CAVEAT - no two player can be from the same country or have played for the same club.
The soccer (football) universe has been taken by storm with the idea of building their best World XI. This is an age old question but fun nonetheless. The added stipulation of one player from each club or country will lead you into deeper alleys of your memory-lane and force you to make those tough choices.
A precursory shout out to Zlatan Ibrahimovic on playing for every team in Europe and sadly eliminating himself from this prestigious XI. I have a feeling that he isn't sweating.
BACKGROUND - I started watching football in 1997 as a 5 year old but my distinct memory takes me back as far as 1998 World Cup. The 1998 World Cup in France was my official baptism to the house of football.
Cristiano Ronaldo - He has played for Sporting, Manchester United, Real Madrid and Juventus alongwith Portugese national team. Those add up to a lot of great clubs and players getting overlooked. CR7 gets eliminated for being in too much demand.
Ronaldo - I have loved no player more than Ronaldo Nazario de Lima. His quality on the pitch is unparalleled but he was Zlatan before Zlatan. Cruzeiro, PSV, Barcelona, Inter, Real Madrid, AC Milan and Corinthians are too many clubs to be removed from contention. I did think about fielding a team of Ronaldo and bunch of chumps for a split second. It would have been all worth it.
Zinedine Zidane - Zizou would have been the 1st name on the team-sheet but Real Madrid, Juventus, and France is too much real estate for a singular player. That's equal to three spots in the world XI.
I would list the players by the order of their selection on the team-sheet and proceed with the process of elimination from there. The formation will be selected based on the final XI.
I. Lionel Messi (FW)
Club Eliminated - Barcelona
Country Eliminated - Argentina
Alas, I can't pick Gonzalo Higuain now (that made me chuckle). Messi is arguably the greatest player to lace up and him playing for only one club is a gift to the stipulation. How lucky am I to be alive when Lionel Messi played football?
Jersey No: 10
II. Paolo Maldini (LB)
Club Eliminated - AC Milan
Country Eliminated - Italy
No player associates more to a team than Maldini. Maldini was the coolest, the toughest and the cleanest when he played. The man only did sliding tackles and never got a red card in his life. He will be the unquestioned captain of the team.
Jersey No: 3
III. Philipp Lahm (RB)
Clubs Eliminated - Bayern Munich, Vfb Stuttgart
Country Eliminated - Germany
What a defense it is shaping up to be! Lahm was as good in defense as in counter attack. Lahm will always be touted as one of the smartest player on the pitch, synonymous to a player coach.
Jersey No: 16
IV. Paul Scholes (MID)
Club Eliminated - Manchester United
Country Eliminated - England
Every player that has played with or against Paul Scholes consider him as the best/ toughest midfielder they have stepped on the pitch with. He could play on the flank, he was comfortable from the back as well as on attack. Scholes as the deep lying, ball controlling playmaker increases the win percentage of my world XI by atleast 75%. Don't check the math.
Jersey No: 22
V. Eden Hazard (FW)
Clubs Eliminated - Lille, Chelsea, Real Madrid
Country Eliminated - Belgium
I was a complete grown individual with well formed football understanding when Eden Hazard became relevant. He is unequivocally in the running for the best 3rd player of the past decade behind Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi. He is silky smooth on the ball with sublime finishing. A worthy lucky number 7.
Jersey No: 7
VI. Virgil Van Dijk (CB)
Clubs Eliminated - Groningen, Celtic, Southampton, Liveprool
Country Eliminated - Netherlands
Van Dijk is the complete modern center back. He is solid on tackles and exquisite with his ball distribution. Virgil always directs teammates and shows off his exemplary leadership. Van Dijk has had a bigger impact on the Liverpool side than many a legend with vertical passing and unbelievable track-back speed.
Jersey No: 4
VII. David Silva (LW)
Clubs Eliminated - Valencia, Eibar, Celta, Manchester City
Country Eliminated - Spain
David Silva looks soft but he is as tough as Roy Keane. I care about my world XI being magically beautiful on the ball and Silva provides nothing less. Silva has been the linchpin of Citizen's golden generation.
Jersey No: 21
VIII. Pavel Nedved (RW)
Clubs Eliminated - Sparta Prague, Lazio, Juventus
Country Eliminated - Czech Republic
Nedved was the Ballon d'Or winner of 2003 and the player overtaking Zidane's mantle at Juventus after he left for Real. Nedved is one of the best attacking midfielder/ winger of his generation and only adds to the shine.
Jersey No: 11
IX. Kylian Mbappe (ST)
Clubs Eliminated - Monaco, PSG
Country Eliminated - France
Kylian Mbappe is 21 years old. If you watch him play for 15 minutes, you will know he deserves to be on this team not because of his club affiliations with PSG and Monaco but because he is that good at everything on a football field. He will probably switch to a bigger franchise soon but makes the World XI for the time being.
Jersey No: 9
X. Diego Godin (CB)
Clubs Eliminated - Cerro, Nacional, Villarreal, Atletico Madrid, Inter Milan
Country Eliminated - Uruguay
Godin's dependibility in the back helps his team move forward without fear. Godin comes up big whenever the lights are the brightest. He has consistently been a top 5 defender of his era and his status at Wanda Metropolitano is undeniable.
Jersey No: 2
XI. Rui Patricio (GK)
Clubs Eliminated - Sporting CP, Wolverhampton Wanderers
Country Eliminated - Portugal
Rui Patricio has been a solid player between the poles for the past 15 players. He has saved many a penalties at crucial junctures and taken them as well. Julio Cesar was my first choice but Godin somehow ended up playing 16 games for Inter last season (why?!). Nonetheless, Patricio has been an underrated stopper with immense quality and irrefutable longevity in the top tier of football.
Jersey No: 1
I decided to go with a narrow 4-3-3 formation with 4 in the back and the wing-backs supporting the midfield during counter. The defensive back 4 is pure wrath. The narrow midfield provides space for overlap & the Messi-Hazard tandem to run crazy on the opposition.
This was more difficult than I ever thought it will be, specially when you realize that all great players ended up playing for the same 5 teams in the end of the day. Share your world XI!