By far the strangest team…

My Perfect XI, as seen on the back page of FourFourTwo (or online here), is the 21st century equivalent of the 1970s Shoot questionnaire (“Most dangerous opponent: The wife”).

Most of these XIs are compiled by old pros who namecheck old colleagues like Micky Droy alongside Pele and Maradona.

On the web, you can find debates over proper all-time XIs: is Raul better up-front than Di Stefano? Such questions promote furious, pseudo-academic debate.

"You're having a laugh ain't ya?" 

In an attempt to silence my inner anorak I have chosen an utterly random European Cup XI where players are selected on such spurious criteria as: have they been seduced by a ballet dancer, insulted Scottish football or had their haircut partially in honour of Barcelona?

Feel free to make your own nominations.

1 Eddy Treijtel, seagull killerTreijtel will never forget 1970: the Feyenoord reserve keeper shone in the European Cup semi-final, was benched by Ernst Happel for the final and killed a seagull by kicking a ball in the Rotterdam derby that November.

2 Cesare Maldini, overconfident dadEuropean Cup-winning defender with Milan in 1963, he was so technically accomplished that he became overconfident and made, John Foot notes in Calcio, so many hideous errors he launched a genre of blunders known as “Maldinate.”

3 Paul Breitner, Maoist millionaire maverickA multi-millionaire Bavarian Maoist European Cup-winning full-back/midfielder with an erratic Afro, Breitner defended Berti Vogts’ reign as Scotland manager by dismissing Scottish players of that generation as “footballing dwarves.”

4 Franz Beckenbauer, legend with a private dancerDer Kaiser was a fine skipper, imperious libero and the only skipper to lift the European Cup three times. He was also the object of an alleged seduction attempt by Rudolf Nureyev. The ballet star put his hand on Der Kaiser’s knee in a New York limo prompting the original Becks to talk about his wife and kids. Luckily, the German legend says, “Nureyev understood and we remained good friends.”

"Oi, I'm a happily married man, I'll have you know..."

5 Andreas MollerMoller is out of position in this all-time XI but the 1997 European Cup winner deserves inclusion as the first and – to date – only German footballer to be fined and suspended for diving. He was docked 10,000 marks and banned for two games after winning a penalty in 1997 against Karlsruhe even though the defender who ‘fouled’ him was a yard away when he started to fall.

6 Emlyn Hughes, V-neck jumper pioneerThe Kop used to sing “Come on without, come on within, you’ve not seen nothing like the mighty Emlyn” in this honour of this enthusiastic, princess-cuddling, Liverpool legend who did for V-neck jumpers what Mary Quant did for the mini-skirt. His crosses were more accurate than his guesses in the picture round of A Question Of Sport. He famously identified one photo as the jockey John Reid only to discover it was Princess Anne. Still, his place in history is secure: he was the first Liverpool captain to lift the European Cup.

7 Cristiano Ronaldo, living La Vida LocaA completist when it comes to Ricky Martin albums, United’s No.7 has a hairstyle which is partly inspired by Barcelona. As his stylist Pedro Remo told Champions: “His haircut has a British side like Coldplay but a side which is more like Barcelona, unfinished.” CR7 can play a bit too. Is liking Ricky Martin in worst taste than Basile Boli who motivated himself for European finals by listening to Bon Jovi? As Walter Cronkite used to say, “You are the jury.”

"Short back and sides with a few Catalan curls please..."

8 Alfred Pfaff, Di Stefano’s doppelgangerLegendary German playmaker, star of the Eintracht team that faced Real Madrid in 1960, Pfaff was such a leader on the pitch that he was nicknamed Don Alfredo. In his only European Cup final he came up against the original Don Alfredo, the great, grouchy Di Stefano. Sadly for Pfaff, Real’s No.9 won the battle of the Don Alfredos at Hampden. In his two most famous games, Pfaff lost 7-3 to Real in 1960 and 8-3 to Hungary in the 1954 World Cup.

9 Ferenc Puskas, international diplomatThe Galloping Major could juggle soap in the shower with his left foot. But as gifted as he was, he had to eat crow before the 1960 final. The German FA had banned clubs from playing against teams featuring Puskas because the Hungarian had claimed that West Germany only won the World Cup in 1954 because they were doped. Puskas had to send a formal letter of apology before the German FA would let Eintracht play.

10 Hristo Stoichkov, foot and mouth legendEl Pistolero, Cristo, The Dagger, Raging Bull, The Modern Left, they couldn’t coin enough nicknames to sum up the flamboyant, referee-stamping, European Golden Boot winner whose selfish genius completed Johan Cruyff’s Dream Team and prompted Maradona to salute him as a fellow “Crazy head.” Never joined the Premiership – for fear of being nicknamed Stoitchy – he is growing modest with age, telling FIFA recently: “No Bulgarian can ever match my achievements.”

11 Piet Keizer, the enigma’s enigmaAjax left-winger who made Cruyff look uncomplicated. Keizer danced on the tables when he heard Rinus Michels was taking over at Barcelona, was voted in by the squad to replace Cruyff as Ajax skipper (prompting the furious No.14 to join Michels in Catalonia) but walked out on football in 1974 after a row over tactics. A year later, watching his son’s youth game, he famously stepped away from the ball. David Winner reckons Keizer didn’t kick a ball at all for 30 years.


Sir Matt Busby, honours kissedBusby was the first manager to win the European Cup with an English club and the first – only? – recipient of football’s Sword Of Honour. This glittering weapon was given to him in 1964 for “distinguished service to British and international football.” The award was not named in honour of the eponymous trilogy of wartime novels by Evelyn Waugh and occupies roughly the same place in Busby’s trophy cabinet as the Greek of the Year award given to Otto Rehhagel in 2004.

"This will take pride of place in my... erm..." 

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