Goalkeeper ANDONI ZUBIZARRETA
A great team-mate at Barcelona and for Spain and a very safe pair of hands. He made difficult saves look easy and didn’t show off for the cameras. He just got the job done. A leader between the posts and in the dressing room.
A hard-running full-back with tremendous stamina and skilful with it. He was so strong going forward and always seemed to make the right decisions whenever he popped up in attack. He had a terrific shot as well.
Centre-back RAFAEL ALKORTA
The archetypal centre-half and the kind of player coaches love to have in their team. Aggressive, tough and fearless, he was terrific in the air, utterly dependable and a real driving presence. A pleasure to play for Spain with him. Top guy too.
Centre-back MARCEL DESAILLY
So powerful, like a rock. Marcel was one of the strongest players I have ever seen and the finished article as a defender. Had great positional awareness and you always felt secure with him next to you. Could also slot into midfield without any trouble.
Left-back PAOLO MALDINI
I came up against Paolo in the quarter-finals at the World Cup in the USA in 1994. A legend, and not many can say they’ve played for one of the world’s top teams for as long as he has. A great pro, a leader and a real all-rounder who is good in the air, quick to support attacks and a tight marker. One of the best defenders of all time.
Right midfield LUIS FIGO
We were team-mates at Barcelona for three years and opponents in a Champions League tie. He’s very hard to mark because you never know when he’s going to take you on. Quicker than he looks and has such powerful legs he can leave you for dead if you give him half a yard. Capable of playing down the right or left and not afraid of shouldering responsibility and carrying teams on his own.
Centre-midfield JOSEP GUARDIOLA
Pep and I played together for Barça and Spain and we won gold at the ’92 Olympics. A great team-mate and friend and a real football obsessive – in a healthy way, of course. I’ve never played with anyone who had his vision, speed of thought or appreciation of space. I’m pleased he’s doing well at Barça.
Centre-midfield MICHAEL LAUDRUP
Few people made me enjoy the game as much as Michael. Maybe he didn’t get the media recognition he deserved, but he was so classy and a real thinker. A master of the blind pass and impossible through-balls and I will never forget his ‘spoon’ pass in a game against Osasuna. He lifted the ball right over the defence and Romario touched it in first time.
Left midfield GIANFRANCO ZOLA
What a phenomenon. So much quality, an eye for goal and a great brain. One of the greatest deep-lying forwards of all time despite being even shorter than me, though that’s something he always argued about! I remember one goal he scored against Norwich, a back-heeled volley between his legs direct from a corner. Typical Gianfran.
A pleasure to play with, even if it was only for a short time. He was so strong and skilful and could do everything at pace and still be deadly. One of the best finishers in the business and a really nice, down-to-earth bloke.
Give him a yard and he’d drive defences crazy. Exceptional technique and explosively quick over the first 10 or 15 yards. He could take opponents on at speed, stay cool and just roll the ball into the back of the net – it was so easy for him. Live and let live, that was his philosophy. What a character.
Manager JOHAN CRUYFF
It was an honour to play for Cruyff and I learned so much with him. He taught us that if you want to win you need to keep the ball for as long as possible. His methods for getting it back were special too and so was his vision of the game. A revolutionary who could get the very best out of you.
Substitutes FERNANDO HIERRO A born leader, he could play in midfield and central defence. Not the quickest, but intelligent, skilful and a good passer.
FRANK LAMPARD We played together in his first year at Chelsea and though he didn’t have the happiest of seasons, his strength of character has helped him become one of the best midfielders in the game today.
RAUL I had to mark him a few times and he was a nightmare, always getting in behind you or beating you to the ball.
ROBERTO BAGGIO So gifted and a tremendous ability to get past people and penetrate defences. Tricky to mark because of his movement and skill. Always the team’s ‘go-to’ man.
From the July 2009 issue of FourFourTwo.