Ben Haines’ Draft XI: Build From the Back, Pace in Attack, We’ve Got Maldini, You’ll Never Sing That

This week you may have seen that we at 90min were so bored in isolation without any live football to watch, that we decided to do our very own greatest footballers of all time draft. 

And if you didn’t, check out how it went down ?here. 

So who won the draft? Who built the greatest GOAT team of all? Well, that’s what, over the next few days, we’re going to find out. On ?90min’s Twitter you – yes, you, lying in your bed with bread crumbs all over his pyjama bottoms – will get have the chance to make that decision for us over the course of the next few days. 

But before that, we all need to do some canvassing. 

We all need to make sure you all fully aware of the brilliance of each of our team’s (except for Jack’s, his team is sh*t). 

So here’s the first – and the pick – of the bunch. A team made by Ben Haines with one simple thing in mind: 

‘Is it possible to start a greatest ever XI draft defence first? Yes. And it means you get Paolo Maldini.’


Goalkeeper & Defenders

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Gordon Banks (GK): ‘PELE! What a save…Gordon Banks!!’

Isn’t it telling that you only have to see those six words written down for your mind to drift and then dig into your own mental iPlayer. 

The image is grainy, the colour is green and overly saturated, but there it is – projected into your mind, rolling like a hazy personal cinema. 

The ball has bobbled up a little in front of Jairzinho on the right as he lifts a cross toward the back post to Pele, who rises resplendently and thumps a header downward. The header flies behind Gordon Banks, but somehow, he rescues the ball from nestling in the corner of a very old school looking Mexican goal frame with a black net. 

‘What a save!!!!’ 

Yes, it was a different game, a different era, but Gordon Banks and that save are rightly considered by many the greatest of all time. 

Get that blue keeper top on, and get in the sticks.

Cafu (RB): There was a time before over-lapping centre backs and pacy attack-minded RBs, when the local lad from Sao Paulo reigned supreme. When people believed everything they saw on Football Italia. This was an age when only one man occupied the right back position in Brazil’s XI. 

His name was Cafu. 

He was like a god walking among mere mortals. He had a cross so beautiful it made Brazil’s attacker purr, and he occupied the Brazil right back slot so beautifully he made others look like hoboes. 

In other words, Cafu was the balls. And this team needs the balls. 

Barcelona's captain Carles Puyol gesture

Carles Puyol (CB): It’s quite hard to sum up a man that captained one of the greatest Barcelona sides of all time. 

Scrap that: one of the greatest sides the world has ever seen. 

Actually, scrap that too. 

He captained the best side bar none

And yes, there are many reasons why that team were, well, that team. But perhaps the main one was Carles Puyol – the Copa del Rey semi final meeting with Real Madrid in 2013 is a pretty decent exemplification of why. 

67 minutes on the clock Pique is hit by a lighter, thrown from the stands and begins to pull the sort face that suggests a pained agony as if he’d been struck by an asteroid. Pique struggling to even stand, such was the pain, using every last morsel of energy he can muster to raise the lighter toward the referee. Puyol strides in, grabs the lighter, slings it off the pitch, bollocks Pique and fronts up ready to defend a Real Madrid corner. 

Concentration, aggression, no nonsense, elite leadership and one of best to ever do it. In you go at centre back buddy.

Fernando Hierro (CB): 90s football was brilliant, mainly because it seemed to have this strange Sunday League quality about it. Players still looked a bit rough around the edges, kits were a glorious mess and the transition from cult hero professionals to the elite athlete era was in full swing. 

But Fernando Hierro was slightly different – there was nothing Sunday League about him. It seems as though he was brought back in time from the future to dominate the Real Madrid defence as if it were a postmodern art form. 

The image of him pinging a beautiful rangy pass in that silky crisp white kit is one that is synonymous with the great Madrid team of the time. Despite that fabulous range of passing, statuesque build, wonderful positioning and timing he’s somehow almost criminally underrated. 

And God only knows why. 

How many centre backs do you know that have finished their career with 134 goals? 134?! That’s right: none! 

Paolo Maldini of AC Milan

Paolo Maldini (LB): Usually if you wanted to watch a compilation of a world class player, you’d cue up some pounding euro techno and watch nine minutes of a mixture of grainy 4:3, 16:9, HD, 480p, 4k footage, some that’s been slowed down, some that’s been sped up, and you’d then try and work out what was what. 

This would usually be titled ‘Insert name* crazy goals, skills, assists *insert year*’. 

Paolo Maldini is one of the only defenders I’d stomach the techno and horrendous video quality for. 

Any year of his career, any team, international or domestic. 

Unerringly consistent, beautiful to watch, beautiful to look at, part two of three Maldini generations to play for Milan. Rarely went to ground, but when he did, perfection. Rolls Royce. Sod the nine minutes, I’ll sit and watch all day.


Midfielders

FOOT-FRA-MAKELELE

Claude Makélélé (The Claude Makélélé Role): Most positions coined over the last 30 years have some sort of fancy bollocks name. 

Regista, Trequartista, Libero, False 9, Raumdeuter. 

But when you have one player who is so phenomenally gifted in their particular position, there’s no time for the fancy bollocks names. Instead, you have to use their name to describe the role. 

Meet Claude Makélélé: the founding father of the Makelele role, and the greatest Makélélé role player there’s ever been.

Paul Gascoigne (CM): Think of a graph where you measure the perfect impact of a creative genius.

On the graph the X axis occupies sheer unfiltered, unorganised, chaotic creative energy.

On the Y axis, a balanced potion of industry, hunger, positional awareness and stamina.

1990 World Cup Paul Gascoigne sits proudly at the apex of the bell curve.

Paul Gascoigne

The tragic beauty of Paul Gascoigne as a player is two fold. 

Firstly that both his time at the top of the curve was neither long enough nor rewarded with a World Cup. 

Secondly, that managing life after the high of being on top of the world is hard to manage. Probably another conversation and countless other article’s for other days there. Best not to tug at that thread, for now, let’s stay stuck in time in Italy, in the summer of 1990. Nessun Dorma, Nessun Dorma.

Clarence Seedorf (CM): Have you seen Clarence Seedorf recently? He looks wonderful. Seriously. He looks like he’s never stopped playing football. In fact if you watch him in any legends, charity game he’s the best all round player on the pitch. 

That was pretty much always the case whenever you watched him play during his actual career. All things, everywhere, to everyone. The only man with three Champions League medals for three different teams. 


Forwards

Luis Figo

Luis Figo (RW): Ingredients for a world class galactico winger/inside forward.

– One Ballon d’Or

– One move from Barcelona to Real Madrid

– 62m transfer fee

– 106 La Liga assists

– A domestic ton of Shockwaves wet look gel.

– 1 shark tooth necklace

Serve with 1 Pigs head and a side of some serious sauce.

Jimmy Greaves (ST): Glenn Hoddle probably will say it better than anyone else will:

“He was electrifying. When Jimmy was on the ball the whole crowd came alive, they knew something was going to happen. And 9 times out of 10 if the ball was in the penalty area he’d score.

“You can never dismiss what he did. He played in an era when defenders were allowed to defend with a little more physicality than they do today, in an era when they were allowed to give their opponent a kick and referees would give them one or two warnings before anything happened. 

“That was even worse for Jimmy because he was the number one professional goal scorer in England and when he came into town, the opposition wanted to take him out by any means necessary. People wanted to make their name by stopping Jimmy Greaves.”

Thierry Henry of Arsenal

Thierry Henry (ST): 10 things Spurs fans hate about you:

They hate just how ludicrously good you were in your prime.

They hate your ability to ghost past defenders as if they didn’t exist.

They hate the way you opened your body out to feed the ball effortlessly into the far corner. 

They hate that you’ll be remembered as one of the greatest Premier League strikers ever.

They hate his Va Va Voom, they hate his unparalleled level of 2003 cool.

They hate ?this.

They hate that you made them absolutely brick it every time you played against them.

They hate that you were invincible, that your played for their arch rival, was their greatest ever player and was undeniably better than anything Spurs had at the time,

But most of all they hate that they don’t hate him, not even close, note even a little bit, not even at all.

Thankfully Spurs fans you can take comfort in the fact that he usurped all of that by playing for a better Barcelona side that won the treble alongside Lionel Messi and Sammy Eto’o.?


The Team


Let’

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