. Like most of those aforementioned players, Panucci never relied on pace to defend, meaning that he is still playing at the top level, despite being nearly 36 years old. I’ve only seen him live once, and eventhough Roma lost 4-2 that day, I was hugely impressed by him.
Centre Half: Sol Campbell – When Campbell left Tottenham for Arsenal back in 2001 I, like all Spurs fans, was (to say the least) upset. Sure, the fact that our captain and product of our academy gone to our deadliest rivals was shocking (and I still don’t forgive him for that), but the real pain was caused by the harsh truth that he was simply too good for us at the time he left, and it would take years to properly replace him. He was the ultimate ‘powerhouse’ centre-half, but he was quick too. Whenever I saw him play for Spurs he would win absolutely everything in the air, and I imagine he’d be a total nightmare to play against. Fine, he was never the most graceful with the ball at his feet, but playing at Arsenal improved this side of his game greatly. A classic old fashioned centre half, which is a must for any team in my opinion. It always makes me laugh that he started life at Spurs as a striker!
Centre Half: Ledley King – Every Tottenham fan knows that, when fit, Ledley is in the top five centre halves in the world. He really is that good – better than Terry, better than Ferdinand, I have absolutley no doubt about that. However, I don’t want to start a debate about that (it’s just what I believe), as I know that most non-Spurs fans won’t see it that way, because the simple truth is that no-one has seen him play anywhere near enough in the last few years. His career has been ruined by injury, and he doesn’t look like he’s going to recover. Horrible news, but I’ve been lucky enough to have watched him when he was fit, and at his very best. Thierry Henry once described King as the only defender in the league able to match him for pace and still tackle him fairly. This highlights two of King’s best attributes – searing pace, and the timing of a Swiss clock in a challenge. He really has it all though, and is so comfortable on the ball that Sven Goran Eriksson deemed him good enough to play in midfield for England. Paired alongside Campbell, I think it gives me the perfect combination.
Left Back: Roberto Carlos – As I suggested above, Roberto Carlos isn’t really a proper left-back. I’d much rather have pretended that I’ve watched Paolo Maldini, and just whack him in the team (plus, I wouldn’t need any description as to why I’ve chosen him), but I’d be breaking my own rules so I’ve resisted. Having said all of that, Roberto Carlos played as a left back (albeit an attacking one) in a flat back four for almost every team he has played for, so he has the same role in my team. What I find most interesting about Roberto Carlos is that he was almost plagued by a stunning free-kick he scored in a friendly tournament back in 1997, as many fans just remember him for that. I remember him for his superb raiding runs down the left, as it was virtually impossible to stop him when he was on song. He redesigned the role of the full-back in the 90s and, when you put him up against the likes of Clive Wilson, Paolo Tramezanni and Justin Edinburgh, he’s a shoe-in!
Defensive Midfield: Patrick Vieira – I saw Vieira in his pomp, when Arsenal’s ‘invincibles’ travelled to the Lane to win the 2003/04 Premier League title, in a 2-2 draw. Vieira finished off an excellent move to score that day, and it was the first time I’d seen him in the flesh. What a player he was. Arsenal have never fully recovered since losing him. Defensive midfielders are a rare commodity, well the good ones are anyway, and Vieira wins his place in my team simply because he had more strings to his bow than Makalele.
Attacking Midfield: Zinedine Zidane – Magnificent. The best player I’ve ever seen, hands down, and I expect that to stay that way for quite some time. I don’t mean to do him any diservice by not saying any more about him, but I really don’t think I need to. Most people are aware of this man’s genius. If you aren’t, just go to YouTube, and check out the multitude of compilation videos dedicated to the great man. I feel privelidged to have seen him play. A legend.
Right Wing: Luis Figo – Left or right, it doesn’t matter with Figo, as long as he’s hugging a touchline. One of the best players in recent memories, he was actually the best of that Madrid bunch in the 2003/04 season. He tormented defenders with his dribbling ability and, as David Seaman will remember, was a master at scoring with long-range piledrivers. With Beckham, Joaquin, and Cristiano Ronaldo all in the running for this spot in my team, I’ve gone with Figo because he consistently performed throughout an illustious carreer that has spanned almost 20 years.
Left Wing: David Ginola – Ginola was contesting this position with Brazilian winger Denilson (not the one currently at Arsenal), because I wanted a bit of fun in the team. I wanted a player who plays with a smile on their face, maybe doesn’t do a huge amount defensively, but is a crowd pleaser and puts entertaining the supporters high on the agenda. Ginola wins because he was so consitently good at Spurs, and was a shining light in a very dark period for the club. Denilson was great fun to watch, but you can’t help but look back at his career and see it as a failiure, given the promise he showed in his youth at the 1998 World Cup.
Striker: Teddy Sheringham – Sheringham is definitely the best player i’ve seen in the withdrawn striker role. Like Campbell, he was too good for Tottenham (eventhough he loved the club), and when he moved to Manchester United he got the recognition he deserved from the media, and won the medals he craved (the Premier League, Champions League, and FA Cup). A clever player who created just as many goals as he scored, other strikers just loved to play with him. Shearer was the beneficiary in Euro 96, and the best example of Sheringham’s ability can be seen in this clip of England’s destruction of Holland.
Striker: Thierry Henry – Man Utd fans will say that Cantona is the best ever Premier League striker. Arsenal fans will tell you that Henry deserves the award, and Newcastle fans will tell you Shearer is better than both. I’m not interested in that discussion. Henry was awesome, and he has the pace that my team needs. He and Sheringham would tear teams apart, that’s what matters.
Let me know what you think of my team below, and please send your Ultimate Elevens to me at firstname.lastname@example.org, and I will put as many of them up on the site as possible. Before you do though, please read the criteria here.