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My ultimate team

So I was discussing on Twitter the other day that in any ultimate team (not FIFA), I would have Ronaldo, El Fenomeno, during his Barcelona days spearheading any attacking front-line that would be put together my myself. Then it hit me; who would be in my ultimate team from the player’s I have been fortunate to witness during my 23 years of life? Well, read more to find out who would make my ultimate starting XI from past and present.

Furthermore, the teams and appearances are ones that, in my opinion, are when the chosen player’s were at their brilliant best.

GK: Gianluigi Buffon (Juventus 2001 – present, 386 appearances)

Yes, there are a number of world class goalkeepers in the game at the moment. The likes of Manuel Neuer, Iker Casillas and Victor Valdes still grace the game, while David Seaman, Dida and Peter Schmeichel have all excelled in the spot between the sticks at various points in their illustrious careers. However, personally, none can compare to Gianluigi Buffon. The Italian has been plying his trade at the highest level for over a decade now and hasn’t shown any signs of slowing in recent seasons. Numerous individual and club accolades, the 34-year-old is the shot-stopper I would want to provide support to the back four.

LB: Paolo Maldini (AC Milan 1985 – 2009, 902 appearances)

They say Italians make the best defenders and in the case of Paolo Maldini, they couldn’t have got much wrong with the AC Milan stalwart. 24 years of devoted service to the Serie A giants and all of the highest quality made him the stand-out candidates for the position of left-back. Such class at the back saw Milan retire his famous number three shirt upon his decision to quit the game aged 40. However, the decision will be reversed should one of his sons ever make it into the senior side.

CB: Jaap Stam (Manchester United 1998 – 2001, 120 appearances)

An imposing defender to say the least, Jaap Stam was one player any front-man would dread coming up against. The giant Dutchman was imperious in the Manchester United back four during his three years with the club. Many questioned the decision of Sir Alex Ferguson to sell the now 39-year-old when he appeared to be entering the best years of his career and he showed he still had what it takes to perform at the highest level having turned out for Lazio, AC Milan and Ajax following his United exit. Now works on part of the scouting team with the Red Devils.

CB: Fernando Hierro (c) (Real Madrid 1989 – 2003, 659 appearances)

To accompany Stam, it has to be Fernando Hierro. The defender had it all; excellent on the ball, effective in the air and the ability to find the net having scored 129 times during his 14 years with Los Blancos. As cultured a defender as they come, he was equally comfortable marshalling the midfielder as he was at the back. Ended his career with Bolton Wanderers 2005, despite lobbying from the fans and then manager Sam Allardyce, he is now the director of football with Qatari owned Malaga CF.

RB: Cafu (AS Roma 1997 – 2003, AC Milan 2003 – 2008, 378 appearances)

No matter how often the opposition tried, at times there was no stopping the marauding Cafu. Full of stamina, running and power, he is the most Brazilian of right-back’s you will ever see. Lauded as one of the game’s best full-backs of the modern day, many would be hard pressed to find a player as effective in defence and attack as he was and his performances didn’t go unnoticed by Brazil legend Pele, who listed the 41-year-old as one of the 125 greatest living footballers in 2004.

LM: Lionel Messi (Barcelona 2004 – present, 324 appearances)

Fans, fellow professionals and pundits are running out of adjectives to describe Lionel Messi. 243 goals, with an added 99 assists, means Messi has been directly involved in over a goal-per-game since his debut with the Catalan giants in 2004. Labelled the greatest player in the history of football, a monumental achievement considering the greats that have played the game, ‘The Flea’ can seemingly do no wrong at the moment. Still aged just 24, there is a lot more to expect from the Argentine who will duly deliver once again in the future.

CM: Xavi (Barcelona 1998 – present, 626 appearances)

I cannot describe how much I enjoy watching Xavi play. Technically, the closest to perfection in the game at present, his vision, accuracy and passing ability is rivalled by no one in the game at the moment. If ever there was a player I would want dictating the game from the middle of the park, it would be the 32-year-old. An absolute joy to watch.

CM: Pep Guardiola (Barcelona 1990 – 2001, 384 appearances)

Playing the pivote role behind Xavi, Pep Guardiola is one of Johan Cruyff’s disciples and is reading of the game has been evident throughout his managerial career. Standing at 6ft, Guardiola was never the most agile of midfielders, but as I mentioned, his reading of the game and ability to pick out a pass from 40/50/60 yards away was unrivalled during his player career. A midfield of Guardiola and Xavi, his heir to the throne once the former departed for Brescia, would have been, in my eyes, perfect, especially with the latter pushing further forward.

CM: Pavel Nedved (Lazio 1996 – 2001, Juventus 2001 – 2009, 528 appearances)

Like Xavi, one of the most technically gifted players to have graced the modern game. Pavel Nedved was a very, very special player in his own right during his respective spells with Lazio and Juventus. With Guardiola shielding the back four and supported by Xavi, the Czech Republic international would enjoy a free role in my 4-5-1. Excellent on the ball, capable of scaring any defence into submission, there wasn’t a more creatively brilliant player around during his career than the 39-year-old. Became just the second Czech player to receive the prestigious Ballon d’Or in 2003.

RM: Cristiano Ronaldo (Manchester United 2003 – 2009, Real Madrid 2009 – present, 432 appearances)

The world’s most expensive player was never going to be overlooked. As AC Milan’s Zlatan Ibrahimovic expertly coined, ‘Messi is pure genius, Cristiano Ronaldo’s success is the result of hard training’ and believe me, it shows. A physical phenomenon, when he begins to surge at any opposition, he does so with minimal ease, while his strength and power makes him almost unstoppable. Already has 142 goals to his name in just 140 games with Los Blancos, better than a goal-per-game, the Portuguese international, like Messi, receives all the plaudits and deservedly so. Unlucky to have peaked at a similar time to ‘The Flea’ otherwise he would comfortably be titled the World’s Best Player.

ST: Ronaldo (Barcelona 1996 – 1997, 49 appearances)

El Fenomeno was always going to lead this front-line, having opened this article with him. The sole purpose for this piece, during his days with Barcelona, Brazilian Ronaldo was the most feared striker on the planet. A stunning return of 47 goals in those 49 appearances, the front-man was unplayable on his day. Was unfortunate not to have won a thoroughly deserved Champions League winners medal and still holds the record for the most goals in a the finals of any World Cup with 15.

Manager: Sir Alex Ferguson (Career spanning 38 years)

What more can be said about the Manchester United manager? With the Red Devils for 26 years now and has won near enough every trophy on offer. Knighted following the treble in 1999, including one of now two famous games at the Camp Nou, the plaudits he has received in the past have been nothing short of deserved. Exceptional during his eight years with Aberdeen, the stand-out candidate for the manager of this team.

Honourable mentions:

Like my Alternative Team of the Year, there were always going to be player’s that deserved, but ultimately didn’t get into, this team. Below are a few of them:

Marcello Lippi (Juventus, Inter Milan, Italy)

Raul Gonzalez (Real Madrid)

Alessandro Costacurta (AC Milan)

Roberto Carlos (Real Madrid)

Christian Vieri (Inter Milan)

Fabio Cannavaro (Parma, Juventus)

Clarence Seedorf (Real Madrid, AC Milan)

Luis Figo (Barcelona, Real Madrid)

Zinedine Zidane (Juventus, Real Madrid)

Dennis Bergkamp (Arsenal)

Thierry Henry (Arsenal)

These are just a few names off the top of my head, but believes me, there are many, many more.