Choosing an ‘all time World XI’ is just too much like hard work. I realised that once I’d settled on a team, I could think of three or four players that could have also been picked.
Therefore, I’ve decided to choose the best players that I have grown up watching in the past 20 years, particularly focusing from the early 2000s onwards.
My World XI
I’ve gone for a 4-2-3-1, mainly because every player in his most desired position.
It’s an extremely versatile formation that encourages the full-backs to press forward in the hope of stretching the opposition.
One defensive midfielder will have the role of distribution and defensive aid (if needed) whereas the other is offensive-minded.
As for the attacking midfielders, their role is to make life difficult for the opposing defenders, interchanging runs from deep positions, cutting in from the wings and providing assistance to the lone striker.
The lone wolf attacker will rely heavily on ammunition from his midfielders. But the best lone strikers are those who have a strong physical presence, giving them the freedom to hold opposing defenders off.
Why these players?GK: Gianluigi Buffon
Picking the goalkeeper was easy.
Juventus’ Gianluigi Buffon is widely considered as one of the most consistent and enigmatic keepers of his generation.
He’s been a metaphorical wall between the sticks for both club and country throughout his career, holding his place as first choice.
At 35, his experience of the game has made him an invaluable member of Juve’s squad, guiding and mentoring the young players that come along.
His intimidating presence both in the air and during one-on-ones is something to be admired.
For an old-timer, his reactions are still sharp as too are his shot stopping skills.
He really is one of the greatest keepers ever to play the game.LB: Paolo Maldini
Once, the most feared defender in world football. He made the strikers job a nightmare.
He was so well positioned, quick as well as gifted with both feet and had no problem holding the ball and going forward.
Maldini is a legend. He had 25 glorious seasons with AC Milan, winning 5 Champions League trophies, 7 Serie A titles, 5 Supercoppa Italiana Trophies, 5 European Super Cups and 2 Intercontinental Cups.
Defending is an art, and Maldini made it look easy.CB: Fabio Cannavaro
Cannavaro regarded as one of the best ever centre backs, is one of only three defenders to ever win the Ballon D’or (2006) – beating players like Zidane, Henry, Ronaldinho and Samuel Eto’o.
Cannavaro grew up in Naples – a place he described to FourFourTwo as “dirty, dishonest and chaotic”.
Living in such a crime-riddled area taught him to fight for everything, and he channelled that fury and desire to produce some world-class defensive displays.
At only 5 feet 9, it’s remarkable to think how much of a defensive brick wall Cannavaro was.
He was a well-timed tackler and had a huge aerial threat - claiming he inherited his jumping talents from his father.CB: Sergio Ramos
I’m a big fan of Sergio Ramos.
He’s a no nonsense, physical defender that loves to throw his weight about (His disciplinary record will vouch for that).
He’s extremely hard working, dangerous in the air normally acting as Madrid’s focal point on set pieces.RB: Philipp Lahm
Lahm has been a first team player for Munich and Germany for many years, and he’s still only 29.
He’s maintained an exceptional level of fitness along with his traits dribbling speed, pace, tackling abilities.
Talented in his field, rarely injured and a big game player is exactly what constitutes a world-class player.CDM: Zinedine Zidane
The most exciting midfielder of his generation.
Zidane had a gift. He was blessed with the ball at his feet – his movement was complete poetry.
It didn’t matter what club he played for, ‘Zizou’ orchestrated the team – providing balance, strength, speed and skill.
A three-time World player of The Year, Zidane was the heart of Juventus for five seasons before becoming the world’s most expensive player when he left for Real Madrid in 2001.
Le Frenchman had it all.CDM: Andrea Pirlo
Another class act.
Pirlo is Italy’s answer to Zidane.
My favourite thing about the way he plays is his cloud-like movement. He just seems to drift around the pitch, knowing full-well where he should be, and chip in with some delightful touches and passes that just make you giggle with amazement.
He’s a set-piece master and his passing is second to none.RM: Ronaldinho
We’ve yet to see another player as gifted on the pitch as Brazil’s Ronaldinho.
He had his own style, it was cheeky and it was beautiful to watch.
Never have I seen someone manipulate a football like Ronaldinho – I’d shout “how did he do that?!” at least 10 times a game when he played.
Free-kicks, corners, penalties, one-on-ones – you name it. Ronaldinho could do them all.
He looked like he was always having fun – always smiling and acknowledging the opposition. He was a gentleman and one of the best players I’ve ever seen.
Although Ronaldinho played most of the latter stages in his career as a centre attacking midfielder, in his younger days the right-wing was where I loved watching him do his thing.CAM: Lionel Messi
He is already the compiler of the most individual highlight reels in football history.
With the ball at his feet he makes the seemingly impossible, possible.
Plain and simple: he’s a magician, with a consistent level of brilliance.LM: Cristiano Ronaldo
He’s my ‘world’s greatest player’ – and here’s why.
(Not so) Fat Ronaldo is my lone striker of choice.
Back in the day, Ronaldo was something special.
In the 96-97 season Ronaldo scored 47 goals in 49 games in his first season for Barcelona.
He could dribble the ball at lightening speed, “but so can Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo” – Yes, but for me, the original Ronaldo could bust out an eye-crossing trick many of us could never even dream of doing.
He is El Phenomenon for a reason. His talents were supernatural.
The greatest dribbler of a football ever.