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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  • Published: Jun 29th, 2010
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Sports Buffet for 06/29/10

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SptsBuf

NFL

Lions president Tom Lewand was recently charged with DUI. That got him a not so friendly visit with Comm. Goodell this week. While there is no decision yet on punishment for the charge or from the league, the players and NFLPA Ex. Dir. DeMaurice Smith will be watching this case very closely. They will want to see if management is held to the same standard as the players.

UFA RB Brian Westbrook was charged with DUI in February but has been found not guilty.

Bengal RB Cedric Benson is in trouble again. This time he was charged with assault with injury resulting from an altercation at a downtown Austin Texas bar. He reportedly punched a bar employee in the face. He paid his bond but the charge is a class A misdemeanor. It will get him a ticket to meet with Comm. Goodall sometime soon.

Steelers OT Willie Colon’s hurt his Achilles’ tendon and will miss the entire year. He had started 54 straight games. The team is searching for a replacement but the good ones are gone.

NBA

We are getting closer to knowing where the big name UFAs will be going. One thing that looks fairly certain is that LeBron will leave Cleveland. Current bets have LeBron and Bosh in Chicago, Wade and Amar’e Stoudemire in Miami, Boozer in New York or New Jersey. Sorry Clippers, it doesn’t look like any of the top level will be going there.

Dirk Nowitzki has reportedly officially opted out of his player option with Dallas. The team believes they will be able to resign him soon. Don’t hold your breath. Nowitzki is going to get a max deal from a team that misses out on the big 3 UFAs.

MLB

If the Cubs don’t have enough problems, SP Carlos Zambrano threw a temper tantrum last week. Unfortunately, it was the best thing he has thrown all year. He has been suspended indefinitely by the team and has yet to hear from the league. He is paid like an ACE and thinks of himself as one. He has never thrown like an ACE. At some point the team is going to have to just cut bait with Zambrano.

The Red Sox have more injuries and that will keep them out of the playoffs. Victor Martinez was added to the list yesterday with a broken thumb. Perhaps the biggest loss was Dustin Pedroia who went down a couple of days ago with a broken foot.

Soccer

The US team is out of the World Cup. But that won’t impact the interest in the sport in the US. Just like the NHL failed to capitalize on their international success, the US team wouldn’t have impacted pro soccer here even if they had won the World Cup. The lack of interest prevents both leagues from getting a big time TV deal for regular season games. Soccer doesn’t have a big enough fan base despite the fact that young adults from 20-40 grew up playing the game.

Part of the problem is that the best athletes go to the NBA or NFL for both the money and the glory. MLB is next in line and what is left over falls to soccer. That limits the interest of Americans that expect to see the very best from professional sports.

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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