XI Gifted Footballers

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When it comes to talented footballers there have been many and this XI is by no means definitive. These guys are picked for their footballing gifts rather than achievements, which means there is one or two you might not normally find in fantasy line-ups and as such, there are a few controversial omissions too. There is no denying they are amongst the best to have ever played the game. However this team, if it were to play together it would probably be considered a little temperamental. I’ve gone for a basic 4-4-2 line up, plus a keeper.

Keeper – Lev Yashin

This Polish cat between the sticks was known as the Black Spider because of his black kit and unbelievable ability. He is the only goalkeeper to have been named European footballer of the year. He played for Moscow Dynamo in the 50s and helped them to win five league titles and three cups.

Left Back – Roberto Carlos

Tough choice, but for his attacking flare, apocalyptically powerful left foot and love of a freekick he makes the starting XI. Closely pushed all the way though by Paolo Maldini who is the epitome of Italian football in his defensive solidity.

Right Back – Carlos Alberto Torres

There hasn’t been a better attacking right back in the history of football and of all those that have come close, they were copying a mould set by this guy. He also captained the 1970 World Cup winning Brazil team, you know the one? Yup that one, considered the best team of the modern era ever…

Centre Back – Lillian Thuram

Simply one of the best defenders of all time. He also scored twice for France in the 1998 World Cup 2-1 semi-final victory of Croatia after his side had gone behind. The team went on to win the tournament defeating Brazil in the final. Not bad at all.

Centre Back – Lothar Matthaus

Ok, this might be a little controversial, considering Lothar is remembered mainly as a box to box midfielder. However, he played a-plenty at the back too. And any player described by Maradona as the ‘best rival I’ve ever had’ is a shoo-in.

Centre Midfield – Franz Beckenbauer

Franz would complement Lothar impeccably creating a German spine of efficient ferocity, the two would be almost interchangeable. Nicknamed ‘Der Kaiser’ Franz is the only man to captain and manage World Cup winning sides.

Centre Midfield – Zinedine Zidane

Now for some real flair. ‘Zizou’ is arguably the greatest modern footballer. Gifted, creative, inventive and took France to World Cup (scoring twice in the final) and Euro titles in 1998 and 2000. He has been FIFA World Player of the Year three times and has also won the European Champions League. He is literally ‘the business’ and as if this wasn’t enough he came out of retirement to captain and single-handedly drag France to the 2006 World Cup Final were he scored and was then sent off. His crime was a spectacular head butt to Italian defender Marco Materazzi after he’d goaded Zindane with a lewd insult about his sister. Zidane. Is. A. Living. Legend.

Left Midfield – Garrincha

This guy was amazing. He played for Brazil in the 50s and 60s and was referred to by the people of Brazil affectionately as the ‘Joy of the People’ and the ‘Angel with Bent Legs’. A dribbler extraordinaire Garrincha was born with a deformed spine, a right leg that bent in and a left leg that was six centimetres shorter than his right. Brazil never lost when he and Pele played together. One famous moment for this footballing genius was dribbling past four defenders, beating the keeper then rather than slotting into an empty net waiting for a defender to get back, beating him again and then scoring. He was also along with Pele one of the instigators of what is often referred to as the best three minutes of football ever played, the opening of Brazil vs USSR in the 1958 World Cup Finals.

Right Midfield – Paul Gascoigne

I had to have an Englishman in the line up, and this guy is a one of, and one of the best to have ever played the game. Ok, he played centrally but I’d have him drifting in from the right. Gazza was mercurial in his style of play, able to ‘see’ the game like no one else. And who can forget the tragedy of the 1990 World Cup semi-finals where he received a yellow card and instantly began to sob at the thought of missing the final should England go through. What passion! As it turned out, they didn’t.

Forward – Pele

It’s Pele. Do I need to say anymore?

Forward – Diego Maradona

Diego had ability to burn, but was plagued by a cocaine addiction. Nevertheless his talent is undeniable and the goal he scored against England in the 1986 World Cup, the one where he dribbled past what seemed like the entire team, not the one where he punched it into the net, is among the best of all time. He captained the team to victory in the same tournament.

And that is the starting XI. What a team! As I make it there are four World Cup winning captains and at least three players with serious addiction problems… interesting. The talent, the gifts they had when the ball was at their feet is what we most closely align with them though. Icons of the game each and every one. What a beautiful game!

When not tweaking his fantasy football team John Evans contributes to the two websites Wedding Digest and Gifts Today.

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Interview with CB Prince Amukamara Nebraska

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Prince Amukamara Nebraska

My thanks to Prince, Brian Leonardi of the France AllPro Athlete Management, Inc. and Mr. Moohead of Mooheadradio.com for allowing me the opportunity to talk to the future star of the NFL.

Amukamara is my top rated CB and gets the nod over Patrick Peterson of LSU because of his better tackling and run defense. Both will be very good CBs in the NFL but I prefer Amukamara.

Here is the audio of the interview.

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The world vs. Lance Armstrong

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The old joke about the French was “Why did the French plant trees along the Champs-Elysses? So that the German soldiers could march in the shade.” Now the joke has another ending. “So that Lance Armstrong can ride in the shade to another Tour de France championship.

Armstrong may well be the best thing and the worst thing that ever happened to the Tour. He has always captured the interest and some coverage and advertising money from the US whenever he has been involved. I guarantee that I would not spend one second writing about the Tour were he not in it. When he retired after 7 wins in 2005, the US and much of the world forgot about the race. ESPN, and the Sporting News Radio would spend a couple of seconds on it only when a winner had been crowned.

But things are different now. Armstrong has crept within a couple of hundredths of a second of the lead. Given his previous performance through the mountains and the latter stages of the race, if he’s even, he’s leavin’.

His story is remarkable. 7 titles despite fighting cancer and the French organizers doing anything they could to prove he was cheating. The French have been violating their own guidelines in an attempt to catch him with anything in his body that is not approved. The French just can’t believe that anyone has the drive to keep his body capable of such accomplishments. I can’t help but think that MLB should bring the French drug testers in to help with the steroid problem.

Armstrong is carrying the American Flag and his team on his back. He deserves all the attention he is getting and more. It is only the race that deserves to be ignored unless Armstrong is involved.

That’s what I think. Tell me what you think.

Bill Smith is a former coach of several semi-pro teams, has officiated both football and basketball, done color on radio for college football and basketball and has scouted talent. He is a senior writer for and edits http://fryingpansports.com. He has also published several novels on and edits .

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Niblets from around the net for 4/11/09

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Fryingpan Sports

Niblets from around the net for 4/11/09

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By Bill Smith

Updates on previous articles

Niblets for 4/4/09

As I wrote Rick Serritella, of NFLDraftBible.com, reported Southern California LBs Clay Matthews and Brian Cushing tested positive for steroids. I did verify the original report with another source. Cushing and his agent have both denied the report. Thus far, Cushing has not provided any proof of his claim. The official NFL report will be given to teams next week. Most likely it will be leaked.

Kentucky is no longer THE basketball power—GET OVER IT!

New coach John Calipari will have a couple of the best prospects back out of their commitment to Memphis and announce that they will follow Calipari. This still doesn’t change my opinion about the long term future of Ky basketball. Calipari is an outstanding coach and an excellent recruiter. Memphis fortunes will decline and Ky will be better. But long term the ACC will continue to be the center of basketball with the Big East second and the SEC in the dust of those two.

Several NFL QBs are in the frying pan.

The Sporting News had an article Thursday in their emailed sports paper SN Today listing 5 of my QB’s on the hot seat. I published my column on March 9th.

Home Court advantage is the road to a crown for LA or Cleveland.

The Cavs are still one game up on LA for home court advantage throughout the playoffs. To secure HCA the Cavs must beat Boston Sunday in Cleveland. They had a 2.5 game lead which was tossed away with a 2 game losing streak that included a loss to Washington. Thanks to a loss by LA last night, the Cavs are up by 1.5 games. I predict that these two teams will meet in the finals and whoever has HCA will win. I also predict that LeBron James will be the league MVP.

Owens going to Buffalo says most about the Bills

Terrell Owens finally showed up for the voluntary workouts. When asked about how he liked Buffalo, he said he loved it adding that Toronto was great. This is not a marriage made in Heaven.

Fresh Niblets:

Bills’ RB Lynch gets a 3 game suspension for pleading guilty to a misdemeanor gun charge.

It seems that the Commissioner is backing off his 0 tolerance policy. This could be an attempt to win favor with the NFLPA. If that is the case, it is a bad precedent. Fan support is a lot more important than giving the Union an Easter gift.

The player formerly known as Chad Johnson has his name accepted by the NFL.

The league officially but quietly accepted Chad’s name change to Ocho Cinco (85 in Spanish). Now the Bengals should change his number to 19.

French cycling officials complained that Lance Armstrong was uncooperative with a drug tester.

Armstrong asked the official to prove his credentials before taking the test. Now let me get this straight. A country that helped Saddam Hussein steal millions of dollars from the UN’s oil for food program despite a world wide embargo is complaining about having to prove credentials of a tester? That is what’s wrong with France. They planted trees along the major streets in Paris so that the German soldiers could march in the shade.

The Columbus Blue Jackets are in the NHL Playoffs.

After 9 years of total futility, IT’S ABOUT TIME! Now let’s see you get out of the first round.

That’s what I think. Tell me what you think.

Bill Smith is a former coach of several semi-pro teams, has officiated both football and basketball, done color on radio for college football and basketball and has scouted talent. He is a senior writer for and edits http://fryingpansports.com. He has also published several novels on and edits .

My email is [email protected]

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