It seems that the closest thing football blogs get to a chain letter is circulating through the ether at the moment – a challenge to name the best eleven players in the world. So the witty writers at Off the Post have passed that challenge on to me. And this is what I’ve come up with, based on current form rather than reputation:
Goalkeeper: Edwin van der Sar, Manchester United and Holland
Since joining Manchester United in 2005, the 38-year-old Van der Sar has recaptured the form that helped him win the Champions League and the title of Europe’s best goalkeeper in 1995. Has strung together a record breaking 13 clean sheets for Manchester United this season. Has filled Peter Schmeichel‘s enormous boots.
Also ran: Petr Čech, Chelsea; Iker Casillas, Real Madrid
Right back: Dani Alves, Barcelona and Brazil
The world’s most expensive right back made his name in Juande Ramos‘ double-UEFA Cup winning Sevilla side, and Alves has done his reputation no harm by joining a Barcelona team rejuvenated under Josep Guardiola. A rampaging right wing back in the true Brazilian mode, he would make it into most teams.
Also ran: Maicon, Inter Milan; Sergio Ramos, Real Madrid
Left back: Philipp Lahm, Bayern Munich and Germany
Lahm kicked off the 2006 World Cup with the tournament’s opening goal, and despite competition from compatriot and fellow international Marcell Jansen for the left back berth at Bayern Munich has retained his place. Not since Roberto Carlos has the game seen such a consistent performer at left back.
Also ran: Ashley Cole, Chelsea; Gianluca Zambrotta, AC Milan
Centre back: Nemanja Vidić, Manchester United and Serbia
The easiest pick in this eleven, Vidić has been the bedrock of Manchester United‘s unparalleled success in the Premiership and in Europe over the past two seasons. Arguably the Premiership‘s best ever centre half, the Serbian is big and strong but surprisingly agile and is an obvious choice for a brawny centre half.
Also ran: John Terry, Chelsea; Lúcio, Bayern Munich
Centre back: Fabio Cannavaro, Real Madrid and Italy
Another golden oldie and the first and only defender to win the FIFA World Player of the Year in 2006. Cannavaro is one of the most gifted footballers of his generation, relying on technique and impeccable timing to steer Real Madrid and Italy to success. At 35, he still has time to eclipse Paola Maldini as his country’s most capped player.
Also ran: Alessandro Nesta, AC Milan; Rio Ferdinand, Manchester United
Right wing: Franck Ribéry, Bayern Munich and France
Ribéry edges out Cristiano Ronaldo because the Manchester United man has failed to rediscover the form of last season. The Frenchman, on the other hand, has become a global superstar at Bayern Munich with nearly a goal every other game for the club. Is likely to be the summer transfer window’s most hotly contested trinket.
Also ran: Cristiano Ronaldo, Manchester United; Maxi Rodríguez, Atlético Madrid
Left wing: Lionel Messi, Barcelona and Argentina
If football be the food of love, Messi is a really orgasmic dessert. The man who lends Barcelona their attacking verve, he is a playmaker who is capable of dictating the pace of the game and a South American capable of giving former team mate Ronaldinho a crisis of confidence. Were it not for Ronaldo’s goals, would be FIFA World Player of the Year.
Also ran: Samir Nasri, Arsenal; Ángel Di María, Benfica
Centre midfield: Gareth Barry, Aston Villa and England
On form, the best midfielder in the Premeirship after lifting Aston Villa into third in the league. Reminds me of the great rugby union player Neil Back, who would often be invisible for the course of a match, but whenever you watched the replay you realised just how often he touched the ball.
Also ran: Jérémy Toulalan, Lyon; Lassana Diarra, Real Madrid
Attacking midfield: Andrés Iniesta, Barcelona and Spain
After injuring his leg in November, Iniesta needed just ten minutes to score on his return for Barcelona. Combines creativity, a fantastic passing range and genuine humility to make one of the most popular players in the sport. Behind his youthful looks and pleasant demeanor, however, lies the heart of a winner.
Also ran: Xavier Hernández, Barcelona; Frank Lampard, Chelsea
Striker: Fernando Torres, Liverpool and Spain
With three goal in total and one apiece in injury time in his last two matches for Liverpool, Torres has underlined his importance at club level. On the international scene, he has to vie for attention with compatriot David Villa, who narrowly loses out on selection for this eleven despite his showing at the European Championship.
Also ran: David Villa, Valencia; Nicolas Anelka, Chelsea
Striker: Karim Benzema, Lyon and France
At 21 the youngest player in this eleven, Benzema has already notched up 71 goals in 119 performances for Olympique Lyonnais. Nominated the best player in France last year, it won’t be long before he is pipping Messi and Ronaldo for world titles – and that little trio could be inspiring European football for the next ten years.
Also ran: Zlatan Ibrahimović, Inter Milan; Robinho, Manchester City
More Best XIs here
Up for the challenge