12 September, 2007

Modern Dream 11

Peter the Pirate loved his parrot so much he even put it on his shoulder when it had been cremated

Peter Schmeichel – For years it was like Manchester United had simply bricked up their goalmouth, such was the superhuman ability of the permanently red-nosed Dane. Never in my lifetime has any ‘keeper dominated in the way Schmeichel did, with 42% of his Premier League starts ending in clean sheets. It goes without saying that he also won countless titles with Man United in the 90s (including the incredible Treble in 1999) and the European Championships in 1992 with his national team, Denmark. More than that though, he even managed to notch up 11 goals throughout his career - that’s more than Emile Heskey!

Paulo Maldini – What is there to say about Maldini that hasn’t already been said a hundred times before? He’s the most capped Italian international ever, has played the most games in Serie A ever, has played in the most Champions League finals ever (equaling Francisco Gento’s tally of 8 last year) etc etc. He’s just a legend, and still going strong at 39 having recently completed his 22nd season for AC Milan.

Tony Adams – Amidst all sorts of controversy about drinking problems and fighting, its easy to forget just how great a player Adams actually was. International success did not always follow however, as, to be perfectly honest, England were generally pretty terrible for most of the time Adams spent in the side, but he still captained the side bravely to mediocrity throughout the 90s. At the end of the day, how can you not respect someone who openly admits that his pre-match routine was regularly a Friday night out involving a curry, 14 pints of lager and then another curry?!

Cafu – Nicknamed ‘The Express Train’, Cafu is a legendary figure both in his native country and also throughout Europe, where he’s enjoyed much success at Roma and AC Milan. The most capped Brazilian of all time, never seen without a smile on his face, Alex Ferguson once said of him : “If Maldini plays for another five years then I am quitting, but with Cafu you never know, I think he has two hearts." Rumours that this is the result of him mastering that weird voodoo thing from the Indy movie Temple of Doom are yet to be substantiated however…

Stuart Pearce – Apparently, upon his transfer to Nottingham Forest in 1985, Psycho was so unsure of his footballing future that he actually advertised his services as a trained electrician in the match-day program! Little was he to know the national hero he would become, embodying the fight and determination that characterized the English game throughout his long career. Probably the most fired up player I’ve ever seen, who can forget the lion-esque roar of pleasure upon scoring his penalty in Euro 96? Blessed with a fiercesome left foot, Pearce also scored more than 70 top flight goals in his career from left back, further proving his worth in any side.

Zinedine Zidane – Quite simply the greatest player I have ever seen.

Ronaldinho – Yes he might have gone off the boil recently but the Brazilian is still the best player in the world at the moment. His trickery is consistently breath-taking, his vision sublime and his shooting explosive with either foot. Christiano Ronaldo wishes he was this good. And this attractive.

Kaka’ – Probably the only player currently active with a chance of eclipsing ZZ as the best footballer of modern times, Kaka’ has simply got better and better and better over the last few years at Milan. Its got the point now where if he doesn’t single-handedly win a game, you’re almost disappointed, such is the collection of wonder-goals/passes he has in his locker. Add this to the fact he models for Armani, cites The Bible as his favourite ever book, and has one of the hottest wives of all time, you really should hate him. However, he’s simply too good for hate. Look up ‘mercurial’ in the dictionary and you’ll find his picture.

Diego Maradona – Remarkable for so many reasons but mainly for the fact that he just does not look like an athlete in any way. Short and a little bit stout, Maradona had no right to be probably the best dribbler of a football ever. Surrounded by controversy since early in his career, no-one could ever say he’d led a boring life, as, now free of cocaine addiction, he has re-invented himself as a TV host back in Argentina. Many will remember him for the wrong reasons, but no matter what anyone says I don’t think his 1986 goal against England will ever be bettered.

Marco Van Basten – Probably the first player that really made me sit up and take notice of what could actually be done with a football, Van Basten is undoubtedly one of the best strikers of all time. He had everything; pace, strength, vision and a spectacular strike. Behind the aforementioned Maradona masterpiece, his 1988 volley in the European Championships final against the old Soviet Union is the second best goal I’ve ever seen.

Eric Cantona – Perhaps the most talented player ever to play in the Premier League since it’s inception in 1993, Cantona’s talismanic effect at Manchester United lead them to 4 titles in 5 years, including 2 Premier League and FA Cup doubles. While his kung-fu kick into the crowd at Crystal Palace in 1995 is what he will most likely be remembered for on these shores, he also scored some of the best goals you will ever see; sublime chips and volleys that match those of anyone else on this list. After a somewhat dramatic relationship with the French national team, tragically Cantona never played in a World Cup, but despite this his ability was never in question. Outspoken and individual to the end, Cantona retired at the relatively early age of 30, choosing to focus to Beach Soccer and acting instead of the game that left him ultimately frustrated. In the words of the great man himself : "When the seagulls follow the trawler, it's because they think sardines will be thrown in to the sea."

Cheers Gav! Any more Dream Teams can be shipped to us via sniffingtt@gmail.com