There are a number of things that can drive a man insane. For me it can be anything from crying babies next to me on an airplane journey from Oslo to Istanbul, or having to listen to Katy Perry and Lady Gaga for an entire evening that other people said would be “fun”. But, the challenge that I received almost 48 hours ago has driven me more insane then all those things.
I was challenged, sort of, by Vampy Archer to pick an all-time world football XI during a discussion on Twitter this monday. Considering how spoilt for choice one is when one is looking back on over 100 years of football history, this turned out to be a recipe for disaster for me. I have certainly 150-200 players that I’d consider to be amongst my favorite players. Furthermore, most of them aren’t really considered to be amongst the finest players that the sport has produced.
At the same time I was trying to create a starting line-up that would look somewhat feasible on paper. What made it even harder was that Vampy chose to leave Zidane, Pele, and Maradonna out of his starting XI. I considered it fair sportsmanship to leave them out as well. What a mistake, considering the vast amount of talent that comes behind them. Well, leaving out Maradonna was easy enough, considering that I never really liked the person, but had the outmost respect for the man on the pitch.
At the end of the road I discovered that I am a somewhat sentimental person. I do love a number of players, and can’t let go of them, even if everybody else thinks that these players have no place in all-time world football XI. Some people might even call me insane, and rightly so. I love being insane. Here is my all-time world football XI.
Goalkeeper: Robert Enke
And right away we start with a very controversial choice. Enke was considered to be a great talent, was amongst the best goalkeepers in Portugal during his time at Benfica, but vanished from the minds of almost every German football fan after his move to Barcelona, and the years that he spent on the bench in Spain. Only after Hannover 96 rediscovered the once so promising goalkeeper, his career started to evolve.
Enke was always one of my favorite players, and I was thrilled to see him return to German football back in 2004. His best qualities as a goalkeeper were his excellent shot stopping on the line, and his tremendous ability to make life difficult for strikers in an one-on-one situation. Now that we know that Robert Enke struggled with depression for much of his playing career, my respect for him and his performance on the pitch has been multiplied a gazillion times. Additionally, I must admit, I was always more fond of Enke then any other German national team keeper. Oliver Kahn was as humorless as a Swiss accountant, playing for the wrong team(Bayern Munich) and never really won my heart. Jens Lehmann was just bonkers(not in a good way), and Andreas Köpke was like BMW, extremely good, but I really didn’t get to exited about him.
Also considered: Oliver Kahn, Andreas Köpke, Iker Casillas and Gordon Banks.
Right back: Carlos Alberto Torres
I have always loved Brazilian full backs. They do charge up and down the field like there is no tomorrow. Having them on the pitch is like having an extra attacking midfielder. Roberto Carlos was amongst my favorites growing up, but considering that he wasn’t going to make the left back in this team, I had to opt for a Brazilian right back. Carlos Alberto was the obvious choice, considering how influential he was in the Brazilian national team of the 1970s. His goal against Italy in the 1970 World Cup is still amongst the greatest goals that have ever been scored in this tournament.
Also considered: Cafu, Lillian Thuram and Phillip Lahm.
Left back: Paolo Maldini
Graceful both on and off the pitch, Maldini had an excellent football brain. Choosing the right passes at the right time, being almost always well positioned defensively when the opposition were attacking. Maldini won numerous titles during his 25 year long career, and is one of the biggest legends of Italian football.
Also considered: Are you kidding? Nobody.
Centre backs: Franz Beckenbauer and Rune Bratseth
Let’s start with the obvious choice. Franz Beckenbauer is one of the all-time greats of football. Bringing the role of sweeper to previously never seen perfection, Beckenbauer shaped German football, and the German national team for more then a decade. Truly a class act. Rune Bratseth on the other hand may come as a huge surprise. Solid Norwegian national player, fitting perfectly into the way of Otto Reghagel’s philosophy in the early 90s, the tall man from Trondheim was my favorite defender growing up.
Also considered: Cannavaro, Nesta, Baresi, Moore and Puyol
Central defensive midfield: Dieter Eilts
Another heavily biased nomination I must admit. Eilts came into the spotlight in the early 90s when he faced off against Napoli’s Diego Maradonna in the cup-winners cup. The young northern German completely dismantled Maradonna’s play, drove the Argentinian mad, and went on to become on of the best defensive players of the Bundesliga of the 90s and early 00s.
Also considered: No contest I am afraid. I just love good old Dieter Eilts.
Right midfield: George Best
Gifted with a touch that could make anyone’s football heart melt, this Northern-Irish boy went on to become on of the best players that we have ever seen. Brilliant and dangerous on solo raids, but also being able to seek out a teammate with a good pass when needed. And who doesn’t love a footballer whose most epic quote is: I spent half my money on booze and women, and the other half I wasted!
Also considered: Figo and Donadoni.
Left midfield: Pavel Nedved
The embodiment of what has been good about Italian, and more specifically Juventus, football in the 90s and much of the 00s. Brilliant free kick taker, fantastic passing game, and a hair cut that I am hugely jealous of.
Also considered: Giggs, Hagi and Gento.
Central attacking midfielder: Michel Platini
What an all round brilliant player Paltini was back in his day. The tiny Frenchman was a giant on the pitch, and held the record for scoring the most goal for L’equipe until Thierry Henry took it from his hands in 2007.
Also considered: Zico, Socrates, Laudrup and Netzer.
Strikers: Eusebio and Gerd Müller
The Black Panther and Der Bomber sounds like a combination that could scare Sarah Palin’s voters to death. Solely that is a good enough reason to let these two be my striker pairing. But, their numbers also justify their place in my team. Müller scored 68 goals for the German national team in 62 caps, Eusebio managed 41 goals in 64 caps. Truly staggering figures.
And while Eusebio was a pleasure to watch, and had a massive amount of talent on the ball, Müller is the embodiment of the overweight man being able to play football. Gerd Müller was never an artist on the ball, but he could score the most astonishing goals, because of his striker’s instinct. In my book Müller still is the best striker that world has ever seen.
Also considered: Raul, Inzaghi(Flippo I must add) and Ole Gunnar Solskjær.
Formation and tactics
Besides the massive age difference between those 11 players, and some of them being dead, tactically speaking there are a number of problems. Carlos Alberto and George Best are a brilliant combination going forward, but they would be just as dreadful going backwards. It is therefor vital that Eilts and Beckenbauer pick up some of the slag.
Beckenbauer perfected the role as sweeper during his playing years. Der Kaiser had even a tendency to go forward on the pitch. Therefor Dieter Eilts needs to be a very defensive minded midfielder, but considering how he played in his playing days, that wouldn’t be too much of a problem.
I have no worries over on the left hand side, the combination between Maldini and Nedved would have worked beautifully, if the two players would have gotten the chance to play on the same team back in their heyday.
Upfront I am not to sure about my magical triangle, consisting of Platini, Eusebio and Müller. Platini would combine beautifully with Eusebio, but I don’t know if Müller would have gotten on very well with the two of them at their side.
So, there you have it: My all-time favorite XI, set in a diamond 4-4-2 system, or 4-1-2-1-2 system if you so prefer.
Feel free to leave a comment.