Ray Wilkins: Perfect XI

 England's 84-cap Europe-trotting midfield metronome picks a Perfect XI of team-mates and opponents

Goalkeeper
Peter Shilton
The goalkeeper's position was a close run thing between Peter Shilton, Ray Clemence and Peter Bonetti. Shilts just edges it. He was a superb shot-stopper. You tend to fancy a striker to score if he goes one-on-one with a keeper, but not against Peter because he was so good. The best keeper I ever played with, he deserved all those England caps.

Right-back
Paolo Maldini

I played with him for a season at Milan when he was just 17 years old, and even then you could tell that he was something special. He was just so mature and composed on the ball. He was so quick, and he could play anywhere, on the flanks and in the centre. I still love watching him play for Milan.

Centre-back
Dave Watson

Don't get confused – this is the older version! I loved big Dave as he was an out-and-out defender, he never tried anything fancy, he knew his job was just to stop strikers. He was a tough player, but always fair. His great quality was heading the ball – he used to leap so well, make good contact and send it back miles the other way.

Centre-back
Franco Baresi

Franco was the best player I have ever played with. The guy was world class to his core. He had everything – pace, two feet, and he was a leader of men. I remember the first time I trained with him at Milan, I couldn't believe my eyes; I thought, "Christ, he is unbelievable." He was a joy to play with, and what's more, Franco is a lovely bloke too.

Left-back
Kenny Sansom

Only five players have won more England caps so that tells you how good Kenny was. First and foremost, he was a defender – like Dave Watson, he knew exactly how to stop players. He was strong as an ox, few players got past him on his side of the defence and Kenny was also a great character to have in the dressing room.

Right-midfield
Steve Coppell

I played with Steve for both Manchester United and England and he was unbelievably consistent. Between 1978 and 1983, there was no one better than him on the right wing. Whenever I looked up for a pass from the centre of midfield, he was always available out there on the flank. And when he got it, he caused defenders so many problems, running straight at them and whipping in his crosses.

Centre-midfield
Graeme Souness

He was as hard as nails. I played with him at Rangers, and I would often see players pull out of challenges with him. Oh, you could see the fear on their faces, but he loved a battle, and could take it as well. He was in his pomp at Liverpool when there wasn't a better holding midfielder in Europe.

Centre-midfield
Bryan Robson

The greatest compliment I can pay Paul Scholes is that he reminds me of Bryan Robson, the way he bombs into the box. But there was no one better at it than Robbo. He was the original action man, he used to throw himself into challenges, cover every inch of the pitch and then pop up in the box to score a goal. A truly wonderful player.

Left-midfield
Glenn Hoddle

I know he didn't play on the left, but I had to find a spot for Glenn. He was such a gifted player. He could manipulate the ball like no one else and pass the ball with pinpoint accuracy. Maybe he wasn't respected enough in this country. I tend to think if he had been French, Spanish or Italian he would have been held in even higher regard.

Centre-forward
Frank Stapleton

Frank was a fantastic centre-forward. You could hit the ball up to him and it always stuck. That's a great outlet to have when you're under the cosh in midfield. He would hold on to it so we could join him up front and let us get at teams. I don't think I've seen a better header of the ball either. The ultimate target man.

Centre-forward
Gary Lineker

A born predator. You could not see him in a game for 85 minutes and then he would just appear to score the winner. He was always in the right place at the right time, a skill you simply can't teach. Many players are prolific in England, but Links took his goalscoring to another level and was sensational at the 1986 and 1990 World Cups.

SUBSTITUTES
Roberto Donadoni 
A wonderful winger, a legend for both Milan and Italy.
Ray Clemence
Only Peter Shilton stopped him getting 100 caps for England.
Mario Tassotti 
No striker liked coming up against Mario. He had pace and flair going forward too.
Frank Rijkaard
Such grace and strength, he could play in defence or midfield.
Kevin Keegan
A good player, but I can only find a place for him on the bench.

Interview: Sam Pilger. From the August 2003 issue of FourFourTwo.


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