In mid-May, B/R built every major European club's best XI using only players aged 25 and under, offering a glimpse of the future for each and perhaps offering some insight into who has set themselves up well for the coming years.
Well, this week we're going to look in the opposite direction and bring you a blast from the past for each side.
We've built the XIs again, but using only ex-players this time. It brings an insight into a few things: who wheels and deals the best in the market, but also who has made some high-profile mistakes over the last decade.
Before you tuck in, make sure you familiarise yourself with the following ground rules for eligibility:
- Players must have made at least one senior appearance to be eligible for the club (so no Jadon Sancho for Manchester City)
- Loan spells don't count; a player must have made a permanent transfer to a club to be considered for them
- Players are judged at their current ability level, not on historic performance or previous feats
16. Barcelona (4-2-3-1)
GK: Jasper Cillessen
DEF: Dani Alves, Marc Bartra, Yerry Mina, Lucas Digne
MID: Cesc Fabregas, Thiago Alcantara, Pedro, Neymar, Marc Cucurella
FWD: Zlatan Ibrahimovic
15. Schalke (4-2-3-1)
GK: Manuel Neuer
DEF: Rafinha, Joel Matip, Thilo Kehrer, Sead Kolasinac
MID: Ivan Rakitic, Leon Goretzka, Julian Draxler, Mesut Ozil, Leroy Sane
FWD: Breel Embolo
14. Valencia (4-3-3)
DEF: Joao Cancelo, Nicolas Otamendi, Raul Albiol, Jordi Alba
MID: Ever Banega, Sergio Canales, David Silva
FWD: Isco, Rodrigo De Paul, Paco Alcacer
13. Juventus (4-3-3)
DEF: Dani Alves, Medhi Benatia, Domenico Criscito, Joao Cancelo
MID: Emre Can, Arturo Vidal, Paul Pogba
FWD: Mario Mandzukic, Ciro Immobile, Kingsley Coman
12. Lyon (4-4-2 diamond)
GK: Hugo Lloris
DEF: Jeremy Morel, Dejan Lovren, Samuel Umtiti, Ferland Mendy
MID: Corentin Tolisso, Miralem Pjanic, Tanguy Ndombele, Nabil Fekir
FWD: Karim Benzema, Alexandre Lacazette
11. Monaco (4-5-1)
GK: Paul Nardi
DEF: Ronael Pierre-Gabriel, Aymen Abdennour, Terence Kongolo, Benjamin Mendy
MID: James Rodriguez, Fabinho, Joao Moutinho, Youri Tielemans, Bernardo Silva
FWD: Kylian Mbappe
10. Sevilla (4-4-2)
GK: David Soria
DEF: Dani Alves, Sergio Ramos, Clement Lenglet, Alberto Moreno
MID: Steven N'Zonzi, Ivan Rakitic, Luis Alberto, Joaquin Correa
FWD: Wissam Ben Yedder, Ciro Immobile
Scrolling through Sevilla's outgoing transfers over the past decade was some task as sporting director Monchi has struck so many deals over the years that it's tough to keep up.
It's clear he sweeps the market for opportunities, happy to take punts on players and see if they can stick. Some, like Alves, have been resounding successes; others, like Rakitic, Lenglet and Ben Yedder, have returned a nice profit.
The misses are rarer than the hits, though Sevilla must be looking at Immobile's and Correa's performances at Lazio and wondering how they failed to extract the same.
9. Roma (3-5-2)
GK: Alisson Becker
DEF: Antonio Rudiger, Alessio Romagnoli, Kostas Manolas
MID: Erik Lamela, Marquinhos, Miralem Pjanic, Radja Nainggolan, Emerson
FWD: Stephan El Shaarawy, Mohamed Salah
Roma's talent identification is superb. The problem they have is holding onto the talent long enough to create a truly formidable team.
Their record with centre-backs is so good that someone like Medhi Benatia can't find a place in this team, while that midfield three is a brilliant mix of brains, braun and excitement. Salah and Alisson, both of Liverpool, top and tail a selection whose only weak points are the wing-backs.
If the Giallorossi had managed to compile this team and play it together, they could well have done something special. Sadly, one part has tended to be dismantled before another can be assembled.
8. Porto (4-5-1)
GK: Jose Sa
DEF: Ricardo Pereira, Eder Militao, Felipe, Alex Sandro
MID: Casemiro, Joao Moutinho, Ruben Neves, James Rodriguez, Hector Herrera
FWD: Andre Silva
Pereira and Sandro might just be the best full-back pairing in this top 10. That, along with an incredible Portuguese-speaking midfield trio, paves their way into a lofty position in the ranking.
The setup of the team is a little funky—Herrera will have to make do with a right-sided role; while Yacine Brahimi is a better fit for the role, the Mexican is too good to leave out—but if the wingers dip inside and allow the full-backs to motor forward, it would resemble a well-balanced 4-5-1 formation.
With four Brazilians in the XI and the majority of the rest resembling academy products, the Dragons' two pillars of squad building are clearly visible.
7. Genk (4-4-2 diamond)
GK: Thibaut Courtois
DEF: Christian Kabasele, Omar Colley, Kalidou Koulibaly, Timothy Castagne
MID: Wilfred Ndidi, Kevin De Bruyne, Ruslan Malinovskyi, Sergej Milinkovic-Savic
FWD: Leon Bailey, Mbwana Samatta
The proof of Genk's smart scouting can be seen in the XI listed, which contains incredible talent in every line.
The midfield is so strong that the likes of Leandro Trossard and Sander Berge (both €20m-plus Premier League signings in 2019-20) must miss out. A trio of Ndidi-De Bruyne-SMS is truly elite—a central collection many of football's top managers would love to call their own in real life.
Had Yannick Carrasco made an appearance for the club, this team would have been even stronger, but he was poached from the youth system by Monaco as a teen. He would have lined up next to Koulibaly in the defensive line, further strengthening a unit backed up by Courtois.
6. Atletico Madrid (4-4-2 diamond)
GK: David de Gea
DEF: Juanfran, Toby Alderweireld, Diego Godin, Lucas Hernandez
MID: Rodri, Pizzi, Raul Garcia
FWD: Antoine Griezmann, Raul Jimenez, Sergio Aguero
Many of these Atletico players have not long left the club—five were playing in red and white as recently as last season—and that illustrates just how much heavy squad turnover they've been through recently.
But just imagine that front line for a moment: Jimenez and Aguero forming the big man-small man partnership up top with Griezmann floating in the hole just behind. It'd be close to unstoppable, and it has the midfield legs to support it, too.
That Atleti sold De Gea and went straight into a run of Courtois and Jan Oblak between the sticks afterwards shows how blessed they've been in the goalkeeping department for some time.
5. Ajax (3-4-1-2)
GK: Jasper Cillessen
DEF: Toby Alderweireld, Matthijs De Ligt, Jan Vertonghen
MID: Justin Kluivert, Frenkie De Jong, Christian Eriksen, Daley Sinkgraven
FWD: Arek Milik, Luis Suarez, Zlatan Ibrahimovic
Ajax's reputation for developing and selling on homegrown talent is evident in this XI.
Every single one of the players listed spent teenage years in Amsterdam, learning their trade and perfecting their technique at one of the world's renowned schools of football.
The team is a touch unbalanced due to Kluivert playing a wing-back role, while Suarez may have to play between the lines and leave Milik and Zlatan to partner up top. But on paper, it's a fierce selection that betters most others.
4. Benfica (4-4-2)
GK: Jan Oblak
DEF: Nelson Semedo, David Luiz, Victor Lindelof, Joao Cancelo
MID: Axel Witsel, Angel Di Maria, Bernardo Silva, Joao Felix
FWD: Raul Jimenez, Luka Jovic
Benfica's presence high up in this list shouldn't surprise. They've established a reputation as an extremely shrewd operator in the market, as well as an excellent developer of talent.
Even they are not immune to mistakes, though.
They may have sold Semedo, Luiz, Lindelof, Cancelo, Witsel, Di Maria and Jimenez on for huge profits, while Felix was bought for a whopping €126 million, but the Bernardo Silva (€15.75m) and Luka Jovic (€7m) deals don't look good; they bailed on those talents far too early.
Still, you're looking at an incredible mix of talent from top to bottom here, and Benfica's reputation as market masters is justified.
3. Real Madrid (4-4-2)
GK: Keylor Navas
DEF: Danilo, Pepe, Raul Albiol, Theo Hernandez
MID: Dani Parejo, Mateo Kovacic, Mesut Ozil, Angel Di Maria
FWD: Alvaro Morata, Cristiano Ronaldo
During Real Madrid's incredible run of Champions League success from 2014-18, they essentially had two first teams that were capable of winning most games.
Danilo, Pepe, Kovacic and Morata were important to that selection, raising Madrid's mean quality and taking care of your Levantes and Eibars at the weekend while Ronaldo and Co. beat Europe's best midweek.
Inevitably, these players realised they were too good to be reserves and have gone on to play more pivotal roles at other clubs. That's how Los Blancos have accrued such a strong ex-player XI.
Despite the quality on show, very few of these player sales count as mistakes. That just speaks to how strong the first XI at the Bernabeu is.
2. Manchester United (4-4-2)
GK: Ben Foster
DEF: Ashley Young, Gerard Pique, Jonny Evans, Daley Blind
MID: Ander Herrera, Angel Di Maria, Wilfried Zaha, Memphis Depay
FWD: Cristiano Ronaldo, Romelu Lukaku
Ronaldo back in red is a dream many a United fan has had many a time.
He and Lukaku spearhead quite the ex-Man Utd XI, so strong in attack Zlatan can't get in and solid enough at the back thanks to the fact Pique, Evans, Blind and Young have all flourished in life away from Old Trafford.
Despite the quality, it's tough to argue many of these sales were mistakes. Sometimes players simply need a different setting or scenario to reach their best—a point outlined starkly by Di Maria, Depay and Pique.
1. Chelsea (4-4-2)
GK: Thibaut Courtois
DEF: Juan Cuadrado, David Luiz, Gary Cahill, Nathan Ake
MID: Eden Hazard, Cesc Fabregas, Kevin De Bruyne, Mohamed Salah
FWD: Alvaro Morata, Romelu Lukaku
The strongest possible XI of ex-players we could build was Chelsea's. Just look at all that talent, gone forever.
De Bruyne and Salah are high-profile mistakes given how their careers have panned out, and there's probably not a day that goes by that at least one Chelsea fan, somewhere in the world, wonders what might have been had Jose Mourinho been a little more patient with them.
The attack and midfield are stacked, and goalkeeper Courtois is one of the best (and showing it again, finally), while the defence is solid enough, capable of holding up.
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