It is said that there are no harsher, more analytical critics of the
beautiful game than footballers themselves and, as such,
series of adidas +10 teams has offered a unique
insight into which players have most impressed their illustrious fellow
Over the course of the 2006 FIFA World Cup, we have canvassed the
likes of Juan Riquelme, Steven Gerrard, Zinedine Zidane and Lukas
Podolski, all of whom have spoken with enthusiasm and, in some cases,
reverence about the footballers alongside whom they would most like to
Look back at which goalkeepers and defenders proved most popular
Today, we focus on the midfield, and compare the +10 panel's views on,
arguably, the two greatest players of the past decade, Ronaldinho and
Zizou and Vieira more popular than Ronnie
Ronaldinho certainly has his admirers, among them his club colleague
Xavi, who lauded Barcelona's brilliant Brazilian as "right now, the
best footballer in the world".
Perhaps surprisingly, however, only two more players found space for
him in their line-ups, David Trezeguet and Michael Ballack. The Germany
captain remarked of the Seleção star: "He's got amazing technique,
is very dynamic and can do anything with the ball."
This would seem paltry when compared with the 12 who gladly accomodated
Cafu, and it also pales in comparison to the 11 who placed Zinedine
Zidane at the heart of their midfields. Even Kaka, an international
colleague of Ronaldinho's, admitted "it is impossible to leave
(Zidane) out", while Arjen Robben hailed the French maestro as "the
best footballer in the world without any doubt".
Trezeguet, meanwhile, described the France talisman as "the master of
football", David Beckham paid tribute to "the best player I've
played with", while Patrick Vieira suggested that his international
team-mate "is one of the few where you do not have to give any
explanation why you picked him and not somebody else".
Vieira himself can lay claim to a substantial fan club, with the
Juventus midfield colossus selected in midfield for no less than four
of our +10 teams. "He is so strong that having him in your team is
like having two players in one," enthused Podolski.
To put this impressive tally in context, it is one more than the great
Johan Cruyff received, although Vieira proved quick to join Arjen
Robben and Franz Beckenbauer in naming the Dutch legend in his perfect
line-up. "(Cruyff) was cool and elegant and knew how to make other
players shine," was the Frenchman's tribute.
'Figo was my idol since I was a child'
Another lavishly talented individual from the same era, George Best,
was one of several midfielders who found favour with two of our +10
selectors. One was Beckenbauer and the other Beckham, who inherited
Best's No. 7 shirt at Old Trafford and said of the sadly-departed
legend: "George was an incredible player, a great person, and his
talent was absolutely immense."
Beckham offer similarly high praise for Lothar Matthaus, another
midfielder picked in two separate +10 teams, with Germany's
inspirational skipper at Italia 90 lauded as "a player who was
excellent getting forward and scoring goals, but who was also brilliant
at defending and stopping the other team from attacking".
Another, very different all-rounder, Fernando Redondo, was favoured by
Riquelme and Raul, the latter of whom attributed to his former Real
Madrid team-mate "all the qualities, both human and professional,
needed to be in my team".
Some of the stars of Germany 2006 were also recognised, among them
adidas Golden Ball candidate Andrea Pirlo. "He has amazing technique
and is the perfect modern-type footballer," was the verdict of
Tranquillo Barnetta, who, like Alessandro Nesta, reserved a place for
the Italy playmaker in his perfect team.
There were also a couple of votes for Luis Figo, one of which came from
Vieira and the other from the veteran Portuguese winger's likely
successor. "For me, (Figo) is perhaps the best-ever Portuguese player
after Eusebio," said Simao. "He has also been my idol since I was a
He may not be as eye-catching as the likes of Figo and Pirlo, but
Emerson picked up an identical number of votes, with both Ballack and
Shunsuke Nakamura eager to sing the praises of Brazil's
"He's got it all," said Ballack, "power, dynamism, a goal threat,
composure and charisma." Nakamura, meanwhile, vividly recalled
encountering the then Roma midfielder during his own time in Seria A
with Reggina. "He was not a flash player, but he had vision," said
the Japanese midfielder. "I saw immediately that he played the game
at a very high level with a fantastic speed of thought. I felt it right
next to me."
The +10 panel might have declared Zidane their top midfielder in
overwhelming fashion, but tomorrow we turn our attention to a more
closely-run battle between the game's great strikers, plus we reveal
how the likes of Beckham and Ballack sit on perhaps the most
hotly-debated football topic of all: Maradona or Pele?