My Perfect Player #21
Brain – Johann Cruyff
There are so many great candidates for this part of My Perfect Player. Names like Beckenbauer and Maldini spring to mind, but no one understood and influenced the game more as a player (and later as a manager) than Johann Cruyff. Cruyff always knew where the ball was and where he was supposed to be; but he also knew where every one of his teammates was supposed to be — and he would let them know if they were even three yards outside of that area. Without Cruyff, the Dutch philosophy of “Total Football” — the philosophy that eventually evolved into the current Barcelona football model — would never have become one of the most important football philosophies in history.
Head (and Heart) – Brian McBride
I just could not live with myself if I did not crowbar an American in this list. And what better American to pick than the toughest, hardest and best heading American striker ever? There are many things that Brian McBride did not excel at, but his aerial ability was always great. Whether he was playing against shorter players from CONCACAF nations, or leading the line for Fulham in the English Premier League, McBride was always a deadly target in the air. What made him so adept at headers was not just his natural height, strength and jumping ability, but his heart and determination. If there was a ball in the air McBride was willing to do whatever it took to get to that ball. If that meant taking an elbow to the face, than so be it.
Eyes – Zinedine Zidane
Zidane is the type of player that could fill up several of these My Perfect Player roles, but his vision was probably his best quality. He had other skills that were better than 90 percent of the players that ever played the game, but his vision was far better than 99.9 percent of the players throughout history.
Lungs – Michael Essien
Those people who follow me on twitter, listen to me on the Gib Football Show, or have ever met me will not be surprised that I chose Essien here. Everyone has that one player who occupies a special place in his or her heart. Well Michael Essien is my man crush. Yes, his form has dipped in recent years, but that is mainly due to injury. He still has the energy and lungs, but his injuries have kept him from reaching optimal performance in recent years. Any man that has been rumored to have so much energy that he has to run three to five miles AFTER playing a 90-minute match surely is acceptable for this spot.
Mouth – Antonio Cassano
After being left out of the Italy squad leading up to the 2010 World Cup, Antonio Cassano knew he probably would not be on Marcelo Lippi’s squad in the summer of 2010, so he scheduled his wedding during that time. When asked if he would consider playing for Italy if called up, he responded with this quote: “In football, only those who are puppets and say yes to everything move forward. I am a prima donna, and diplomacy has no place in my house.”
There are so many great quote machines in the world of football today, such as Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Mario Balotelli, but Cassano just has a special way of delivering his lines. Others often appear as if they are trying too hard. Cassano’s mouth comes naturally and just gets straight to the point.
Left Foot – Rivelino
Roberto Carlos is easily the default answer here. Everyone knows all about this left footed exploits over the past 15-20 years. While many people claim Roberto Carlos has the best left foot in the history of football, I think he might not have the best left foot in the history of Brazilian football. That title goes to Rivelino in my opinion. When he was placed on the left side of attack for Brazil’s 1970 World Cup campaign, his left foot became a vital tool for the squad to use to claim yet another World Cup title.
Right Foot – Juninho Pernambucano
There are several reasons why I chose Juninho for this spot. The most important reason is that he is NOT David Beckham. Sure Goldenballs has a great right foot — it is truly special. However, Juninho has an even better right foot and is not a soft, bitchy prima donna. Beckham and others such as Zico are some of the greatest free kick takers ever, but Juninho is THE greatest free kick specialist ever.
*** The most amazing this about this My Perfect Player list is that my favorite player ever, Marco van Basten, was unable to make it in. ***