It’s a game we have all played at one time or another. If you could sign eleven players for your club, who would you pick? Select your world XI……
In the good old days it was a fun exercise because it was never going to be feasible that any one club could have the best eleven players or get close to it. For a start there were few imports to most countries, and of course, pre-Bosman, clubs held registration even after the end of a contract, so the exercise was hypothetical. You just picked your eleven players …probably gave a bit of thought to left & right and adjusted your formation to fit all your strikers or all your creative midfielders depending on your personal preference… and included your favourite player. There was no thought given to having a ball winner, to determining whether the styles of player would actually fit together, never mind the ego’s.
In this millennium it seems that building a world team is now perfectly feasible, if you are willing to pay enough money. Clubs such as Real Madrid and now Manchester City have seemingly endless sums of money and can lure the best players on the planet. But haven’t they gone about things differently???
Madrid are of course famous for Los Galacticos, the team they bought over a few seasons at the start of the 2000’s shortly after Florentino Perez was elected as president. His first move was for Luis Figo, an amazing coup from Barcelona, then Zinedine Zidane, Ronaldo (the Brazilian one!) and of course David Beckham. Those four players were arguably the best 4 players on the planet at the time, and were added to a team that already had Raul, Makelele, Roberto Carlos, Hierro & Morientes. Oh and Iker Casillas in goal.
Its commonly thought that Los Galacticos were a failure and won nothing but this is incorrect. In 2001 they were beaten in the Champions League semi by Bayern Munich and they won the tournament in 2002. They reached the semis again in 2003, beaten by Juventus. They won La Liga in both 2001 & 2003. The wheels fell off when they sold Claude Makelele to Chelsea. Makalele, the unsung defensive midfielder who controlled everything Madrid did. He protected the defence, he won the ball, he fed the stars. How many of us actually put a ball winner or water carrier, as Cantona once described Deschamps, in our hypothetical world XI?
In 2009 Real Madrid are building Los Galacticos mark II, in an attempt to keep up with the wonderful Barcelona team who were so admired throughout the world last season. Indeed at the Bernabeu in May, Barca hammered Madrid 6-2. Real’s response was to buy Kaka & Cristiano Ronaldo – that’s 2 of the top 3 players in the world – and supplement them with Benzema from Lyon, Alonso , Arbeloa & Albiol, adding them to a squad that boasts Van Nistelrooy, Robben, Raul, Guti & Diarra. Some names there!! It will be interesting to see if they can gel together to challenge Barce.
Meanwhile, in Manchester, Mark Hughes also has almost unlimited sums of money and is trying to build a squad capable of challenging their city rivals, and then going on to challenge, amongst others, Real Madrid for Europes crown. He started off, of course, with Robinho last September and has added Shay Given, Adebayor, Kolo Toure, Barry, Tevez, Bellamy, Santa Cruz and a host of others. Hughes also had a protracted bid for John Terry finally turned down and is now chasing Joleon Lescott much to Davie Moyes disgust.
Whilst Real Madrid have sought to buy the best players, it seems Man City have sought to build a team. Individually there seems no comparison between the two teams and yet one feels that perhaps Mark Hughes has been a wee bit wiser.
Both clubs have spent the money. It remains to be see whether they have built great teams or just great names.