No room for certain ladies…
It is with absolute joy that we welcome Eliot, fantastic writer of sport, back from his holiday and straight into the Interestment fold. With so much to play for between Man United, Liverpool, Chelsea, and Arsenal, he thought he’d have a go at compiling the best combo team imaginable. He had this to say…
Goalkeeper, Pepe Reina, Liverpool
Although Edwin van der Sar could have grown a beard to rival W.G. Grace in that long hiatus he had between having to pick the ball out of the net earlier this year, the best goalkeeper in the Top 4 remains Pepe Reina. His qualities are endless – this paragraph luckily isn’t, however, so let’s simply highlight how he is never flustered, how expert he is at saving penalties and also how surprisingly tall he is at 6ft2 (which itself reminds us of the golden rule that bald goalkeepers always look small; Barthez, de Goey and now Reina – all 6ft+, all looked like Borrowers in the goal.) Reina just pips Manuel Almunia, one reason being that with the imminent release of the Sacha Baron Cohen film Bruno, you will be more than fed up of Bruno/Almunia lookalikes pinging their way to your inbox. So Manuel will get his turn in the spotlight shortly. Reina’s turn first.
Right Back, Rafael da Silva, Man United
On the basis that members of the PFA fill in their voting slips between breaks filling in Danielle Lloyd, it is a tribute to the ability of the young full back that said footballers could be bothered to write such a lengthy name on the form in such a short space of time. Rafael, whose younger brother Fabio is rumoured to be “even better” – yawn – came to prominence in the Carling Cup. No really. The highlight of his season was this dipping volley at the Emirates, albeit in a losing cause.
Left Back, Fabio Aurelio, Liverpool
The second Samba selection, proving that Brazilians really do produce the best full backs, although whether full backs produce the best Brazilians is a question best left rhetorical. Having mooched around Anfield unnoticed for the past three years, perhaps offering the odd biscuit to Robbie Keane, Aurelio looked all set to add his name to an already lengthy list of Benitez full back shame, including such memorable characters as Josemi and Kromkamp. Yet the free kick at Old Trafford was merely indicative of the former Valencia man finally getting into the swing of it all, and his crossing has managed to make redundant the absence of Steve Finnan’s deadly balls into the box.
Centre Back, Rio Ferdinand, Man United
Whilst the great and the good of the punditocracy (not you Shearer) ponder the reason for United’s recent defensive frailty (is it the keeper? Is it the lack of a defensive screen blah blah?), us mere mortals prefer instead to point out the absence of England’s best defender since Bobby Moore. Rio has come a long way since filming Kieron Dyer slapping his manhood on a woman’s head in Ibiza. For Kieron Dyer however, that was as good as it got.
Centre Back, Nemanja Vidic, Man United
A tougher call this, as Gallas, Martin Hurt-all and Alex have all stood out at the back for their respective clubs this season. Yet Nemanja just edges it, playing the more rugged Danni to Rio’s stylish Kylie. Shoo-in for PFA Footballer of the Year, and a rare popular Eastern European immigrant.
Right Midfield, Dirk Kuyt, Liverpool
Kuyt’s transition from workhorse, goal-shy fish out of water to workhorse, goal-shy fish out of water has not gone unnoticed this season. Yet all of a sudden, in a season of unrelenting mediocrity from the Top Four, the striker who scores no goals has become the connoisseurs’ (not you Shearer) must-have item. All of which leaves just one question – why the long face Dirk?
Left Midfield, Cristiano Ronaldo, Man United
Whilst he has failed to hit the heights of the past two years (probably deliberately in an attempt to lower his valuation within the range of Real Madrid), Ronaldo has still scored more goals than anyone else in the Premier League. If he hadn’t scaled such vertiginous summits in 08, the spectre of a midfielder topping the scoring charts would have us all giddy, fanning ourselves whilst a dashing gentleman pulls up a conveniently placed chair. Yet we take him for granted, and as such, our league will feel as empty as Damien McBride’s inbox next season when He heads to Madrid. Although probably not as empty as our summers will feel, having to read about that transfer every day. Again.
Centre Midfield, Michael Essien, Chelsea
So good they gave him two nicknames. The Bison may not have played a match until March but he returned just in time to steal (at Anfield appropriately enough) the crown of World’s Best Midfielder off the head of Steven Gerrard, and place it onto his own sweat-drenched brow. One suspects The Train will be pulling into Rome on May 27th, although planned engineering works loom in the shape of Messi, Henry and co in the semi final. Useless fact alert – Essien claims to sleep 15 hours a day – the perfect rejoinder for teenagers across the land still enjoying a lie-in.
Centre Midfield, Javier Mascherano, Liverpool
Its bizarre to think that Mascherano couldn’t replace Hayden Mullins in the West Ham first team just two short years ago. It equally too serves as an indictment on coach Alan Pardew, a man who had the initials AP sowed into the seating of his Ferrari, but couldn’t get this Rolls Royce of a footballer purring. In other Pardew/Liverpool midfielder-related news, the former Charlton gaffer had a falling out with Xabi Alonso, as they were both contemporaneously enjoying the pleasures of an exotic dancer on Merseyside. Allegedly.
ITH, Steven Gerrard, Liverpool
In The Hole of course, that imaginary piece of terrain usually host to a wily, albeit slightly chubby continental. Over the last eight months, Gerrard has shown the added bonus of having an athlete in that position, his link-up play with Torres the calling card of Liverpool’s victories this season. Such performances have even induced the reticent Rafa to reluctantly describe him through gritted teeth whilst frowning as the best player in the world. Just don’t play Phil Collins in his presence, whatever you do.
Striker, Robin van Persie, Arsenal
Included ahead of Anelka and Torres as otherwise this would be a Top 3 team only and Mr Interestment would duly sack me. Van Persie suffers more cuts than Bank of England interest rates yet keeps coming back from his injury breaks as good as ever, banging in both goals and assists in an otherwise impotent Arsenal attack. In the unlikely event Aston Villa pip Arsenal to 4th spot, take out RVP and slot in John Carew, the best target man in the country. I think that has covered all bases, pesky Everton aside.