I often wonder over the course of a season, what the best World XI team would be if one were to be assembled? So I decided to do a running series called ‘Best XI’ where I pick a team on a given subject briefly explaining my choices. Every edition has basic rules that I follow when making the team mainly to eliminate bias.
This is the first edition of Best XI and I will do a ‘World Football: Best XI’ as on 04/09/2008. Firstly of course pick your formation; I opted for a 4-5-1 setup. Secondly, to get rid of bias only pick 3 players from the National & Club teams you support in the first eleven. Finally pick 7 Substitutes and a Captain, DONE!
As captain and in goal I opted for world class Italian goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon, who at 30 already has a wealth of experience and accolades. Buffon is now in his prime and widely regarded as technically the most complete goalkeeper around. Iker Casillas who himself is only 27, had an outstanding season with club and country but after much deliberation just missed out.
Casillas will be the first of my 7 substitutes, whilst Petr Cech missed out due to uncertain recent form but still comprises the top three goalkeepers in the world. Edwin Van der Sar had a great year but is now past his prime at 37, with his future to be assessed in January.
I went with Phillip Lahm for his consistent displays over the last two years for Bayern Munich and Germany. My original first choice was Patrice Evra who was the best left back in the world last season, but I found it hard to pick a player who surprisingly is not a regular for France. Similarly Gael Clichy the other outstanding left-back in the Premier League last year, also is for some reason behind Eric Abidal for France. This is a difficult position to pick as there is currently a lack of standout left-backs in the world, since the likes of Roberto Carlos.
After World Cup 2006 it was Gianluca Zambrotta but he had a tough time in Barcelona. At the moment, I have gone with Daniel Alves the most expensive right-back in the world after a £25 million move to Barcelona. Alves is at the top of the pile of attacking full-backs in world, and had a superb time in Seville. Sergio Ramos is versatile with the ability to also play in centre defence and having missed out to Alves will be my second substitute. Bacary Sagna was voted the best in the Premier League but was not even included in the French squad for Euro 2008.
Rio Ferdinand had a terrific 2007-08 forming statistically the best centre-back pairing in Europe with Nemanja Vidic. Rio is from the Italian school of defending; comfortable with the ball at his feet and assured in possession when moving forward. Vidic is a no-nonsense customer; who seldom gives the opponent a sniff and is a threat with his aerial ability from set-pieces in the opponents half. Their contrasting styles compliment each other perfectly and on the evidence of the last season are my first choices in central defence.
Fabio Cannavaro and Alessandro Nesta are great defenders but had difficult seasons by their high standards. John Terry had a decent season but did not replicate the form shown in the 2004-05 and 2005-06 seasons. Ricardo Carvalho was consistent when he played but was plagued by injury in 2007-08 making only 21 appearances in the league for Chelsea. Carles Puyol has not replicated the consistency shown in 2005-06 season since then.
In Michael Essien, Chelsea has a ready-made replacement for Claude Makalele at defensive-midfield this season. He has all the required attributes and whilst performing his defensive duties commandingly, can pose a threat going forward. Gennaro Gattuso and Javier Mascherano were both contenders but neither had a more impressive season last year than the Ghanaian powerhouse.
This position has many worthwhile contenders who you can argue, should walk it into this world team. I made my choice on two factors; firstly relevant statistics for 2007-08 and what qualities they add to the team. My main contenders were: Kaka, Steven Gerrard, Cesc Fabregas, Xavi and Wesley Sneijder for the two available positions.
Steven Gerrard statistically had his best goal-return for Liverpool in 2007-08, scoring 22 goals in 42 appearances and providing numerous assists for Fernando Torres, with whom he has a terrific understanding. It is Gerrard’s hunger when defending that makes him standout compared to others in this position not to mention the attacking and leadership qualities he brings, simply made him a certainty.
Kaka, the reigning FIFA World Player of the Year 2006-07 is widely recognised as the most elegant midfielder of his generation, a time when there is an ever increasing emphasis on pace and power. He has the ability to provide and score goals consistently with more than a touch of the samba flair. In fact statistically last year he too had a better goal-return than in 2006-07, not getting the same praise because Milan performed poorly and a certain Cristiano Ronaldo.
Cesc Fabregas is one of the best young centre midfielders in the world. Fabregas is neither the strongest nor the quickest but his football brain as a play-maker is light-years ahead of most, despite a tender age of 21. He should score more goals considering his talent but saying that he will, as a best return of 13 goals in 45 games for 2007-08 and an astounding 23 assists showed. After just missing out to Kaka and Gerrard he will be the third of my named substitutes.
Xavi is a technically brilliant centre midfielder and a huge influence in Spain lifting Euro 2008 as being selected UEFA’s player of the tournament showed. He had a great season individually but Barcelona struggled as a unit which did not help him. Francesco Totti and Ronaldinho despite their undoubted class did not make enough appearances due to fitness problems in the last year to merit a place. Wesley Sneijder had a good season with Real Madrid and a decent Euro 2008 but it was difficult to pick him ahead of either Kaka or Gerrard at the moment.
Left & Right Wingers:
The two spots on the wing were straightforward, at left-wing Cristiano Ronaldo and at right-wing Lionel Messi are the outstanding players in their position. Messi has been hampered by injury over his career making only 78 appearances in 4 seasons at Barcelona. However, football fans the world over are amazed by how the ball sticks to his feet when dribbling, leaving opponents bewildered. Messi needs to score more goals considering his talent but creates plenty of assists and has age on his side at 21.
Ronaldo is without doubt currently the best footballer on the planet; with an astonishing return of 65 goals in his last 101 games for club and country playing on the wing! Ronaldo was the top scorer in the Premier League and Champions League for 2007-08 and is the massive favourite to be crowned FIFA World Player later this year. Every season his goal return improves, as does the ability to use the raw pace, technique and dazzling array of tricks at his disposal, to devastating effect.
Robinho has all the required potential but not shown enough consistency rather only flashes of his brilliant ability. Maybe the £32.5 million British transfer record move to Manchester City will give him the chance to shine in the limelight and excel. Robinho makes the bench as he can play on the wing or as a striker.
Fernando Torres will be the lone striker upfront after an outstanding first season with Liverpool and the Euro 2008 triumph with Spain. He scored 33 goals in 46 games for Liverpool with electric pace and skill and an ability to score from anywhere with ease. El Nino is much stronger than given credit for and a deadly finisher who is currently the best striker in world football.
Emmanuel Adebayor made the bench after a terrific season with Arsenal where he struck 30 goals in 49 games, putting to bed any doubts that the Gunners would struggle for goals without Thierry Henry. He has such a physical presence upfront using it to great effect with his ever improving finishing. Dimitar Berbatov hot on the heels of a £30.75 million transfer to Manchester United also made the bench, as his 43 goals in 65 internationals is the best average return of any international striker. My final substitute is Ruud van Nistelrooy because of his consistency year in year out for club and country scoring an astounding club career 226 goals in 367 games.
7 Substitutes & Captain:
→Iker Casillas (GK)
→Sergio Ramos (RB/CB)
→Cesc Fabregas (AMC)
→Emmanuel Adebayor (ST)
→Dimitar Berbatov (ST)
→Ruud van Nistelrooy (ST)
→Gianluigi Buffon (Captain)
●D.Alves ●Ferdinand ●Vidic ●Lahm