Gary Lineker's Perfect XI: 'Unplayable' Maradona and 'all-time great' Baresi

The Leicester legend, Tottenham titan and Match of the Day maesto selects the dream team of his era

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Goalkeeper: Peter Shilton

Shilton was one of my heroes as a kid. I watched him play in the FA Cup final when I was eight years old, then I ended up playing with him for England and rooming with him for years. Even after I'd retired, he was still playing, which is quite a story. And if I didn't pick him, he'd kill me.

Right-back: Cafu

He's been around long enough to have played in my era. Together with Roberto Carlos, you've got the best combination of full-backs you'll ever see because he and Cafu are so good at getting up and down. In the modern game your width comes from your full-backs, and although my team isn't modern, if we played a modern system it'd just be too much for anybody.


Cafu is the only players to have played in three World Cup finals

Centre-back: Franco Baresi

Baresi was one of the all-time great defenders: he read everything, made everything look so easy and at the same time he was brilliant going forward and would supply passes for the rest of that great Italian side.

Centre-back: Des Walker

At his prime, he was probably as good a man-to-man marker as there was – that's how I'd play him

At his prime, he was probably as good a man-to-man marker as there was – that's how I'd play him, with Baresi sweeping behind. Des wasn't the best 'footballer' in the world, but with his speed, he was always there. Whenever we played Forest, Cloughie always stuck him on me. He was so hard to shake off, so I used to try and Des out of the centre and give them problems. I used to take him out and stand next to Stuart Pearce. A bit stupid, really...

Des Walker

Walker denies Lineker in the 1991 FA Cup final

Left-back: Roberto Carlos

I played in a friendly in Japan against him when he was a young lad. I remember this kid running and down the left wing. It was unbelievable. Gordon Milne was coaching us and I said, "We've got to find out who that kid is – let's try and buy him." It turned out that his name was Roberto Carlos. They said, "He's not for sale."

Central midfield: Lothar Matthaus

Matthaus was a fantastic player - to have played in so many World Cups was outstanding

My team's a bit loaded in attack – what do you expect from a striker? But I've got to have a bit of balance. Choosing the midfield was hard because I want to play three there, with Maradona just in front of them. I've left out Zico; I've left out Glenn Hoddle, a particular favourite of mine; I've left out Chrissie Waddle, who you could've played if you were playing wide players; and I've left out John Barnes and Graeme Souness. It's tough, but Matthaus was a fantastic player. And to have played in so many World Cups was outstanding.

Lothar Matthaus

Matthaus and Diego Maradona battle for the ball at the 1990 World Cup

Central midfield: Bryan Robson

He was another hero of mine. I was in awe of Robson, even when I played alongside him! Without his injuries, he would've been in everybody's best XI ever, because he do everything: he could get up and down, he could defend, he could pass, he could score goals.

Central midfield: Michel Platini

You can't not have Platini in, can you?

Attacking midfield: Diego Maradona

He was head and shoulders above everyone else I've ever seen. I once played in a Rest of the World game, and Maradona was out on the pitch doing these tricks and all these great players – Zico, Platini, Elkjaer – were standing there with their mouths open. He was keeping it up by whacking the ball up 50 yards into the air and not moving. Which is impossible. And the goal he scored against us – not the punchy one but the second one – on a pitch that was unplayable, was incredible.

Striker: Marco van Basten

Out-and-out strikers? I've picked the best two of my generation without a doubt. It's such a shame Van Basten's career was curtailed by injury. What did he have that I didn't? Touch, skill – and he scored goals as well. He was just such a wonderful, gifted, well-balanced footballer.

Striker: Hugo Sanchez

His movement and agility was unbelievable – he was a gymnast

The best goalscorer I ever played with. His movement and agility was unbelievable – he was a gymnast. He used to get on the back post and deliberately take the defender in too far for them to head it, knowing that if it was a big high cross he could twizzle himself around and overhead kick it. The first time I saw it, I thought it was a fluke, but he scored half a dozen goals like that every season. I played in Spain for three years, and he was top scorer every season. I was second in my first two seasons – until they played me on the wing.

Hugo Sanchez

Looks like Lineker had a point...

Substitute: Zico

Who to have as substitute... Pearce? Brehme? I played against Michel in Spain, and he could play in my midfield three comfortably. But you can't pick everybody so I think I'd have Zico on the bench – because I know I can spell it!

Manager: Bobby Robson

I've got to go for Robson. He's done it all, and he's done it over such a long period of time. And he's a top bloke.

This interview originally appeared in the November 2003 issue of FourFourTwo. Subscribe!

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