World Cup winner Laurent Blanc picks his Perfect XI of former team-mates and opponents, back in August 2006.
Firstly, I have to have him in my side because he is my very good friend. I trust him very much, and even now he is one of the best three or four goalkeepers in the world. If I am being honest, I really don’t understand why Manchester United let him leave a few years ago. It made no sense.
He is not only a defender, he is an all-round footballer, and he can do everything. I played against him in Italy when he was with Roma, and he never stopped running up and down the right side of the field. He has brilliant energy and stamina, and oh, what skill too. And, of course, he has leadership skills: don’t forget he captained Brazil to the World Cup in 2002.
In those great AC Milan sides of the late ’80s and early ’90s he was the boss. Every man who played with or against him knew he was the boss. Everybody respected him. He was a very intelligent player, and always calm. I loved that ability to look so relaxed. Nothing ever troubled Baresi; he would deal with problems with no fuss at all.
He is a monster! Let me tell you, he is an absolute monster! He can play in defence or midfield, but I think he is better as a centre-back. In fact, I’m sure of that. He has so much quality. Forwards simply couldn’t get past him because of his size, but he was smart and quick too.
Every time you see Maldini you know you are watching a master. When did you last hear someone say that Maldini didn’t play very well? Never! I tell you, it doesn’t happen. Every single game, he is immaculate. He is getting old now, but you simply wouldn’t know from his performances.
I would put him in my team for his crossing ability and the danger he poses from dead ball situations like free-kicks and corners. He delivers the ball just where you want it. He makes great contact and whips the ball in. I scored a few goals from his crosses while at Old Trafford.
Oh, I like this guy very much. I only played with him for two seasons at the end of my career, and he had some injuries, but I saw more than enough to appreciate his brilliance. He is one of the best players I have ever seen. Not only that, but he could motivate players too. He was the boss too. He is also a good man.
I don’t need to say anything about Zinedine Zidane. You have seen it all for yourself. The man is a simply brilliant player, who can do anything he wants on the pitch. He can score goals and make them. He is the one player who could play in any team and in any position. I feel lucky to have shared a pitch with him many times.
I love Giggsy. He is a top player. When he was about 26 or 27 years old nobody in European football could stop him because he went at you so fast and with so much control of the ball. When I trained with him at Manchester United he would beat me every time!
I played with him during his only season at Barcelona. It was in 1996-97, and for me that was the greatest year of his life. It was before the injury, and I really don’t think he has been the same player since. Back then he could beat a whole team on his own – he would go past players as if they weren’t there. I remember one goal when he took the ball from midfield and ran past eight players. It was crazy! I could not believe what I was seeing.
This is a difficult decision. Ruud van Nistelrooy and Thierry Henry run him close, but I have to go with Ronaldinho. I played against him when he first came to Europe to play for Paris Saint Germain in 2001 and even then you could tell he would one day become the best player in the world. He has unbelievable skill and so many tricks in his repertoire.
Sir Alex Ferguson & Marcello Lippi
For this team, you need two coaches – one is not enough when you have so many brilliant players to deal with! These men are two of the best coaches in the history of the game. I enjoyed my time under Sir Alex Ferguson in Manchester, and I played under Lippi at Inter Milan. You are always learning from these men, and together they could get the best out of this team.
Interview: Sam Pilger. From the August 2006 edition of FourFourTwo.