A few days ago I tried to outline some criteria to define the term World Class. Today I would like to name my own personal World Class Winning Eleven. As the World Cup draws near, these players have the potential to cement their status, or lose it to the players on the cusp of greatness. Either way it should make for an interesting discussion, and hopefully raise the already epic anticipation for the World Cup.
My World Class formation is going to be the 4-3-3, mainly because of its prevalence this season and also the formations ability to morph based on personnel and tactical deployment. It also makes it easy to get a nice mix of strikers and midfielders into the bunch.
GK: It was hard to pull the mantle away from Gigi Buffon (Juventus/Italy), but his sustained success following the World Cup victory has been spotty at best. The torch now has to be passed to Julio Cesar (Inter/Brazil) of Inter who led his team to consecutive Italian titles and now the Champions League. A World Cup trophy to add to his Confederations Cup would be icing on the cake. Players on the cusp: Lloris (Lyon/France) and Given (Man City/Ireland)
RB: This was a tough one and I struggled with Maicon (Inter/Brazil), Lahm (Bayern/Germany), and Ivanovic (Chelsea/Serbia). In the end I chose Maicon because of his trophy haul, and while he may not be the best defender of the bunch, that goes to Lahm, and Ivanovic has the best balance of attack and defend. It is Maicon who like Cesar could really have a special year. Players on the cusp: Lahm and Ivanovic.
CB: My two choices here were actually easy. Lucio (Inter/Brazil) and John Terry (Chelsea/England). Yes I know Terry doesn’t have the International accolades yet, but a World Cup win for England will see him as a special piece of Cappello’s masterpiece. The real reason for choosing Terry his absolute importance to his Club and Country, he is a leader and more importantly one who leads by example. Yes he had some off field issues this season but the way his teammates supported him says a lot. Players on the cusp: Chiellini (Juventus/Italy) and Tiago Silva (Milan/Brazil)…had to give the nod to Silva who was the best player for Milan and if he can crack Brazil’s starting eleven will make believers out of the rest of the World to what Milan fans already know.
LB: Can’t look any further than Ashley Cole (Chelsea/England) easily the most difficult position on the field to play, this guy makes it look easy. Granted we have been spoiled by the great Paolo Maldini, but while Ashley Cole may not do it so gracefully, he certainly gets the job done. Players on the cusp: Bastos (Lyon/Brazil)
Midfielders: I have to admit I struggled here...this was a tough one because I wanted my outside midfielders in the World Class eleven to bring some balance to the team while being deployed in a pseudo-midfield trident. If healthy it would have been hard not to pick Micheal Essien (Chelsea/Ghana), as a member of the three but instead I have to go with a little less balance and choose Wesley Sneijder (Inter/Holland), Xavi (Barcelona/Spain) and C Ronaldo (Madrid/Portugal). Both Sneijder and Xavi are supremely underrated and both offer a bit balance with all their hard work. Sneijder is my golden ball pick for this year and if he can keep his form through the World Cup he may give Holland the chance to break their bad luck. Players on the cusp: Gourcuff (Bordeaux/France), Song (Arsenal/Cameroon), Mascherano (Liverpool/Argentina), Lampard (Chelsea/England), Gerrard (Liverpool/England).
RF: Lionel Messi (Barcelona/Argentina) is the easy pick here but he needs to silence his critics at the World Cup. His excellence for Barcelona makes him a must have at the RF. I think his play in the past two seasons speaks for itself Players on the cusp: Robben (Bayern/Holland) and Villa (Barcelona/Spain).
CF: I wanted to pick Wayne Rooney (Man United/England) but his break out season just happened and even his best couldn’t get a piece of silverware for the Red Devils; he needs a good World Cup. Instead I have to go with Didier Drogba (Chelsea/Ivory Coast), he has yet to have International success with silverware but what he means to his Country far exceeds any silverware he can haul in, but he has done well enough with Chelsea to be considered World Class. Players on the cusp: Wayne Rooney.
LF: This was also a tough one, but when I watched Samuel Eto (Inter/Cameroon) this season do the dirty work en route to his second Champions League Trophy in two years, it is hard to not give him credit. Much like Drogba, and many African players, International success in terms of silverware may still be ways off, but what he has done for Cameroon in terms of goals and World Cup qualifications carries weight and value. It helps that the guy was dominant with Barcelona and even as his responsibilities changed for his club he still did what was asked en route to a scudetto and a Champions League trophy. Players on the cusp: Fernando Torres (Liverpool/Spain) and Frank Ribery (Bayern/France).
I certainly don’t expect you all to nod in agreement, so feel free to share your own…but here is the trick try doing so without personally insulting the individual opinions of everyone on the blog. It is a shame that it has come to the point where that has to be explicity stated...