If Each Major European Soccer League Had An All-Star Team, What Players Would You Choose?
As a follow up to my article about forming national teams from players in the Premier League, I then thought of the idea of forming teams based on the best players from each of the major leagues. Following this thought, the same exact subject was mentioned on The Guardian’s Football Weekly podcast this past Thursday.
Ultimately I decided it was really only worth covering five leagues — England, France, Spain, Italy and Germany. And even amongst those I lack some knowledge, so suggestions and comments are really appreciated. Some teams, such as Spain, really seem to assemble themselves, while England could probably present four or five different squads and whatever is chosen will lead to disagreement.
So with all that said here we go…
Premier League All-Stars
FWD: Van Persie
As mentioned this squad could go any number of ways. Some positions fill naturally with numerous players. Some are weaker but still have a lot of candidates.
To accommodate the players I wanted, I formed a very attacking 4-3-1-2 formation. Goalkeeper and defense positions present something of a challenge. It’s hard to identify truly world class defenders in the Premier League. Goalkeepers, though, is an area of strength with so many candidates such as De Gea, Begovic, Cech and Mignolet all strong, but in the end I went with Hugo Lloris.
Across the back is a tougher call. I slotted Ashley Cole in at left back. At right back, I used last year’s statistical leader, Pablo Zabaleta. I looked for solid center backs rather than ball players but skills in both area are a great benefit. so I went with Jan Vertonghen and an uninjured Vincent Kompany.
My rather attack-minded midfield three is centered by the incomparable Yaya Toure. n the right. I went with Mesut Özil. The left side of the pitch presented more of a challenge due to the many strong candidates who were available, but in the end I went with the creativity of Santi Cazorla.
My supporting forward is Wayne Rooney. His tireless effort helping out midfield and defense plus his creativity earns him this spot. Up front there were three major choices and it was hard to decide who to go with between Robin van Persie, Luis Suarez or Sergio Agüero. Ultimately, based on their differing playing styles, and some statistics, I went for Suarez and van Persie.
As I said, you could probably slot alternatives in at many positions but ultimately this looks like a strong team.
I cannot spend as much time on the details of the League 1 players but clearly the strength lies at PSG and Monaco. There are lots of attacking options but more unknowns in defense and midfield.
In goal, I selected Stephane Ruffier of Saint-Etienne. He’s a great keeper but this is partly due to trying to offer some variety in the clubs.
At left back, we’ll take 20 year old Lucas Digne from PSG, already established and yet so young. Right back is much harder to fill with no clear standout player at this position. Based on his selection in last year’s team of the season, the spot is filled by François Clerc of Saint-Etienne/France. Center backs are a simpler choice with Thiago Silva from PSG and Cameroon’s Nicolas Nkoulou from Marseille filling the slots.
Once again, playing a very attacking three in midfield (to compliment our three strong attackers), we start with Joao Moutinho from Monaco, assisted by the PSG pair of “The new Pirlo” Marco Veratti, and Thiago Motta. PSG and Monaco offer a plethora of options in midfield and Javier Pastore cannot get in the PSG team, never mind this one. The powerhouse forward line basically picks itself but can they play together? Ibrahimovic and Cavani from PSG and Falcao of Monaco
A surprisingly strong team with questions over their team ethic and defensive strength.
MF: De Rossi
Serie A is the league I know the least about and, it seems, a league that features relatively few non-Italian players.
In goal Buffon has now been surpassed by Federico Marchetti of Lazio. Giorgio Chiellini of Juventus is a must start in defense but beyond that we struggle a little. Club partner Leonardo Bonucci slots in alongside him. Milan’s Ignazio Abate covers the right back slot. Manuel Pasqual of Fiorentina adds some club variety in the left back position.
Midfield, as with forwards, presents challenges in both formations and youth vs age, specifically in the Pogba vs Pirlo argument. I decided to solve that conumdrum by playing them both. Daniele De Rossi of Roma adds some power and will wrap up our four man midfield with the creativity and energy of Lazio’s Hernanes.
Up front there are plenty of choices though, arguably Serie A offers no A+ players at this point. The difficult choice comes down to Balotelli, Gomez, Higuain, Tevez and Di Natale. But looking for some variety in my players, I opted for Gomez of Fiorentina and Higuain from Napoli.
Limited knowledge and excessive team strength makes it obvious to not look much further than Bayern Munich and Dortmund in Germany but I started this lineup with an open mind.
In goal we go with the obvious choice in Manuel Neuer from Bayern joined at right and left back by Philip Lahm and David Alaba. Mats Hummels breaks the Munich stronghold and Dante rounds things out.
With so many players to choose from, formation is the big problem for this team. Switching sequence, it’s easy to slot Robert Lewandowski up front leaving room for a five man midfield. Ilkay Gundogan and Javi Martinez provide a powerhouse defensive pairing. Juan Arango, Mario Gotze and Jakub Blaszczykowski provide the attacking options.
There are lots of reasons to include Toni Kroos or Bastien Schweinsteiger, but I feel this is still a pretty strong line up even without them.
In certain positions this team picks itself. In others, you are spoiled for options, but then there’s defense.
The goalkeeper position is always a coin toss but with Casillas injured, I selected Victor Valdez (who does so well behind such a leaky defense).
It’s difficult to come up with a strong La Liga defense so I came up with the choices made by Sid Lowe on The Guardian podcast. In truth, despite the jokes, this set is still pretty strong. Dani Alves, Frenchman Raphael Varane and Joao Miranda (of Atletico). Sid suggested Gareth Bale at left back but with plenty of choices, I went with Atletico’s Felipe Luis, mainly just to be different.
With only three midfield slots, there are choices to be made. Alonso, Xavi or Fabregas, Iniesta etc. etc. In the end I chose a Barcelona set but even that isn’t a clear choice with Fabregas currently looking fresher than Xavi, Iniesta a must start and Busquets for some strength and power.
Up front, what can you do? Neymar, Ronaldo, and Messi pick themselves. Can they all play together? Who knows, but wouldn’t we all like to see them try? When your team has no room for Diego Costa or Gareth Bale, you know you’re in trouble!
The above list of all-star teams are far more interesting than what the actual national teams make available. I’d love to see a serious tournament of league powers (though I can’t see it happening) and I honestly couldn’t predict who would win. Let me know your thoughts in the comments.