Barcelona and Spain forward David Villa gives FourFourTwo his Perfect XI of those he's played with or against, back in April 2010 – and picks himself...
There's no hesitation at all when it comes to the first name on my Perfect XI teamsheet. For me, Iker Casillas is the best goalkeeper in the world. My international team-mate is just so fast and agile – and, although I have scored against him, he is always extremely difficult to beat.
Alves is having an incredible time and I think he's the most important right-back in the Spanish league by a very long way. In fact, he's not just a right-back: he is all over the pitch. Some people are talking about him now at Barcelona and others seem to have been surprised by him. I don't know why. It's no surprise that he's playing so well – he was already brilliant at Sevilla.
Manchester [United] are the best team in Europe right now, alongside Barcelona of course, and Ferdinand is a great leader and a great defender – I like him a lot. I have played against him before and he's very quick and very strong – very strong indeed. I scored against England for the Spanish team in Seville but he didn't play. I really noticed the difference.
OK, now my other centre-back? [Thinks for a while] That's a harder one, but I'm going to go for Carles Puyol. He's a bit like Ferdinand: he defends well and he's the leader in a very good football team. He is quick, strong and has great personality on the pitch. [There's another pause as Villa runs through the rest of his team] Wait a minute, how many Barcelona players have I got there? Wow, that's too many – let's put Real Madrid's Pepe in there instead of Puyol. He's very complete and very difficult to play against. He's the centre-back I have most struggled against. He's fast and extremely strong.
Who can I go for at left-back? [Again, there's a long, long pause] People seem to always go for Maldini and I think I'm going to do the same – just because of everything he has done over the course of his career. He is one of the best players in the history of the game and he represents everything that's good in football. And above all, he's a winner.
It's a real joy to play with the little guys in the Spanish national team and no one represents their technical, passing game better than Xavi. He was the best player at the European Championships in 2008, when we won, and he's the man who makes the best Barcelona side for a long time tick. He never, ever loses the ball. A model for the rest of us to follow.
Alongside Xavi, I've got to go for his partner in crime: Andres Iniesta. They complement each other perfectly and in any team where you have those two together in the middle of the pitch they're going to run rings round the other side – it's just a shame that team has to be one of the other teams in the Spanish league! Besides, I have to choose both because they are always mentioned as a pair.
I really love this next player: Steven Gerrard. He is someone I have a real soft spot for. There's only one problem with him – I can never remember if it's one 'r' or two in his name! He has everything, though. I love the way he plays. He's an inspirational leader, he scores goals, he plays great passes, he runs powerfully, he tackles... everything. Stevie is just brilliant – the complete player.
Upfront it's easy! The attack picks itself: Leo Messi on one side and Cristiano Ronaldo on the other side. I'm going for an� attacking 4-3-3 formation and I just don't think anyone can argue with these two – the best players in the world right now. Cristiano is a spectacular player who has it all, but I would choose Messi ahead of him as the best player in the world right now. Just. You see Messi doing things that I have never seen anyone do. Awesome.
Together with Messi, Ronaldo would cause devastation to any defence in world football, probably ever! Cristiano has the physical aspect – he is really strong – combined with great skill and a special ability from free-kicks. What he did at Manchester United was spectacular, but he was always destined for Real Madrid, where he is starting to show the complete range of his ability. He is a phenomenon.
Now, centre-forward. Who shall I go for? [Another long pause. FFT: "You?"] Nah, I can't put myself in. Actually, yeah, sure I can: me. I was Bota de Oro [top scorer] at Euro 2008 – that's enough of an excuse, isn't it? Ha ha! Besides, I can't build a team like this and then miss out on playing in it. Imagine the chances I'd get playing in front of Gerrard, Messi Ronaldo, Xavi...
Interview: Simon Talbot. From the April 2010 issue of FourFourTwo. Subscribe!