I moved to the United States four years back, you know the place where they play soccer with their feet and football with their hands, and stopped doing something that I had done for the last 10 years -follow world football. For ten years from 1995-96 to 2005-06, I had followed every damn league in the world. Remember the program called ‘Futbol Mundial’ which should weekly highlights from all over the world; I was one of the people who watched it. With the world cup this year, I went back four years and tried to recollect all the players who were part of my life for over ten years. Then I decided to make my “Team of the decade 96/96 – 05/06”
I haven’t used any statistics for naming the team; it is just people who I admired and tried to emulate. So here I go.
Peter Schmeichel: No. 1 (GK)
Voted the world’s best goal keeper, he is the man I choose to guard my posts. He was simply amazing, guarded his goal like a safe, attacked when there was a dead ball situation, yelled at his teammates and thoroughly imposed himself on the game. The Great Dane rallied his team and motivated them, a member of the ‘Treble’ winning Man U team. Who can forget a gleefully cartwheeling Schmeichel in Nou Camp. I chose the above picture simply because I cannot forget the maverick yelling at Dennis Irwine, Jaap Stam and Co.
Reserve Goal Keepers:
Gianluigi Buffon and Iker Casillas:
These two would make to many people’s dream team; but they have to warm the bench here. Modern greats who have made goal keeping as popular as goal scoring, true champions. Casillas is now the Spanish International team captain. I guess it is just that I have picked one each from the three best leagues in the world. I was very tempted to add Peter Czech. But he can wait and be in the list for the next decade.
Paolo Cesare Maldini: No. 3(CD)
The legendary No. 3 from Milan. My team’s captain, the player I admire the most for his ability to stay calm on the field and showing the way of how football has to be played. The greatest defender I have seen to date and the unluckiest. He retired from Italy trophyless and it was ironic that they won the 2006 World Cup, no player deserved it more. With Maldini in central defense, it will be very hard for any attack in the world to breach it. I debated with myself to play him as left back or central defense and decided on the latter.
John Terry: No. 26 (I am going in with their Club Numbers) (CD)
He might not have played for major part of the decade, but still a rock solid defender and a goal scorer from dead ball situations. He is as solid as they come at central defence. I feel he will have a wonderful partnership with Maldini. A future captain for this team and a guy whom you can bet on giving 100% for the team. Watching a porcupine haired Terry jumping and fighting for the ball is a sight to behold.
Roberto Carlos No. 6 (LB)
A left back who runs ahead and doubles up as a winger and then also takes highly ridiculous physics defying free kicks. He defended well, passed better and took the best free kicks save for Beckham. I used to be at my wits end when I saw him play. Literally wanted to yell, go back you are a defender. But he managed to go back and that was his greatness.
Gary Neville No. 2 (RB)
This might be the first contentious choice. But, then again he was in the ‘Treble’ team of 1999. To be very fair, he is a great defender and one who has an excellent record as right back. Never seen anyone throw better than him. Carlos has a good throw but if Neville is around, we know where the ball is going for throw-ins.
Fabio Cannavaro No. 5 (CD): Probably unfair that he is on the bench. But it is my team you know.
Jaap Stam No. 6 (CD): Once again a member of the ‘Treble’ team. A Dutchman whom I saw defending an open goal against two forwards.
Gianluca Zambrotta No. 15 (RB): One more from the Italian stables. I wonder how they keep producing them.
Gabriel Heinze No. 19 (LB): Another attacking left back.
Starting Mid Fielders
Ryan Giggs No. 11 (LW):
I feel he would have given Usain Bolt a run for his money. That fast he was, and mind you, with the ball at his feet. A winger par excellence who unfortunately didn’t have that much of an international career. He is from Wales .. ha ha ! From inch perfect cross to running back and giving the defence the required support, he did it all. Also, he could take excellent free kicks and corners.
David Beckham No. 07 (RW):
Probably the best known face in the football world. No one could hit those Millimeter perfect free kicks and crosses. Such was his powers that he made Dwight Yorke look like the best forward in the world. He is definitely my favorite player. There wasn’t a position he wouldn’t be in a match, he covered for everyone. Other than being the best free kick taker in the world, he is also an excellent playmaker, something he isn’t credited enough for.
Zinedine Zidane No. 10 (CMF)
Who else but Zizu? Probably, the most naturally gifted of the lot, a genius who could do anything on the football field. A man who practically won every possible trophy there is. I have never seen anyone with better ball control. I have a feeling he could control the ball with his behind better than most player could with their feet.
Pavel Nedved No. 11 (CMF)
The man who replaced Zizu in Juventus, will partner him in central mid field. Possessed with great speed and a hawks vision to penetrate the narrowest of gaps in opposition defenses, this great Czech mid fielder could change the tempo of the match single handedly.
Reserve Mid Fielders
Luis Figo No. 07 (RW): Can’t believe I am keeping him on the bench, but such is the quality of the team.
Marc Overmars No.11 (LW): Even though he played for Arsenal; he is on this list. Just goes to show how great he is.
Frank Lampard No. 8 (CMF): Modern great and excellent playmaker.
David Ginola No. 11 (CMF): Surprise element in the team. Could cut through defenses like a hot knife through butter: a French tribute.
Ronaldo No. 9 (CF)
What can be said about the guy who has the highest number of world cup goals ever? No one has scored so many goals and the way he scored left one and all speechless. He could dribble, set up goals and score with such brute force that defences crumbled, literally. I never quite understood how a bulldozer of a man can also possess such silken touches-a true example of Samba football.
Dennis Berkamp No. 10(Second Striker)
Playing just behind the main striker he could manufacture goals out of nothing. Quick on his feet and his ability to change direction makes him a dangerous striker. He could visualize the game and always invariably arrive at the right place for the pass. One of the finest gentlemen every to have graced the game.
Rivaldo No. 10 (CF): A maverick, a superstar and a juggernaut. He was everything, from a bicycle kick specialist to taking free kicks. Hard to keep him on bench.
Gianfranco Zola No. 25 (Second Striker): A man who never got his due!
This concludes my 23 men squad for the decade starting ‘95-‘96. I might be biased towards EPL- based players; but then it is my list. I have opted for a 4-4-2 line- up. Do let me know your 11 for the same period.