'Look at Pele, offering autographs...'
Two of the leading purveyors of the beautiful game lock horns tonight, but which players would make the greatest combined Xl of Brazil and Holland?
To pick a greatest Holland Xl or greatest Brazil Xl would, in comparison to this, be an easy task. Sure, the trolls might descend and argue the merits of a Vava over Romario, or Faas Wilkes over Bergkamp but it would be relatively simple. Even when getting dog's abuse yesterday for a piece I wrote about Ashley Young, I couldn't stop thinking about this task, and that was before I'd even thought about stats, impact, etc. Brazil and Holland are, historically, the purveyors of the best attacking football seen at World Cups and therefore in the history of international football. Before the march of the current Spanish Armada, Dutch players were considered the most technically adept in the European game and nothing needs to be said about Brazilian players and technique.
So, with all of this in mind, there had to a criteria, however loose. If I just based it on performances on World Cups, the team would have to be heavily weighted in favour of Brazil, whereas success in domestic competitions would see the Dutch edge it. I also considered a points system for individual honours, appearances, goals, cup and league wins, but with sketchy statistics surrounding the amount of goals scored by certain players and the paucity of, say, the Copa Liberatodores compared to the European Cup, I decided I would probably send myself blind.
So I've tried to take a bit of everything into account; performances in big tournaments, club career, cultural impact, goals to game ratio in both international and club sides, effectiveness in this Xl to provide a balance and a little bit of personal love thrown in for good measure. Oh, and, in the interests of fairness and so I definitely get hammered, there has to be at least five from each nation in the starting xl. And, of course, they will be playing 3-4-3
See you in the comments section.
Brazil and Holland Mash-Up Xl.
GK: Edwin Van Der Sar
Julio Cesar, Taffarel, Van Breukelen and even Dida were considered, but Van Der Sar makes the cut for a variety of reasons. Winner of eight league titles and two European Cups at Ajax and Manchester United, his unflappable nature and the ease at which he received the ball on either foot and used it intelligently make him vital in a team with only three at the back. The most capped Dutch player in history.
LCB: Ruud Krol
Just edges out Frank Rijkaard and Roberto Carlos because of his greater versatility and a rightpeg that could not just open a tin of beans but probably shake the juice off each one and throw them into your mouth. Tremendous passer, quick as they come and could score and create with aplomb. Part of the great Ajax team of the early 70s and also the Dutch team that finished second in the 74’ and 78’ World Cups.
SW: Ronald Koeman
Koeman might had the turning circle of the QE2 but he scored more goals than any defender in the history of the game (193 in 533 club appearances), was part of the victorious Euro 88 winning team, scored the winning goal at Wembley in 1992 to give Barcelona a first European Cup and brilliantly, was given the nickname of Floquet du Neu while at Barca, after the albino gorilla hosed in the local zoo.
Worth it for 1.35 alone
RCB: Carlos Alberto
Captain of the greatest World Cup side and scorer of that goal in the 1970 final, Carlos Alberto was, despite being a tremendous defender known for his positional sense, a footballer in every sense of the word with a passing range the envy of many midfielders. Somehow didn’t make the World Soccer magazine 100 Greatest Players of The 20th Century list (Michael Owen was at 44), but did make the starting Xl of the team of the 20th century.
LM: Johan Cruyff
Three-time European Footballer of the Year, member of that Ajax team, adopted Catalonian, inventor of his own turn and, ahem, father of Jordi. The smoking curmudgeon was the best player in the world in the 70s, nicely filling in the gap between Pele and Maradona and just edging out George Best for longevity and his record of a goal every other game. The most graceful footballer to ever lace boots.
CM: Ruud Gullit
Dunga was Brazil’s rock, Neeskens could run a game and Rivelino possessed a greater eye for the spectacular (and a slightly bigger moustache) but, for a few years after the 1986 World Cup, Gullit probably edged Maradona for consistency. Despite knee-injuries affecting his performance level in Italia 90 and him walking out of USA 94, his dreadlock-splaying header in the Euro 88 final ranks as one of football’s most iconic images. The heartbeat of the dominant Milan side of the late 80s and early 90s, he could play anywhere, from sweeper to striker.
1.26 and onwards
The fact that George Best never graced a World Cup is heart-breaking, but for Zico not to have won one is criminal. Scorer of 476 goals in 696 club appearances and a phenomenal 52 in 72 games for Brazil, the ‘God of Football’ - as the Japanese know him – can rightly claim to have the most cultured right foot in history. Would probably row with Gullit about the advancement of positions and then drop deep, sulk, and run the show.
Sired illegitimate children, ran his own father over, lost his virginity to a goat, had a huge kn*b and died a destitute alcoholic yet, to Brazilians of a certain age, is rated above Pele in their affections. With legs fit for nothing but bed-rest, the little bird made Stanley Matthews look like a pub player with his dribbling skills and pretty much won the 1962 World Cup single-handed after Pele was injured, finishing as top scorer and setting up both goals in the final.
Despite the fact that a portion of his 10,000 goals were scored with his socks in hotel rooms or against fourth division Swedish teams, and taking into account that he never tested himself in European football and has the charisma of a Cornish pastie, I couldn’t leave Pele out. Boasts a club goal average of 0.98 goals a game in official matches, Brazil’s record scorer, winner of three World Cups, scored in two finals and had the chutzpah to advertise Viagra. Hates Maradona.
The selection that has caused me the most pain, and I expect a shellacking for choosing him ahead of Van Basten. World Player of the Year in 1994, tormentor of Manchester United, scorer of more one-on-one’s that it seems possible and, while we’re at it, a lover of late nights, fast cars, booze and birds. Just beats Van Basten because, although the Dutch wouldn’t have won Euro 88 without him, Brazil wouldn’t have won USA 94 without Romario. Both strikers had an indelible impact upon me; Van Basten when I was a ten-year-old kid, and Romario was fully responsible for making me fall in love with football all over again as a long-haired teenager with a bad attitude.
Head and shoulders above the rest as the best striker of the past 20 years and a player who, in his pomp, would improve any team in the history of the game. You can talk about Zidane until the cows come home but goals are football’s currency and Ronaldo could score every type going. No finer sight in football than him in full-flight and even with his explosive pace reduced by injury he reinvented himself and continued to score at a rate of better than one in two at the highest level. Even when fat and immobile at Corinthians, the record scorer in World cup finals and three time World Player of the Year remained the best pure finisher in the game.
Manager: Rinus Michels
Named coach of the century in 1999 and he invented Total Football. That is all.
Claudio Taffarel, Marco Van Basten, Dennis Bergkamp, Johan Neeskens, Jairzinho, Rivelino
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