Craig Brown: Perfect XI
Rightly regarded as the best in the world for some time now. Yes, £22 million is a lot of money for a goalkeeper, but I’ve commentated on a lot of his matches, and I’ve never seen him make a mistake.
Probably the best right-back I’ve seen. Certainly, nobody could dispute his brilliance going forward, and his fitness and longevity are remarkable. As you will see, I’m going for quite an attacking defence.
The first of two ball-playing centre halves that I’m going to include. If you have defenders who can read the game as well as he could, you don’t need to be the archetypal aggressive centre-back.
The Kaiser was the best of many great German defenders over the years. Another great reader of the game, who could bring the ball out of defence to link up play. What a pair he and Moore would have made.
No contest for the left back slot – first of all for his striking of the ball from free-kicks, but also for his longevity in the game at the top level and his defensive nous. Before we played Brazil in the opening game of the 1998 World Cup, I watched him nine times and he never did a thing wrong.
I’ve got to have at least one Scotsman in my team, and that means there has to be a place for ‘Jinky’, who I had the dubious privilege of playing against. Wonderful dribbling skills. Whenever you needed to get from defence to attack you gave it to Jinky, on the left or right, and he took it 60 yards; nobody could get it from him. He had dancing feet.
A terrifically strong midfield anchor, inheriting the role in the Brazil side that Maura Silva used to play. As Carlos Alberto Parreira will tell you, the number five was, and is, a key role in the structure of Brazilian teams. They don’t really play a back four, they play a back two, and so the man in front of them is vital – the one who allows the flash players to do their thing.
With a bit of reluctance, given what happened last summer, I’m going to have to put Zinedine Zidane in my team. Apart from that indiscretion, he was peerless. I came up against him a couple of times while in charge of Scotland. Everything he did made you realise he was ‘the man’. Gifts like his are in-born.
Not a winger as such, but I’d have him wide left. His versatility and talent would have shone through anywhere. He gave us terrible problems when Scotland faced Romania. At his hypnotic best he was unstoppable.
He could have played up front for any team in the world, at any time. He was my assistant with Scotland for a few games so I know him well. Had he gone to the 1986 Mexico World Cup when Alex Ferguson was in charge of Scotland, we would have gone much further. Magnificent ability and technique.
He’s a good friend, so maybe I’m biased, but he was, after all, twice European Footballer of the Year. I just loved his style. Everyone loves a striker who is flamboyant and quick. And he gave total enthusiasm in every game. He’d do well along side Dalglish too.
Carlos Alberto Parreira
I like his philosophy, his discipline, his man-management style. He transformed Brazil. They had the best players in the world, but hadn’t won the World Cup for 20 years since 1974. Why? Because of poor organisation and management. The set-up before Parreira was an absolute shambles. Everyone knows Brazilians are brilliant in possession. He taught the Brazilians to play when they didn’t h�ave the ball. I’d have loved to have worked as his assistant.
Scottish keepers rarely get praised. Leighton played 91 times for Scotland and had 45 shutouts. Some record.
He was my idol as a teenager, so perhaps I’m being sentimental, but he was everything a midfield player should be.
The BBC’s Alan Green went mad at me once when I described Michael Owen as a poor man’s Larsson. And I rate Owen very highly. Larsson’s done it at every level, even playing alongside that lazy so-and-so, Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
That wonderful prancing style and mesmerising technique – he could shoot from any distance. We once invited him to a coaching course at Largs. He’d been retired for 15 years but he demonstrated free-kicks from outside the box and even then his power and accuracy was phenomenal.
From the May 2007 issue of FourFourTwo.