Ruud Gullit: Perfect XI

 AC Milan and Netherlands legend Ruud Gullit picks the cream of the players he's played with or against. Prepare for a few shocks...

Goalkeeper
Peter Schmeichel
He had a great presence in goal, which was his advantage. He was a very difficult keeper to beat whenever I played against him. Not only was he good for Manchester United, but he showed in 1992, when Denmark won the European Championships, that he was the best at international level too.

Right-back
Manfred Kaltz
He played for Hamburg in the ’80s and was famous for his Bananenflanken [banana crosses]. His crosses had so much spin on them, they were so difficult to defend, the strikers were scoring for fun. He was also one of the first attacking right-backs. He almost invented the idea of the wing-back, long before Cafu and Roberto Carlos came on the scene. He was very good at set-pieces too.  

Centre-back
Franco Baresi

A leader at the back, very strong and quick, with an excellent understanding of the game. As a defender, he could do everything. A lot of the time, he would know what the attacker was going to do before they knew themselves! How do you get past someone like that?

Centre-back
Marcel Desailly

A very strong defender and excellent in the air, which is something you need. He also had the kind of pace and power that would frighten attackers into making a mistake. Not necessarily a leader, but a very experienced defender. He would complement Baresi well.

Left-back
Paolo Maldini

Position for position one of the greatest players ever, and he’s still playing which shows what a great athlete he is. But unlike certain other great full-backs, he wasn’t world class when just defending or just attacking – he could do both better than most and is an excellent centre-back too.

Right-midfield  
Kaka

Has excellent pace and talent, and is one of the few players I’ve seen who is quicker with the ball than without it. He also has vision, which can make the players he plays with look good, and his opponents look bad. He’s definitely one of the best in the world at the moment.

Centre-midfield
Frank Rijkaard

A good defensive midfield player with vision and strength. I played with him at club and international level for many years and he was one of the best. He controlled the midfield with his presence, strength and technique.  He would help start attacks, but make sure the other team couldn’t get at the defence. Provided a great balance to any team he played in.

Centre-midfield
Diego Maradona

Do I really need to give reasons? The best player there has ever been, better than Pele. I watched him closely in Italy every week and he was at a different level to everyone else. Some of the things he did were unbelievable. He could control the ball without looking, which meant if the pass was on, he would take it.

Left-midfield
Davie Cooper

I played against him in the European Cup when he was with Glasgow Rangers and he was a really skilful player. Unbelievably skilful. He didn’t have much pace but he was a good dribbler who set up plenty of chances for team-mates as well as scoring some great goals himself.

Forward
Johan Cruyff

He had it all – vision, attitude, presence. He was also very flexible, so when opponents tried to kick him he would always anticipate what was about to happen and move just in time. Defenders couldn’t touch him. He would be the provider for the main striker but was a prolific goalscorer himself too.

Forward
Marco van Basten

Strong in the air and could create goals for himself. Even though he was tall, he was flexible and could turn and do pretty much everything. Headers, bicycle kicks, volleys, everything. He was also a vicious player. If defenders tried to kick him, he would kick them back. He knew how to look after himself on the pitch.

Manager
Sir Alex Ferguson

It’s got to be Ferguson for his experience and also his achievements, in life and as a coach.

Substitutes

Zinedine Zidane
The best player of the last generation. He would control games, but most importantly, he always performed on the big occasions.

Ronaldinho
Again, another flexible player who does things that are just unbelievable. I don’t know if he’d be happy to sit on the bench with Zidane though!  

Roy Keane
Good defensive midfielder, and a leader on the pitch. Another player I like a lot.

Ronald Koeman
A good defender and again, like so many of these great players, a natural leader. With his free-kicks he would score at vital times, which makes a big difference to a team.

Edwin van der Sar
Maybe a surprise choice for some, but  I like him a lot as a player. A good keeper.

Interview: Hitesh Ratna. From the December 2007 issue of FFT


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