Adidas vs. Nike Super Match: Selecting the Adidas World Football Best XI

Dan Levy@danlevythinksNational Lead WriterMay 15, 2012

Adidas vs. Nike Super Match: Selecting the Adidas World Football Best XI

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    Adidas or Nike. Nike or Adidas. 

    More than 1,000 of the world's best footballers proudly strap on footwear from one of the two top brands in the game. From Messi to Ronaldo, to Rooney, to Casillas and a host of great players around the world, the conversation of which brand boasts the better talent has been going on for years. 

    We've decided to answer it.

    There are more than 600 players affiliated with Adidas and nearly 475 under the Nike umbrella. Before we could determine which brand had the better team, we had to figure out the players who would be on each team. Over the last month, a dedicated panel of soccer writers and editors at Bleacher Report paired down the list of over 1,000 names to just under 50.

    We selected the Best XI for both Adidas and Nike, then painstakingly filled out a seven-man bench and chose an additional five reserve players to serve as ambassadors because, frankly, we couldn't decide the teams without some of those names.

    Today, we will announce our Adidas squad, following that with our Nike squad (update: this is now available).

    After both rosters are announced, a worldwide panel of soccer experts has been asked to choose the better player at each position—think Messi vs. Neymar 11 times over—to help determine which brand has the more talented players.

    Then we will play the match. 

    With the help of EA Sports and FIFA 12, we will simulate the match with our selected rosters to determine, once and for all, which team would win a super-match between Adidas and Nike. 

    We can (and will) debate this forever, but this project is as close as we may ever come to determining which brand has the best stable of talent.

    Remember, this is not a list of all the best talent in the world. There's a good chance that Puma's roster could beat either of these teams (more on that down the road). This was also created without participation from either brand. The goal is not to figure out which brand has the better products, rather, the better talent using those products.

    With this many players to choose from, there are no wrong answers, which is to say every answer can be wrong. We did not come by these decisions lightly. To see just how detailed our selections are, please click the subsequent pages to read our debate at each position. Obviously, your opinion on our selections is welcome in the comments.

    For a full list of the Adidas and Nike players, compiled via Wikipedia and independently verified when applicable, click here

    Without further adieu, here is the Adidas Best XI on the "field" with the subs listed at the bottom.

Adidas Goalkeepers

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    (Note: The following debates were conducted between Dan Levy, National Lead Writer; Will Tidey, World Football Lead Writer; Mike Cummings, World Football Lead Blogger; Tony Mabert, B/R writer and Football Editor at Eurosport-Yahoo!; Chris Hall, B/R World Football writer. Their selections and opinions are not necessarily the opinions of the author, our editors or the company.)

    DAN: Starting at the back, there are more than 30 Adidas-affiliated keepers on our list, but really, it looks like the shortlist for best keepers comes down to fewer than 10. Maybe even fewer than five.

    Here are the obvious names: Iker Casillas (Spain/Real Madrid (pictured above)), Petr Cech (Czech Republic/Chelsea), Manuel Neuer (Germany/Bayern Munich), Maarten Stekelenburg (Netherlands/Roma) and really, that might be it.

    Am I disrespecting Justo Villar (Paraguay/Estudiantes), who was great in the last World Cup and is his country's captain? What about the English or French keepers on the list? Am I crazy not to include Brad Friedel (USA/Tottenham) on here? 

    WILL: My vote goes to Casillas, who's been consistently impressive for well over a decade with Real Madrid and the Spanish national team. A major tournament winner at Euro 2008 and the 2010 World Cup, he's so hugely experienced and assured on the biggest stage, it's hard to believe he's still only 30 years old.

    Cech deserves credit for his performances for Chelsea, while Manuel Neuer is clearly a huge talent on the rise at Bayern Munich. But, it's Casillas who you'd trust the most out of this bunch to wear the adidas keeper's jersey.

    MIKE: What, no Andritany Ardhiyasa? Sure, I've never heard of him, but aren't there a billion people in Indonesia? That's some serious marketing potential.

    Joking aside, your shortlist is pretty close to spot-on (I'd leave out Cech, who I think is a tad overrated). To answer your question, no English keepers belong. Robert Green won't ever be truly trusted again, and the only good-to-great English keeper at the moment (Joe Hart) endorses another brand.

    I'd like to make the case that Neuer is a better goalkeeper, right now, than Casillas. Neuer had that crazy goalless streak that lasted like 37 gazillion hours. But, clearly, Casillas has the edge in experience and silverware.

    It's a tough call, but I'll go with Casillas. He's more marketable anyway.

    DAN: Mike, you bring up an interesting point I thought may come up later: marketability.

    Should David Beckham be stashed on the Adidas bench to get a few extra million people around the world to pay attention? This game, were it to be played, would have enough publicity; I don't think we need to save any roster spots based on marketability.

    The other question with Casillas (or really any of these keepers) is if he's the best goalie or if he is a very good goalie on two of the best teams. Conversely, maybe his teams are so great because of him.

    Unless there are any objections, it looks like Casillas is starting in net for Adidas. Let the debate between Neuer and Cech for the second keeper spot continue. 

    TONY: It is sad, for the sake of the debate, that Iker Casillas is easily the winner, but you don't get to be the Real Madrid No. 1 for more than a decade unless you're pretty good. 

    As for the second spot, I would go for Cech. His performances dipped for a while a few years back, but before that, he was an integral part of the Chelsea team that won back-to-back Premier League titles, and in recent times, I think he has been great again. In this season's Champions League up until the semifinal first legs, for example, he boasted the best shots-to-saves percentage (84.21 percent) and the most saves outright (48).

    Also, in the marketability stakes, his scrum cap makes him very distinctive.

    MIKE: I'll leave the marketability question behind once I say this. Our game would indeed attract a huge audience. But (in America at least) you need crossover stars like Beckham to push an event into the Super Bowl-level stratosphere. My wife knows who Beckham is. All my soccer-hating neighbors know who Beckham is, and most of them like him, at least a little. All of them would watch our game if Beckham played, even if he only gets a token spot on the bench.

    Moving on, I'm obviously for Neuer ahead of Cech. As evidence, I'll put the exact number on that 37 gazillion hours stat I threw out before. Last year, Neuer went more than 1,000 minutes of game time without allowing a goal. One thousand minutes! That's a little under 17 hours.

    How many things could we all do in 17 hours?

    DAN: This is such a tough (read: fun) debate because we are picking a player for one game when we know he almost certainly won't play.

    Do we reward the old veteran who would provide leadership in training, or do we acknowledge the guy in two years everyone will say is the best keeper in the world? We cannot go wrong with either man.

    CHRIS: Casillas has to be the first choice. After that, I'd narrow it down to Neuer and Friedel. Am I crazy for not including Cech? I absolutely think Will's crazy for not including Friedel.

    WILL: My heart says Neuer, but my head says Cech. And while I think the German prodigy will ultimately leave the game having achieved more and deemed the better keeper, if you were picking somebody right now, you have to go with Chelsea's Cech. Bayern may prove to be a better side than Chelsea, but you could argue that makes their progress in the Champions League an even bigger plus in Cech's column than Bayern's is for Neuer.

    DAN: We should take time to note much of this discussion was taking place before and during the second leg of the Champions League semifinals. Neuer saved two PKs in the UCL semis, but so did Casillas. Chelsea made the final because Cech was their best player. Can we carry three keepers, with one on the reserve squad?

    CHRIS: Sure, three keepers works.

Adidas Defenders

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    DAN: We are setting up both squads with traditional 4-4-2 alignments.

    We need at least one traditional center-back and one overlapping wing defender. Do we run a traditional back line and pick another stay-at-home center-back and a second player who can push forward on the outside? Or, do we just pick the four most talented defenders and hope we find two who can play inside?

    Our list has 156 defenders, 68 of whom are listed as traditional center-backs, 23 who play traditionally at left-back, 18 who play right-back and another 43 who can play inside or outside, left or right.

    We have to pick four starters and one or two guys for the bench out of 156 names? Let's roll. (The starter selections appear in the graphics below, mixed in with the debate.)

    MIKE: Wow. Lots of good choices. Just looking through quickly, here are some names I would keep around. There are probably more, but this is just a start:

    Center-backs: Diego Lugano (Uruguay/PSG), Mats Hummels (Germany/Borussia Dortmund), Holger Badstuber (Germany/Bayern Munich), Jan Vertonghen (Belgium/Ajax), Per Mertesacker (Germany/Arsenal).

    Full-backs/wing-backs: Philipp Lahm (Germany/Bayern Munich), Fabio Coentrao (Portugal/Real Madrid), Dani Alves (Brazil/Barcelona (pictured above)), Alvaro Arbeloa (Spain/Real Madrid), probably missed a few, of course. 

    CHRIS: As badly as the season started for Arsenal, I'd still take their central pairing of Vermaelen and Laurent Koscielny (France) at the moment. They're developing really well together at this point. (Note: Vermaelen was on our list originally and would have made our squad as a bench player, but he left adidas for Nike earlier in the season.)

    Vertonghen is a great defender in a league where offense is king, so he would definitely get a nod. I've got a soft spot for Lucio (Brazil/Inter), and I think he's the man I want for one big game, so in goes the Brazilian. Phil Jagielka (England/Everton) is another name we should add.

    As for outside backs, you've got three of the best going in this list in Lahm, Alves and Leighton Baines (England/Everton). Really can't go wrong with two outside backs bombing down the wings. I say leave the holding midfielders to cover and let the wing-backs run.

    DAN: Speaking of Lucio, we would be remiss not to mention a few additional older players worth throwing on the pile. Javier Zanetti (Argentina/Inter) and Ricardo Carvalho (Portugal/Real Madrid) are both clearly past their prime, but they should at least get an invitation to camp, right?

    As much as I love Everton, there is no way Jagielka is making this team when his team has done better without him in the lineup this season than with him. Are there other English internationals (or EPL starters) we are missing? Ledley King (England/Tottenham) and his terrible knees? Kolo Toure (Cote d'Ivoire/Manchester City)?

    Wait, why am I trying to add more guys who play in England? Isn't that Will's job?

    MIKE: Dan, I obsessed over every name you included there. Zanetti and Carvalho would have been automatic choices just a few years ago. I'd give them an invitation to training camp.

    WILL: My first selection is cast-iron and that's Dani Alves at right-back. He's the best in the world there and adds a nice little bit of bite too.

    In central defence, I've got a soft spot for Lucio. He's an old-school enforcer and knows every trick in the book.

    Who to have alongside him is a tough call, but having referenced some stats, I like the numbers being put out by Hummels of Borussia Dortmund this season. He makes a lot of tackles and interceptions and averages less than one foul a game. He's also been part of the title-winning team, which counts in his favor.  

    But I have to go with what I know, and that means Laurent Koscielny of Arsenal probably gets the nod. At left-back, it's Lahm for me, regardless of his mistakes in the Champions League semifinals. He's great on the ball and loaded with experience.

    DAN: Certainly, Dani Alves should be at right-back and we can slide Lahm in at left-back (to keep him away from Cristiano Ronaldo mostly).

    The center-backs are harder to choose. I'm fine with a veteran like Lucio in the first XI if everyone else is. I’m also good with Hummels.

    What about Coentrao? I figured him to be a lock, but he didn't even play in Real Madrid's most important game of the year. Does that put Arbeloa in, or am I overvaluing both of Madrid's wing-backs?

    CHRIS: I'm fine with Arbeloa, but Coentrao got shredded in Madrid's second-to-last Champions League match and was benched for the last. At this rate, he'll be on the special bus Jose Mourinho chartered to get Davide Santon out of town at Inter.

    WILL: Unless Tony is going to pipe up for Ledley "Every Other Game" King (he's a Spurs fan), I say we move this forward to the midfielders. Let's be honest, this team is going to be so good we probably won't need a back four anyway.

    TONY: Had this been a year ago, I would have been banging the drum for Ledders like there was no tomorrow. Sadly, after so many years of him being consistently exceptional despite his problems ("Ooh Ledley, Ledley/He's only got one knee/He's better than John Terry"), this season has been what looks like the start of his slow, painful demise.

    I'd go for Alves-Lucio-Hummels-Lahm. I would say Baines, but something tells me this team won't be short on set-piece specialists.

    DAN: We need more players with songs on these squads, particularly songs that make fun of John Terry.

    Let's run with Alves-Lucio-Hummels-Lahm starting for Adidas with Koscielny, Arbeloa and Baines, if we have room on the bench. I like the notion of a left side from Germany and a right side from Brazil.

    To the midfield! 

Adidas Midfielders

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    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! 

Adidas Forwards

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    DAN: There are 131 forwards or strikers on our adidas list. We have two starters and maybe one spot left on the bench.

    This is monumentally difficult. 

    We know Lionel Messi (Argentina/Barcelona (pictured above)) is one of the two starters. There is an amazing group of talent to select the other starter and potential bench player. Here are five that stand out for me:

    Karim Benzema (France/Real Madrid), Edinson Cavani (Uruguay/Napoli), Angel di Maria (Argentina/Real Madrid), Diego Milito (Argentina/Inter), Robin van Persie (Netherlands/Arsenal).

    I know I picked Cavani over countrymen Luis Suarez (Liverpool) and Diego Forlan (Inter). I also put Cavani and Milito on my list ahead of any actual Italians playing in Italy, with apologies to Alessandro Del Piero (Juventus)

    And then there's what to do with David Villa (Spain/Barcelona), not to mention someone like Raul (Spain/Schalke 04), who has probably scored more career goals than everyone on this list combined.

    The safe money is on van Persie to pair with Messi after the year he's had. That said, I keep going back to Cavani.

    MIKE: I'll surprise no one with my support of van Persie. I just received my RVP Holland jersey the other day, and I've been wearing it for approximately 92 straight hours. His form lately hasn't been quite what it was earlier this season, but without him, Arsenal would be a mid-table team at best.

    For the bench, I've got to go with Edinson Cavani. Dude is lethal, and he looks like Tim Riggins (that's John Carter for the Friday Night Lights-uninitiated). 

    WILL: Messi-RVP is clearly the obvious pick here and it's hard to argue it, really. Cavani has been banging them in, but let's not forget he plays as part of Napoli's "Holy Trinity" and will have to adapt to a very different approach in our team.

    Van Persie, meanwhile, has been unstoppable in spite of the team around him—carrying Arsenal to a respectable season and scoring all manner of goals, from all manner of situations.

    I'm actually a big fan of Leandro Damião, too. Saw him play for Brazil last year and he has immense power and huge potential. We can expect him to be a focal point of their attack at the 2014 World Cup. Benzema vs. Damiao vs. Cavani for two spots on the bench for me.

    TONY: As Will said, it is hard to see past a Messi-van Persie duo here. 

    I have got nothing but love for Cavani—to the point where it strays into places I'd rather not go—but as mentioned before, he is part of Napoli's Holy Trinity. 

    Van Persie has been amazing this season and easily deserves his two awards. I would say he hasn't quite been the one-man band that he has been painted as, though. A lot of his goals have been excellent finishes set up by teammates rather than inspirational individual efforts. However, there is no denying how brilliant he has been for the past 18 months or so. 

    Also, spare a thought for Benzema, who has had the best season of his career, but has been overshadowed by Ronaldo's superhuman exploits. I fear that England are not going to know what hit them when they play France this summer. 

    WILL: Tony is clearly unaware that England have appointed Roy Hodgson, under whose leadership we shall beat France, 6-0. Back on striking matters, am I the only one tempted to give a romantic bench nod to Del Piero?

    DAN: We have no space for sentiment, romance or old people on the bench. Having said that, we can include a list of reserves who have no chance to play, and I suspect we will fill those slots with our old favorites. 

    CHRIS: I agree with the obvious on Messi and RVP. I'd lean toward Benzema despite the fact that he finds new and interesting ways to miss sitters in virtually every game. But his movement is generally incredible. I'd take him for that reason alone.

    DAN: We have our starters. Let’s figure out the other strikers with the bench.

Adidas Bench & Reserves

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    DAN: Let's set a few ground rules for the benches to help us out a little (and not get yelled at by the readers). We will fill a traditional seven-man bench, and then select an additional group of reserves who can go on the trip and wear warmups. Player-managers, if you will.

    Bench Options

    Keeper: Petr Cech, Manuel Neuer

    Defense: Alvaro Arbeloa, Fabio Coentrao, Laurent Koscielny, Leighton Baines, Ledley King

    Midfield: Bastian Schweinsteiger, David Silva, Kaka, Nani, Thomas Muller, Mark van Bommell, Clarence Seedorf, David Beckham, Esteban Cambiasso, Stephen Gerrard

    Forwards: Karim Benzema, Edinson Cavani, Angel di Maria, Diego Milito, Luis Suarez, Diego Forlan, Alessandro Del Piero, David Villa, Raul

    (Now to the debate, with the final selections shown in the graphics.)

    If I had to pick just seven, there's no way we can take two keepers like we suggested. We could take one keeper, two defenders, three midfielders and one forward in a traditional bench setup. We can easily get by with one defender and four midfielders, if you think that's best, which I do. 

    My picks: Neuer (I flip-flopped on this a lot), Koscielny, Schweinsteiger, Nani, Kaka, Silva (only because Chris will kill us if he's not included), Cavani.

    Shoot, I might pull a Liverpool move and just include seven midfielders. How can we not have van Bommel on the bench?

    I'd put Cech, Seedorf, Beckham, Del Piero and Raul on the reserve squad to be our de facto coaching staff, with apologies to Cambiasso and Gerrard, who may be the best actual coaches in the whole lot. 

    WILL: My adidas bench would be Cech, Koscielny, Schweinsteiger, Silva, Nani, Benzema, Cavani. Beckham, Del Piero, Kaka and Raul as honorary warmup opponents. 

    DAN: Not bad, really. It looks like Will and I only disagree on which keeper to take and if Kaka should be on the bench or out to pasture. I'd be fine with him on reserves, but over one of the strikers, I would put another midfielder. Maybe. Someone is going to be mad either way. 

    MIKE: For the bench, I'll take Neuer, Schweinsteiger, Silva, Kaka and Cavani.

    For the reserves, give me Müller, van Bommel, Cech, Benzema and Gerrard.

    CHRIS: Here's my bench: Neuer, Arbeloa, Silva (should be starting), Nani, Schweinsteiger, Benzema.

    (Note: As mentioned before, we had Vermaelen on the adidas bench before realizing he switched affiliations during the season. Our bench discussion has been edited for clarity.)

    As for the old guys, I'm not that sentimental. As long as we include Seedorf, I'm happy.

    TONY: Petr Cech, Fabio Coentrao, Bastian Schweinsteiger, David Silva, Edinson Cavani, David Villa.

    Reserves: Kaka, Seedorf, Raul, Del Piero.

    DAN: With all the debating we've done, I think it makes sense to just tally up the votes for the bench.

    Everyone selected Schweinsteiger and Silva, so they are on the bench. Cavani was a near-unanimous choice, so he's the striker. Nani got three votes, so he is in. Koscielny is our lone defender on the bench.

    Now it gets difficult.

    After all the debates for keeper, Neuer got more votes than Cech, probably because I flip-flopped and made Cech a reserve. But I'm staying with that, and the big German is the official game backup, while Cech can come to camp and sit in the stands for the match.

    The last bench spot, per votes, should go to either Benzema or Kaka. I really don't think we need two strikers on this bench, so I'm going with Kaka in a move that will certainly anger some and delight others. Allow me to be a romantic.

    The reserves that will join Cech in camp will be Del Piero, Raul, Seedorf and Beckham.

    Now let's do this all over again for the Swoosh.