DAN: There are, wait for it, 285 midfielders to choose from for Adidas. This should be easy.
We joked before about stashing David Beckham on the bench for publicity, but looking at this list, he might not even crack the top-50 players.
This is so hard, seriously. I give up. Someone else start. (Once again, the selected starters appear in the graphics below, mixed in with the writers' debate.)
DAN: No, I won't give up. I narrowed down the list to...37. Can we start 37 midfielders? I can probably get it to 30 if you think that's too many.
In all seriousness, Xavi (Spain/Barcelona) takes up one spot for sure. The other three (and subs) will come from this list, right?
Bastian Schweinsteiger (Germany/Bayern Munich), Xabi Alonso (Spain/Real Madrid (pictured above)), Arjen Robben (Netherlands/Bayern Munich), Samir Nasri (France/Manchester City), David Silva (Spain/Manchester City), Thomas Muller (Germany/Bayern Munich), Kaká (Brazil/Real Madrid). Gareth Bale (Wales/Tottenham), Esteban Cambiasso (Argentina/Inter), Frank Lampard (England/Chelsea), Steven Gerrard (England/Liverpool), Mark van Bommel (Netherlands/Milan) or Nani (Portugal/Manchester United).
And then there are the likes of Salomon Kalou (Cote d'Ivoire/Chelsea), Gareth Barry (England/Manchester City) Sandro (Brazil/Tottenham), Tom Cleverley (England/Manchester United), Jack Rodwell (England/Everton), Antonio Nocerino (Italy/Milan), Daniele De Rossi (Italy/Roma), Aaron Ramsey (Wales/Arsenal), Esteban Granero (Spain/Real Madrid), Ashley Young (England/Manchester United) and Stewart Downing (England/Liverpool) who at least deserve to have their names mentioned (in bold).
Did I forget anyone? Oh, that doesn't include older players like Michael Ballack (Germany/Bayer Leverkusen), Clarence Seedorf (Netherlands/Milan), Alex (Brazil/Fenerbahce), Juan Román Riquelme (Argentina/Boca Juniors) or Beckham (England/L.A. Galaxy), most of which would have been the stars of an adidas team 10 years ago.
There isn't much room for sentiment on this roster.
CHRIS: I would go with Xavi, Xabi Alonso, David Silva and Arjen Robben to start. Schweinsteiger and Bale have to be included, I think, but I'd also make an argument for Javi Martinez at Bilbao and Lucas at Sao Paulo. We've all seen a lot of Bilbao, so Martinez speaks for himself, and I've seen enough of Sao Paulo to think that Lucas is the Neymar of midfield.
MIKE: Not that he'd make my final cut, but I'd like to extend a training-camp invitation to Oscar De Marcos. That dude is sick, and Athletic Bilbao is one of my favorite teams to watch.
Otherwise, nice list. Now the question is: How do we pick a midfield? Should it be a functioning unit with a defensive-minded holder, an attacker and two wings? Two holders, one attacker and one wing? Best four available?
I play defensive midfielder for my rec-league team, so my midfield has a defensive midfielder in it. Out of this list, I'm taking Mark van Bommel. He's old, but he can still cut down a wispy attacker running through the midfield all day. Xabi Alonso is no slouch, though. In my (admittedly defensive-minded) team, they would anchor the midfield. I'm drooling already.
Moving on, I agree with the point about Xavi. He has to be in. Out on the wing, give me Nani and Bale. It's a funky midfield, but it's pretty fearsome, too.
On the other hand, if I can pick four midfielders without regard for formation, I'll take Xavi, Schweinsteiger, Kaka (still awesome, even if Jose won't start him) and Xabi Alonso. On the bench, give me Robben and Silva. Or Gerrard and Muller. Geez, this is a tough one.
Did I just pick the whole list?
CHRIS: I love Kaka. I really do. But at this point in his career, he can't make this team. He has flashes, but he's a shadow of the player we knew in Italy.
WILL: Xavi, get your tracksuit off, son. You'll be starting. Xabi Alonso as well.
Out wide, I'm going for Arjen Robben, who, in my opinion, remains the most effective wide player in football. Yes, he can be theatrical, but so can Nani, who gets a bench spot at best for me. On the other flank, I like Gareth Bale (another who isn't averse to a dive), who gives us raw pace and the ability to attack inside, too. On the bench, I've got Schweinsteiger for brute force, Alonso as cover for Pirlo and Nani if we have space for a backup winger.
TONY: I am biased, because Kaka is one of my favourite-ever players, but I would have him on the left. As true as it is that he is not the player he once was, I can't in all good conscience say that Bale is a better footballer than him.
Would like to pick Schweini in the centre, but the partnership between Xavi and Alonso needs no explanation.
I will go for Robben on the right. Whenever he has a run without picking up an injury, he's a truly top player. Still miss him from the Premier League.
Think it would be good to have Daddy Clarence Seedorf knocking around the squad, just for his experience, influence and just being a cool dude.
DAN: As a lefty, I find it abhorrent that Robben is so terrible with his right. He barely even dribbles with it. It's amazing he has been so successful on just one leg.
Having said that, I'm fine with putting him on the right side. I think we mostly agree with Xabi Alonso and Xavi, and it's a debate now between Kaka, Nani, Bale and Schweinsteger for the left side, with at least two of the other three on the bench.
Regarding Seedorf, I totally agree, but I feel we're all falling back into remembering how great old guys were. Maybe we'll throw a few older guys on the reserves list.
CHRIS: Are we really talking about Kaka and not starting David Silva? Silva is the best playmaker in the EPL, bar none. And at this point in their careers, he is head-and-shoulders superior to Kaka, Nani, Bale and Schweinsteiger.
I don't even think it's particularly close.
DAN: I think he is asked to do different things than some of the other players we are discussing. Xavi is on the field to create what David Silva can. You're right, he should be on the list, but in the second half of the EPL season, I haven't seen as much from him as the first half.
WILL: Silva's a fine player, but he doesn't get in centrally above either Alonso or Xavi, for me. It has to be Robben on one flank, so maybe Tony's right—maybe Kaka offers greater balance than having the equally left-centric Bale on the other wing? Silva could be a nice option for the bench, though.
CHRIS: At his worst, Silva has been better than Kaka and Nani this season. At his average, he's been better than the other two. And at his best, he's been better than everyone.
Last bit of Kaka bashing for me, since I really am a fan of his, but he's only played a couple dozen times this year and hasn't always been good in those appearances.
How brilliant would David Silva have been if he were that...let's call it "well-rested."
TONY: I'm fine with having Silva in ahead of Kaka. Can't disagree with anything Chris has said.
DAN: Chris, allow us the irrational love affair for Kaka, which is somewhat a silent protest of his lack of playing time under Mourinho. I'm fine with Silva on the roster, as we really have no support for Xavi as a playmaker, but I think you are underestimating Nani's ability. Injuries aside, he's one of the most dynamic players on the flank, totally pushing pace and whipping balls in. Still, people think Bale is the "best player in the world," which is ridiculous, but is it any more ridiculous than starting him on the bench?
CHRIS: Don't get me wrong. I love Kaka, despite my last four contributions to this discussion. And I was being mean to Nani for the sake of my David Silva argument. He's a fine player, and I'd take him ahead of Kaka at the moment also.
WILL: Thinking about it, I agree with Chris' points on Silva. Over the season, he's been arguably the best creative midfielder in the Premier League, so on form, he clearly outranks Kaka. Happy for him to start on one flank, with Robben on the other. We need Kaka on the bench, though.
CHRIS: Will, are you suggesting we dump Gareth Bale and start a war with the entire British empire?
I'm not necessarily opposed. Just wondering if I should get my phone number unlisted before this is published.
MIKE: I'm fine with Kaka on the bench. It would be appropriate, considering his role with Real this season.
WILL: Don't worry about the British Empire, Chris. Tony and I are both well in with Wills, Kate and Pippa M. I think I'm still pushing for Robben, Alonso, Xavi, Bale as the Adidas starters—but happy to stand aside for Silva to come in for the Welsh wing wizard. Robben is a must-have though. I think it's time for Dan to play God.
DAN: I'm happy with that lineup, giving adidas amazing pace on the wings and strong distribution in the middle. The fight for the midfield slots on the bench could destroy us.
To the forwards!