Picking a Best Real Madrid XI Using Only 1 Player of Each Nationality

Karl Matchett@@karlmatchettFeatured ColumnistNovember 28, 2016

Real Madrid's Portuguese forward Cristiano Ronaldo (L), Real Madrid's French forward Karim Benzema (R) and Real Madrid's Argentinian midfielder Angel di Maria (C) celebrate after scoring during the UEFA Champions League Group B football match Real Madrid CF vs FC Copenhagen on October 2, 2013 at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid.   AFP PHOTO / PIERRE-PHILIPPE MARCOU        (Photo credit should read PIERRE-PHILIPPE MARCOU/AFP/Getty Images)
PIERRE-PHILIPPE MARCOU/Getty Images

Zinedine Zidane has it tough at Real Madrid, picking his lineup to win any given match only for social media, press and pundits to immediately suggest he should have chosen someone on the bench ahead of someone in the XI.

OK, it's not the worst job ever. But Isco or James Rodriguez? Karim Benzema or Alvaro Morata? It's nice to have the choice, but leaving someone out is always a tough decision to make.

How would you fare trying to do that with Real Madrid's greatest players in recent history but only being allowed to pick one from each nation?

      

Criteria

So here's the deal and why it's not as easy as it looks: only one player per nationality, yes, but that's FIFA-approved, national-team-representing, one-flag-per-player nationality. So there's no cheating and saying Benzema counts as Algerian or that Luis Figo's Swedish wife, Helen Svedin, means he can represent them instead to accommodate two greats from certain nations.

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We're also only including players from 2000/01 onward, making it relevant to both modern-day football and including the Galactico era, so the likes of Robert Jarni and Clarence Seedorf are ineligible for selection. Other than that, the formation must be recognisable (no table football-style 2-3-5s). At least some semblance of balance makes for the best teams.

Over to you, then—but bear in mind that Spain, Portugal and Brazil make up the vast majority of available picks down the years, just like they do this season. So will it be Raul or Iker Casillas? Figo or Cristiano Ronaldo? Marcelo or Ronaldo? Choose wisely—especially in defence!

     

Goalkeeper: Keylor Navas, Costa Rica

Nobody is ready to appoint Keylor Navas as the greatest Madrid goalkeeper ever just yet, but there's no doubt he's near the head of the class in La Liga and, when on top form, among Europe's best for reflexes, reliability and producing incredible saves.

Real Madrid's Costa Rican goalkeeper Keylor Navas vies during the UEFA Champions League first leg football match between Borussia Dortmund and Real Madrid at BVB stadium in Dortmund, on September 27, 2016. / AFP / PATRIK STOLLARZ        (Photo credit shou
PATRIK STOLLARZ/Getty Images

He's also from Costa Rica, which is not a famed producer of footballing talent for Los Blancos. That immediately puts him in an advantageous position for our side.

Keylor's a good starting point, an excellent last line of defence and, aside from Casillas, doesn't have much competition anyway.

    

Centre-back: Fabio Cannavaro, Italy

It's time to reveal our formation: 3-4-3. The decision hasn't been taken lightly, but with Spanish right-backs dominating for Madrid down the years—Dani Carvajal, Sergio Ramos and Michel Salgado—there are only so many defenders to pick from. And we didn't fancy Cicinho or Julien Faubert in a Best XI.

So it's three centre-backs, and Fabio Cannavaro is first up.

Despite Italy being a regular producer of top-tier talent, Real Madrid haven't particularly enjoyed any imports from the nation over a longer period, making Cannavaro an easy choice. His first two years at Madrid were largely good despite his advancing age.

    

Centre-back: Fernando Hierro, Spain

Spain, naturally, is the most competitive nation to choose from. While Raul would have been a natural pick, perhaps one of the greatest players of all time for Real Madrid, they have also had a huge volume of other strikers who would offer our side equal ability. The same can't be said for the defence.

Former captain and national-team hero Fernando Hierro was as rock solid as they come with his defensive work but also had the technique, vision and composure on the ball to initiate attacks from deep.

Hierro, captain fantastic
Hierro, captain fantasticStu Forster/Getty Images

He was a modern, ball-carrying centre-back back well before the notion was accepted elsewhere, and he possessed a tremendous strike too, allowing for a high goal tally most seasons from set pieces.

     

Centre-back: Gabriel Heinze, Argentina

The third defender is a tricky pick, as the choices are limited, but Gabriel Heinze enjoyed a productive two-year spell at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Truthfully, he's a compromise choice: Angel Di Maria would have been the preferred Argentinian, but there are other options higher upfield.

    

Right midfield: David Beckham, England

Jonathan Woodgate wasn't a consideration for the back line, but Steve McManaman might have edged David Beckham in an offensive wide role. But as we need the wide midfielders to cover both defensive and offensive aspects in our team, Becks is the perfect choice.

SAN SEBASTIAN, SPAIN - FEBRUARY 10:  David Beckham of Real Madrid in action during the La Liga match between Real Sociedad and Real Madrid at the Anoeta stadium on February 10, 2007 in San Sebastian, Spain.  (Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images)
Denis Doyle/Getty Images

Hardworking, relentlessly aggressive, inch-perfect with his passing and capable of pinpoint deliveries from the flank, the former L.A. Galaxy man offers width, work rate, balance and brilliance.

      

Central midfield: Luka Modric, Croatia

Central midfield is perhaps the most difficult area of the team, for both balance and selections. Real have had some great options in the middle down the years, but the incumbent Luka Modric is surely up there with the finest and most consistent.

Defensively, he'll offer work rate and aggression, though with a three-man back line, we don't need a pure holding option. It's on the ball where his real talents lie, of course, in breaking lines with passes forward, spotting diagonals and short, surging dribbles.

Modric is the fulcrum of our team, just as with Zidane's, but he also gets the nod on account of being Croatian instead of German, Spanish, Brazilian or French!

     

Central midfield: Zinedine Zidane, France

A huge call, but we're opting for Zidane over Claude Makelele, one of the most important midfielders of his generation, even if he didn't always get the attention he deserved. Partnering them both would be ideal but not permitted.

Zidane's skill, ability to find gaps between the lines and beat defenders one-on-one make him one of the must-have inclusions in any fantasy Real Madrid side, a link between midfield and attack and someone capable of the sublime in big games.

It's not a goal-laden midfield, admittedly, but the platform is there for a free-scoring attack to run riot.

     

Left midfield: Roberto Carlos, Brazil

On the right, it's Beckham. On the left, it's Roberto Carlos, edging Marcelo thanks to his superior athleticism and stamina, not to mention being one of the most reliable at tracking back at his peak, even if his actual technique in defence wasn't always quite up to scratch.

Madrid, SPAIN:  Real Madrid's Roberto Carlos reacts after his goal during the Spanish league football match against Zaragoza at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid, 06 November 2005. Real won 1-0                  AFP PHOTO/PHILIPPE DESMAZES  (Photo cr
PHILIPPE DESMAZES/Getty Images

At wing-back, though, Roberto Carlos would be liberated to make the best use of his power and drive in wide areas, combining with midfield and attack and keeping the opposition on the back foot.

Brazil have a lot of candidates for the team, but Roberto Carlos is more than worthy of carrying the flag.

      

Right-sided forward: Mesut Ozil, Germany

Into the front line, and there is huge competition, especially if the attack is taken as the starting point to create the team.

Mesut Ozil was a record-breaker with Real Madrid in creating huge volumes of assists, with his incisive passing, timing of the cross and ability to find spaces between defenders all just as important as his selflessness in the penalty area.

We're not going to be short of chances created in this side!

      

Left-sided forward: Cristiano Ronaldo, Portugal

Portugal was only semi-tough; Ricardo Carvalho and Pepe would have been worthy inclusions in the defensive line, but Luis Figo was a demigod in attack. Cristiano Ronaldo surpasses even that label, making him the obvious go-to as a goal-getter, relentless source of runs behind the defence and to add more pace to the front line.

Undoubtedly set to be Madrid's record holder in practically every goalscoring tally by the time he retires, Ronaldo has been one of the world's best, never mind just Real's, and it's a safe bet he'd be in any (reasonable, sane, good) combined XI.

    

Centre-forward: Ruud van Nistelrooy, Netherlands

That just leaves the striker position, and it goes to Dutch striker Ruud van Nistelrooy.

Real Madrid's Dutch Van Nistelrooy celebrates his goal during their Spanish league football match at  Ciudad de Valencia Stadium in Valencia, 13 January 2008.              AFP PHOTO/DIEGO TUSON (Photo credit should read DIEGO TUSON/AFP/Getty Images)
AFP/Getty Images

As clinical and ruthless a forward as could be found, only injury prevented him making a longer-term impact in La Liga after he had put both the Eredivisie and Premier League to the sword on a regular basis. Instinctive finishing, clever movement and dominance in the air made Van Nistelrooy a source of all types of goals.

Zidane, Modric and Ozil providing the chances would mean he would get plenty, and we're confident the opposition net would bulge with regularity!

      

Over to you: Who would make your combined Real Madrid XI comprised of one player from each country? Leave your comments and choices below or reply on social media!