Tag Archives: Neymar

Did Neymar live up to his potential or flop?

Without a doubt one of the best Brazilian footballers to ever play the game of professional football, Neymar is already thinking about the end of his career.

The Paris Saint-Germain winger admitted recently that he can’t see past the 2022 World Cup with Brazil in Qatar, revealing that he expects it to be the final tournament of his international career.

The comments sparked a conversation about just how good his career has been in comparison to the ability and potential he had attached to his name throughout.



From when he was just a teenager making his debut at Santos, Neymar was expected to become one of the top footballers in the world.

After dominating the domestic scene in his native Brazil, winning the league in three consecutive seasons and the Copa Libertadores too he secured his major move to Barcelona in a transfer that would follow him for the rest of his career.

His time in Spain was littered with success and brilliance on the pitch. Joining at the age of 21 with so much success already attached to his name, expectation was high.

In four seasons with the club the Brazilian scored 105 goals and registered 76 assists in 185 appearances, a truly remarkable record. But he was always in the shadow of Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez as part of the now legendary ‘MSN’ trio.

Luis Suarez, Lionel Messi and Neymar of Barcelona celebrate with the trophy after the UEFA Champions League Final between Juventus and FC Barcelona...

After winning the treble and more trophies after that, Neymar opted to leave the club and move to Paris Saint-Germain in a world record transfer to become the main man at club level, having been the man for Brazil for a number of years already.

But since going to France he’s seen his reputation take a few hits. The competitiveness of the league is nowhere near the best in Europe, he’s failed to win them the Champions League despite making a final and semi-final and he hasn’t even been able to win the league every season.

Many believe he’s been overtaken in the running for best players in the world by the likes of Robert Lewandowski, Kylian Mbappe and Erling Haaland.

Someone who was once seen as the obvious heir to the throne of Messi and Ronaldo and a guaranteed Ballon d’Or winner once their reign came to an end, now looks more likely to end his career without one.

Neymar Jr. #10 of Brazil reacts after assisting Casemiro on a goal against Colombia during the first half of the friendly at Hard Rock Stadium on...

The World Cup will likely be his last chance to get to the top of that list, but if he doesn’t win it his career will forever been seen as a big what if.

He’ll likely go down as Brazil’s all-time top goalscorer, surpassing the legendary Pele, and one of their most capped players ever. He won it all at club level and was able to win an Olympic gold medal and a Confederations Cup with Brazil, but there is no Copa America or World Cup trophy in his cabinet.

With no major international honours while playing for one of the best international teams ever, and no Ballon d’Or, it’s hard to say that this generational footballer ever really lived up to his potential – despite the greatness he achieved.

Neymar reveals 2022 World Cup will be his last

Neymar has revealed that he expects the 2022 World Cup in Qatar to be his last.

The Brazilian winger has been a key man for his country for the best part of a decade, racking up over 113 caps and registering 69 goals for the Seleccao, just eight behind record holder Pele.

The Paris Saint-Germain winger is expected to be a key man once again for Tite as Brazil look for a record-extending sixth World Cup title next winter in the middle east, with Neymar looking for his first title.



The 29-year-old will be 30 by the time that tournament comes around and while many footballers play on until their late 30’s these days, Neymar has revealed that he feels that tournament will be his last with Brazil.

Speaking candidly to DAZN for his new documentary “Neymar and the Line of Kings”, the former Barcelona star revealed he doesn’t feel he has the mental strength for football anymore but says he will give everything to make his final World Cup a success.

“I think it’s my last World Cup. I see it as my last because I don’t know if I have the strength of mind to deal with football any more.

So I’ll do everything to turn up well, do everything to win with my country, to realise my greatest dream since I was little. And I hope I can do it.”

Neymar Jr. Of Brazil lines up prior to a match between Brazil and Peru as part of South American Qualifiers for Qatar 2022 at Arena Pernambuco on...

With several World Cup qualifiers and friendlies to come between now and then, Neymar could well step into the tournament as the greatest goalscorer in Brazil’s history.

Pele currently holds the record with 77 goals and Neymar has previously scored six times at World Cup competitions in ten appearances.

His best performance came at the Brazil World Cup in 2014 where he was the stand-out performer at the tournament, before suffering a fracture in his back during the win over Chile in the quarter-final.

Brazil were then humiliated and defeated 7-1 by Germany in the semi-final, with the Germans going on to beat Argentina in the final.

Manchester City survive scare to set up mouthwatering semi-final against PSG

Manchester City survived a scare in Germany as they came from behind to beat Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League and set up a mouthwatering semi-final clash against Paris Saint-Germain.

City held a 2-1 lead from the first leg thanks to Phil Foden’s late winner at the Etihad after Kevin De Bruyne’s opener was cancelled out by Marco Reus. In the second leg Dortmund started quick and strong and took the lead thanks to a stunning striker from Jude Bellingham, who became the second youngest player ever to score in a Champions League knockout tie.

His goal meant the hosts just had to hold out in the second half, but Pep Guardiola’s side were having none of it. They came out aggressive and won a penalty just ten minutes into the second half when Emre Can handled in the penalty area. Riyad Mahrez slammed the penalty home before Foden scored a belter from outside the box late on to seal the win.

It means that City have made it to a semi-final in the Champions League after three consecutive years of crashing out at the quarter-final stages to AS Monaco, Tottenham and then Lyon last year in a one-legged tie.

The win also sees that their quadruple hopes don’t end just yet, with an FA Cup semi-final to come this weekend along with a Carabao Cup final later this month and just 11 points needed to seal a third league title in four seasons.

It was a top performance from City, who shook off the nerves of the first half to come out in the second and implement their usual high quality. They pressed fantastically well to dominate the ball, they controlled the tempo, cut off the service to Erling Haaland and created chances to stave off the threat Dortmund possessed.

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It sets up a huge, semi-final at the end of the month against Ligue 1 side Paris Saint-Germain in a game that will be looked at as the two richest sides in the land going head to head for maiden European success.

Guardiola’s sides have struggled mostly against clinical counter-attacking sides and Mauricio Pochettino’s side have shown that they are capable of playing in that way, beating Bayern Munich at the Allianz Arena 3-2 and dominating a Barcelona side to a 4-1 win at the Camp Nou in each of the last two rounds.

With the pace and skill of Angel Di Maria, Kylian Mbappe and Neymar in attack, they are a huge threat for anyone they come up against and Guardiola will need to conjure up a master plan to get the better of last season’s beaten finalists.

A game that would have been touted as Neymar vs De Bruyne not long ago will now surely be headlined by the young bucks of Mbappe and Foden. Both were instrumental in their sides progression in both previous rounds and are without a doubt likely to be battling for the Ballon d’Or in years to come.

Both opposition managers will make it a big part of their plan to stop the other player and it is sure to be a frenetic two-legged tie that you won’t want to miss.

Paris Saint-Germain avenge Champions League final loss thanks to Neymar monsterclass

Paris Saint-Germain avenged their 2020 Champions League final defeat by beating Bayern Munich on away goals to progress into the semi-finals, thanks in part to a brilliant Neymar performance.

PSG held a 3-2 lead from the first leg, where Kylian Mbappe put Bayern to the sword with a brace to give the French giants three away goals. Those proved crucial as despite a 1-0 defeat on the night, the Parisians progressed 3-3 on aggregate thanks to those away goals.

Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting’s header in the first half sent shivers up French fans backs, but they were dangerous throughout and in the end were able to hold out for a big win.

The game started as a more cagey affair than the first leg, but PSG continued to be a threat on the counter in a similar manner against the Bundesliga side’s high line.

Mbappe threatened in behind on occasion but was called offside, but everything that Mauricio Pochettino’s side did went through the enigmatic Brazilian. It was his passing that opened up the Bayern defence and the only thing that let him down on the night was his finishing.

He hit the crossbar with a beautiful curling effort from the edge of the box after losing Kingsley Coman with a chop, and then hit the post when put through one on one after a brilliant move. He also saw a previous effort saved by Manuel Neuer after being rolled a square pass by Mbappe, he was instrumental.

In the second half he used his experience and know how to slow the game right down. He was being fouled regularly and just took the bumps, constantly asking for the ball with his back to goal knowing he’d get a kick from behind.

A few dazzling runs resulted in chances and one ended in a pass to Mbappe, who crossed for Angel Di Maria. The Argentine brought the ball down and beat the defender with skill before rolling the ball across the goal, but Neymar slid in and just couldn’t reach meaning Bayern survived again.

But aside from anything inside the 18-yard box, Neymar showed that right now he is the best player on the planet bar none.

PSG seemed to have a chip on their shoulder in this game after the final last year and the team now look like they’re ready to go one step further this year and actually win the tournament.

They’ve shown an ability to dig deep when they need to to grind out a result defensively, but they also have the exceptional quality in attack to trouble any defence in world football.

A semi-final now awaits against the winner of the Manchester City and Borussia Dortmund tie, but whoever gets through will know that they have a true European heavyweight in their way that go by the name of Paris Saint-Germain.

My Perfect Footballer #6 – Omozay

We’ve been blessed over the last few generations of footballer to see some of the best of all time perform at their absolute peak.

Chelsea fan Omoze Edeki, otherwise known as Omozay on Twitter, has gathered all her football knowledge together without using any player more than once, she’s collated different attributes and built her perfect footballer.


Brain 
Mesut Ozil 

There are no words to even describe how intelligent Ozil is as a player. Throughout his career, whether that be at Real Madrid or Arsenal, the one thing Ozil was hailed for was his football IQ.

Heading Ability
John Terry 

One of, if not the, best players when it comes to being a threat aerially. The technique that he does which provides those bullet headers is just out of this world. It’s the quick jump and power that allows him to be so dangerous in the air as well as his positioning. Being the highest goalscoring defender in Chelsea’s history says it all.

Hands
Petr Cech 

Petr Cech from the Czech Republic, the man was a brick wall in his prime. Paramount to the success of Chelsea’s first two Premier League titles, that was just the start of his legacy as one of the best goalkeepers to touch world football.  

Tackling
Paolo Maldini  

At his very best there isn’t a defender that could accurately time his tackles like Maldini. His presence in defence was one of the many reasons why he is considered one of the greatest defenders of all time, even to the point of Milan retiring the number three shirt. 

Agility
Eden Hazard

Hazard has always been known to use his agility to swerve past oncoming defenders who have been tasked with stopping him in his tracks. The way he uses his body and low centre of gravity, coupled with his pace is always a nightmare for defenders. I will never get the West Ham goal at Stamford Bridge in the 18/19 season. What a player.

Passing
Andres Iniesta 

A legend and one of the best midfielders of all time. It was very hard to choose this as I had two other options but Iniesta is my choice. The range of passes this man possessed was not normal. Whether it was to put a player through towards goal, to slice open a defence, or to set the tempo & hold possession – he had it all.

First Touch
Ronaldinho 

I like to refer to Ronaldinho as the master of all trades. His skill set was out of this world and his first touch is by far the best of any player I’ve watched. For me, he is the first touch king.

Speed
Gareth Bale 

Now this is a bit of a weird one because there are a lot of players who could have been chosen. But whenever someone mentions players who used their pace as one of their strengths, the first person that comes to mind is Gareth Bale. At his peak he was considered one of the if not the fastest player in world and was one of the big reasons why he developed into a world class footballer.

Dribbling
Lionel Messi  

The real GOAT. Messi is known for many things and will go down as the greatest player to ever play the game, but one aspect of his game that always amazes me is his dribbling. The ball is like a magnet to his feet, nothing can repel it away not even the greatest defenders. One of my earliest memories of Messi was his goal against Getafe when he was 19-years-old – receiving the ball from the half way line and going past players as if they weren’t there.

Skills
Neymar  

A joy to watch, Neymar is one of the most skilful players to ever grace the game and is the true definition of made in Brazil. To a certain degree I can understand why football players get frustrated with him, if I was being disgraced so easily with the skill set that Neymar possesses then I too would lose my head. They don’t make ‘em like him anymore. 

Crossing
David Beckham  

There’s a reason why there is a movie called ‘Bend it like Beckham’. Nobody can ever forget the one attribute that Beckham had over any footballer during and even after his years as a footballer. His precision to find anyone, anywhere at any time on the pitch with a whipped or driven pass was second to none.  

Right Foot
Cristiano Ronaldo 

It was only right that I chose Ronaldo. Can’t think of any other right footed player that I adore more than him. He is one of the greatest players ever. That right peg of his has always been a problem and has seen him become the highest goalscorer in the history of the game. 

Left Foot
Roberto Carlos 

One of my earliest football memories as a child and being amazed by what I saw was seeing Roberto Carlos’ fre-kick against France in 1997. I didn’t actually watch the match but three years later it came up on my television and I could not believe how it was possible for a human to shoot at goal from that distance coupled with that power. He is one of the greatest full-backs of all time and helped revolutionise the role, paving the way for the likes of Andrew Robertson and Alphonso Davies today.


You can follow Omoze on Twitter:
@Omointhislife

Champions League last 16 predictions – Paris Saint-Germain vs Barcelona

The Champions League is back and the last 16 has thrown up some really exciting ties to determine who will make it into the quarter-finals.

Inclusive in those ties is a clash between two super-teams as Paris Saint-Germain take on Barcelona, as Mauricio Pochettino and Ronald Koeman go head to head for the first time since their Premier League days.

PSG parted ways with former boss Thomas Tuchel in December, despite him navigating them through a tough group stage to progress as group winners and they currently sit second in the Ligue 1 table a point behind Lille.

Barcelona hired former captain Koeman back in the summer and after a rocky start, the Catalan side seem to have finally found their way under him as they sit in third place in La Liga between the two Madrid sides. They came through a tough group with Juventus in the group stages, missing out on top spot thanks to a final match day defeat to the Turin giants.

Both sides have recently found some really good form, with the Paris side winning eight of ten games under Pochettino. Koeman on the other hand has seen his side win ten of their last 13 fixtures, but they were beaten when they took on Athletic Club in the Super Cup final and then lost to Sevilla in the Copa Del Rey semi-final first leg recently too.

Tottenham Hotspur v Everton - Premier League : News Photo

Their cup form hasn’t been good, failing to win any of their last three inside 90 minutes and defensively they are shaken by injuries right now.

Gerard Pique has returned to training after being out with injury since November, while the likes of Samuel Umtiti, Sergino Dest and Sergio Roberto continue to be sidelined. It means academy prospects Oscar Mingueza and Ronald Araujo have stepped in for large parts of the season and become regulars in the side, for better or worse.

PSG have had their own injury problems, with star man Neymar ruled out for a month and likely to miss both legs of the tie with a groin issue. Angel Di Maria and Juan Bernat are both struggling with injury too, although Presnel Kimpembe has recovered from injury and picked up where he left off in good form in defence.

With Neymar and Di Maria’s injuries, it means the burden falls on 22-year-old Kylian Mbappe. The French sensation is PSG’s top scorer this season with 16 goals and has found himself played in all three roles across the attack since Pochettino’s arrival at the club. Mauro Icardi has returned from injury and found his goalscoring touch too, but the game runs through Mbappe.

For Barcelona, it may be a new manager and a young team but the objective remains the same – give the ball to Lionel Messi. The Argentine had a slow start to the season but seems to have found a new relationship with Antoine Griezmann who has seven goals and four assists in his last ten appearances, while young midfielder Pedri has adapted well to his role in Koeman’s system.

Sevilla v FC Barcelona: Copa del Rey Semi Final First Leg : News Photo

The tie really does depend on whether or not Lionel Messi turns up. On his day, he is still by far and away the best footballer in the world and can essentially win games such as this on his own. The absence of Neymar makes PSG more obvious in their approach which means that Barcelona can prepare much better for it, although an obvious problem for them will be whether their defensive issues halt their ability to stop him.

The way the two teams are playing right now, it should be one hell of a tie. Both teams have retained their home advantage in a round that has seen plenty of fixtures rescheduled for neutral venues, which will be a positive. But with PSG at home in the second leg, it makes me believe that the French side will go through.

Koeman will have his way of playing and will stick to it no matter what, like a true Barcelona coach does. He has his and the club’s ideals in mind at all times and it means PSG will be able to get through it quickly and efficiently and their attackers are in great nick.

The pace of the attack, with the steel and technical quality of the midfield should see PSG able to get a relatively convincing win in the end and despite Messi’s magic, his teammates just won’t be able to rise to the level required.

PREDICTIONS:

Barcelona 1-2 Paris SG
Paris SG 3-1 Barcelona
(Paris SG progress 5-2 on aggregate)

Neymar’s ‘mysterious’ March unavailability in full

Neymar has once again been ruled out of action for a month after picking up a groin injury during a cup game for Paris Saint-Germain.

The Brazilian winger started against Ligue 2 side Caen in the Coup De France but with his side leading 1-0, the recently turned 29-year-old hobbled off holding his groin.

Further tests the following day revealed an adductor injury for the winger and he has been ruled out of action for the next four weeks. It means he will miss a reunion with his former club Barcelona in the Champions League last 16.

But eagle-eyed fans spotted that a theme has occurred. Neymar’s sister has a birthday on March 11th and Neymar hasn’t been available to play for his club, whether it be Barcelona or PSG, since way back in 2015!

Here’s a breakdown of his absence every year:


2015 – Suspended

At this point it was probably seen as just a coincidence, but Neymar picked up a fifth yellow card of the season against Granada in the match before the one that fell nearest to the birth date. It meant he was unavailable for the Catalan side’s home game with Rayo Vallecano on March 8th, which they won 6-1. Because he was unavailable, the club allowed him to return to Brazil where he celebrated his sister’s birthday with her. He was back on the 14th of March for the win over Eibar, playing 70 minutes.

FC Barcelona v SD Eibar - La Liga : News Photo

2016 – Suspended

The same game week the following season, and once again Neymar picked up a fifth yellow card of the season in the game before. He missed the tie against Eibar which Barcelona won 4-1 without him and returned the following week to feature on the 12th March against Getafe, scoring twice in a 6-0 win. Once again the club allowed him to fly back to his homeland, where he was pictured at a huge Disney themed birthday party as she turned 20. Cute.

2017 – Injured

To avoid question marks around three successive suspensions in the same game week, this time Neymar was conveniently suffering from a “muscular injury” in 2017 and missed a 2-1 defeat to Deportivo La Coruna during his final season with Barcelona. He probably earned the weekend off for this one though, as in the week leading up to the birthday he put in a man of the match performance with two goals and two assists as Barcelona came from behind to beat PSG 6-1 in the Champions League. Despite the muscle injury, Neymar was back in Brazil to celebrate with Rafaella once again.

2018 – Injured

FBL-EUR-C1-DORTMUND-PSG : News Photo

This time we’re willing to accept that the injury was genuine, since the Brazilian suffered a broken foot at the end of February and wouldn’t feature again that season. With recovery at the forefront of his mind, Neymar went back to Brazil to try and recover in time for the 2018 World Cup in Russia but found some spare time to celebrate with his baby sister once again.

2019 – Injured

So the following year, Neymar once again broke his foot and missed a large chunk of the end of the season – including the dates around his sister’s birthday. It’s just a curse at this point, although he was able to return for the end of the campaign as PSG won the league title again, but lost on penalties in the Coupe de France final despite Neymar getting a goal and assist.

2020 – COVID-19

So last year wasn’t his fault in the slightest either, with the coronavirus taking over the world at the start of March. The season was curtailed early in France due to the virus, with the French league never restarting after it was paused following game week 27. Neymar returned back to Brazil to be with his family with football cancelled and that included his sister’s birthday – again.

SM Caen v Paris Saint Germain - French Cup : News Photo

2021 – Injured

That brings us to this season, where Neymar will miss a return to the Camp Nou with a groin/adductor muscle injury. The date of the press release from PSG states he will be out for four weeks, which directly coincides with the date of his sister’s birthday. With a quarantine period being implemented in Brazil and France for anyone travelling into or from the country, it will be interesting to see if the winger is seen with his sibling once again.

Coincidence or a well-thought out master plan from Neymar? Who knows, but you should never rely on the Brazilian to be available in the second week of March if history is anything to go by.

Neymar’s new PSG contract confirms the path he needs for greatness

It’s hard to make a case for Neymar not having reached his full potential, but it’s also pretty easy to make a case too.

Having just turned 29 years old, the Brazilian superstar has agreed a new four-year contract with Paris Saint-Germain to extend his stay at the club until 2026 at least.

By that point, Neymar will be 34 years old and without a doubt on his way down on the trajectory of his career. He’s not the supreme super-athlete that Cristiano Ronaldo is – who turned 36 on the same day Neymar turned 29 – nor is he a player who doesn’t need to rely on his physical attributes like Lionel Messi does.

Neymar’s key attributes have always been his incredible skill, matched with electric pace, super agility and the technical quality to carry the ball past players with total ease. By the time he is 34, he’ll still be able to do those things but probably not to the same standard that we’ve come accustomed to.

What that means for most, is that Neymar has entered the final stretch of his career to make himself remembered as one of the best of his generation.

After joining Barcelona from Santos, Neymar shone. He scored 105 goals in 186 games for the Catalan giants and won every trophy available to him while becoming one third of arguably the greatest attacking trident the game has ever seen with Messi and Luis Suarez.

But when he left the Camp Nou for Paris aged 25, many questioned his ambition. To him it was clear – he wanted to be the main man in a successful team and didn’t feel like he could do that in the shadow of Messi in Spain.

He was right too, nobody can outshine the greatest player of all time at the club he has spent his entire career. To put into perspective how good Messi is at Barcelona just look at his goal record. He has scored 651 times for the club and sits top of the all time scoring charts. But he is so far ahead of everyone else that you’d have to add together the player’s tally from fourth place, third place and second place in those charts and then add 27 goals to match him.

Neymar’s decision to join a side who are financially strong enough to compete for all the major titles in Europe while making him the main man was easy to understand. They signed Kylian Mbappe alongside him and with Thomas Tuchel being brought in soon after, they were supposed to push on and become a dominant force.

But in a spell that has seen him constantly linked with a return to Spain due to unhappiness, as well as marred with injuries and underperforming in the Champions League question marks have been raised about whether or not the move was a success.

He’s won several trophies with the club, but PSG are supposed to win everything domestically. The money they have available to them, they are completely clear of everyone around them to be able to dominate the league and cup scene in France.

In Europe though, they’ve not been as good. They had failed to reach even the quarter-finals since Neymar joined the club until last season, when the adjusted run-in meant they made it all the way to the final.

The single leg format certainly helped them but Neymar was the standout performer until they came up against a formidable Bayern Munich side.

There was talk that the defeat could see the end of the project, with Neymar to return to Spain to get back to the top of the game. Instead though, he has committed himself to the project and huge money to finish what he started.

Having already won the Champions League, simply winning it once with PSG with the amount of investment they have put into the squad won’t be enough to cement his legacy.

With the World Cup around the corner now, winning it is the only way that he will be remembered in generations to come for the great player that he actually is.

The club trophies are great but are clouded by the fact he was playing alongside Messi, the entire reason he left the club to begin with. Without succeeding at PSG by winning the Champions League he will be deemed to have never reached that potential without him.

But internationally, to go down with the great Brazilians before him like Ronaldo, Rivaldo, Ronaldinho, Zico, Pele and Romario he needs a World Cup title.

The Brazilian side is arguably the strongest it’s been during Neymar’s reign as the leader and the World Cup in 2022 in Qatar will be his final attempt at the biggest trophy in all of football.

His path to eternal greatness is now set with this new contract. Win the Champions League with PSG as the main man and then win the World Cup with Brazil and go down as the best Brazilian of this era. Simple.

My Perfect Footballer #5 – Kendall Rowan

Being a 90’s baby means I’ve had the pleasure of witnessing some of the G.O.A.T footballers, from Zidane to Ronaldinho and more recently Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi.

All of them have different abilities and excellence in different areas – so without using a single player for more than one attribute, I’m going to build my perfect footballer.


Brain
Andrea Pirlo

Pirlo had the ability as a player to almost stop the game in real time and scan the length of the pitch in the middle of an attack. If he was a yard behind in pace, he made up two anticipating the ball and was fascinating to watch. He even himself famously said, “football is played with the head, and your feet are just the tools.”

Heading Ability
Didier Drogba

A man mountain on the pitch and a character off it, Drogba ranked very highly for me in terms of players who had an eye, or rather a head, for goal. Scoring some of the greatest goals of his career with his head, Drogba had as much skill up top as he did down at his feet. With heading being almost a dying part of the modern game, an aerial threat like the Ivorian’s is hard to come by. Huge mention to Alan Shearer in this category as well.

Physique
Zlatan Ibrahimovic

I have to go with Zlatan for this one. It’s hard to ignore the slender, ripped physique of the man that has allowed him to play at the very highest levels of the game worldwide for over two decades. Not many players have the longevity and the strength to compete like Zlatan has.

Hands
Gianluigi Buffon

One of the greatest goalkeepers of all time who has consistently performed at top level for over 20 years, you cannot deny the shot-stopping ability of this Italian beast. Buffon made incredible saves with ease in his pomp and that makes him my top candidate for this category, alongside being the most capped player in Italian history. A testament to his greatness.

Tackling
Carles Puyol

This Spanish international had a defensive career matched by very few, and in terms of trophies is as decorated as any. Puyol was a master tackler and timed challenges with precision we could only dream of seeing today, meaning he only received one red card in his whole career.

Agility
Neymar

Known for the silky way he dribbles past defenders and his showboating, Neymar for me just simply floats across the pitch with or without a football at his feet. He can zip effortlessly all ways around a defender, has a wicked change of direction and on his day is a sublime watch.

Passing
Xavi

The man who is known for completing the vast majority of his passes in every game and controlled the tempo when the ball was at his feet, Xavi was another easy pick for me here. Any type of pass – short, crossing, through balls; he could do it with ease and accuracy and was a joy to watch for me.

First Touch
Andres Iniesta

Iniesta for me is one of the best to ever do it when receiving a ball. It didn’t matter if it was a long or short pass, the ease with which he could bring it under his spell on the first touch was a thing of beauty to see.

Speed
Kylian Mbappe

This category was one of the hardest to choose because the fastest players change year on year, but I went with this man due to the heights he has reached at such a young age, and consistently for the past 3 years has ranked as one of the fastest players in the world.

Dribbling
Franck Ribery

In the 2000’s, this Frenchman was massively underrated in certain areas of the game, but was amazing to watch when taking on defenders one on one. Stats also don’t lie – for dribbling attempts in a single year, Ribery attempted an enormous 1084 dribbles (2013), compared to Messi’s 331 and Ronaldo’s 252.


Skills
Ronaldinho

If you know and watch football even the tiniest bit, you still know how great this man was. One of my favourite footballers of all time, he had the ability to get you off your seat with the way he moved a football, gracefully but with purpose anywhere on the pitch. He is a master of the art of football.

Crossing
Kevin De Bruyne

A lot of people would’ve opted for Beckham here, so to be different I opted for one of the best attacking midfielders in the world right now, Kevin De Bruyne. He has lit up the Premier League with his accurate passing, eye for goal and electric crosses and has statistically ranked in the best crossers amongst Europe’s top leagues for a few seasons now.

Right Foot
Cristiano Ronaldo

I don’t think this list would even be complete without including the two greatest players of this era. The albeit contested greatest goalscorer of all time, the weapon that is CR7’s right foot has allowed us to see some amazing goals for club and country, and has cemented him in history.

Left Foot
Lionel Messi

As above, these two categories practically picked themselves for me. You cannot deny the prowess these two possess in front of goal, and it’s hard to even ever imagine a player with the ability in both feet of the two greats.

FC Barcelona v Juventus: Group G - UEFA Champions League : News Photo

Brazil Greatest XI vs Italy Greatest XI

When you think football, you almost certainly will think of the Brazilian national team and it’s glittering history.

The famous yellow shirts are linked heavily with some of the greatest attacking players in the history of football, while defensively they’ve probably never been blessed with the best options. They’ve had a few stand outs but nothing like when you look at the history of the Italian side.

Arguably the greatest defensive nation in footballing history, Italy have had some of the best defenders in history prior to my lifetime including the likes of Franco Baresi. So what happens if you pit the best attack against the best defence over the most recent generations?

Much like in the ‘France vs Holland Fantasy Match‘, several top players have missed out on the lineups simply because I can’t pick more than 11 players. The likes of Rivaldo, Christian Vieri, Giorgio Chiellini, Gilberto Silva, Cafu, Marcelo and Gennaro Gattuso have been left out either because I believe these are better or I’m trying to get more of a balance of past and present.

Football. 2002 FIFA World Cup Finals. Semi Final. Saitama, Japan. 26th June 2002. Brazil 1 v Turkey 0. Members of the Brazil team are pictured with mascots as they sing their anthem prior to the match. L-R: Rivaldo and Cafu (captain). Credit: POPPERFOTO/J : News Photo

In goal, Italy’s choice was obvious. Gianluigi Buffon is likely to go down as one of the best goalkeepers ever and up until recently is the only Italy number one I’ve know. For Brazil, I’ve given Alisson the nod over two legends in Dida and Claudio Taffarel. The Liverpool man is arguably the best of the lot with his feet and is comfortable sweeping up behind a top heavy team, so he fits in well here.

At full-back, Brazil have arguably had the two best pairs of right and left backs of my lifetime with Cafu and Roberto Carlos as well as Dani Alves and Marcelo. I’ve decided to split the difference with this and take on from each era, with Dani Alves and Roberto Carlos taking the spots here.

Footballer Ronaldo in Action Against Italy : News Photo

For Italy, their full-backs pick themselves. Paolo Maldini is recognised as one of the best defenders the world has ever seen and while he could play at centre-back, he often was used as a left-back for the national team due to the plethora of top central defenders they possessed. As for right-back, Gianluca Zambrotta is comfortably the best Italian I’ve ever seen in that position and that makes his inclusion easy enough.

At centre-back Italy’s pairing is arguably unfair. Alessandro Nesta is the best defender I’ve ever seen in my opinion while Fabio Cannavaro is the last defender to win the Ballon D’Or following Italy’s World Cup win in 2006. A combination of speed, strength, intelligence, aerial ability and leadership they would be a nightmare for any attack.

Brazil’s options don’t have the same quality or reputation, but Lucio and Thiago Silva is also a pairing that would strike fear into any attacking lineup. Aerially dominant, good on the ball and aggressive as they come I would ultimately back the Brazilian’s to make an error before the Italians.

Italy Training Session And Press Conference : News Photo

In midfield, Italy have got balance for days. The destroyer vibe of Daniele De Rossi alongside the playmaking skill of Marco Verratti and Andrea Pirlo give the team the perfect base to build their attacks from while also being to compete in defensive situations too.

Brazil’s lineup is a bit more top heavy and I’ve gone with Fernandinho in the holding midfield role. Now I know I could’ve picked Gilberto Silva but I went with the Manchester City man for the simple reason that I have seen him play in top heavy teams before. With Kaka, Ronaldinho and Neymar ahead of him all interchanging positions and causing havoc, Italy will have a tough time containing the quality and invention they have.

In attack, Italy’s attack has got three magnificent talents ready to link up and interchange positions. Roberto Baggio is widely considered as the best Italian attacker of his generation or since, while Francesco Totti and Alessandro Del Piero are the reigning kings of Rome and Turin respectively.

Their passing, creativity, skill and link up play would likely see some of the best team goals ever scored with them on the pitch, although they lack the frightening pace that a side likely to play on the counter attack would like to have.

FUSSBALL: TOURNOI DE FRANCE MINI WM Lyon, 04.06.97 : News Photo

For Brazil, two of the greatest number nines of the modern generation playing up front together is a terrifying prospect. Romario was the main man during the 1994 World Cup and it was ‘El Fenomeno’ who took the mantle and went on to be one of the best strikers of all time. Together, their combination of pace, skill, strength, creativity and ruthless finishing would surely be too much for any defence.

This would be a battle between attack and defence and it’s hard to see past the attack coming out on top.

Brazil are by no means pushovers defensively and if the full-backs are a bit more efficient with their attacking outlet then you can imagine Italy struggling to break them down with their lack of pace.

With that said, Italy will have the advantage in midfield with three excellent ball-players in there so if they can keep the ball for long periods and keep Brazil’s attack quiet then they would potentially be able to cause an upset.

The likelihood for me however, is that Brazil get on the ball in dangerous areas far too often for the Italian’s to cope and eventually they get broken down for the famous yellow jerseys to celebrate a win yet again.