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Jaap Stam's Perfect XI: Who's the only former Man United man to make the cut?

Jaap Stam, Manchester United

Goalkeeper: Gianluigi Buffon

A magnificent keeper with great presence, and the best in the world at the moment (This was 2009 remember, even if it doesn't sound far-fetched now – Ed). I played with two great keepers in Peter Schmeichel and Edwin van der Sar but Buffon is right up there. It's difficult to choose between them; they were all ‘complete’ goalkeepers. Pure class.

Right-back: Cafu

People tend to forget that defensively he was very strong, but he stands out because of his attacking impulses and energy. Cafu just kept going – up and down, up and down – and never gave up.

Centre-back: Alessandro Nesta

Nesta is a very powerful defender. The man has got it all: speed, anticipation, strength in the air, and he’s excellent in one-on-one situations. One of the best around, and would have achieved even more were it not for injuries.

Centre-back: Paolo Maldini

One of the most respected footballers of all time, both on and off the field. A strong defender, either on the left or at centre-back, but also excellent going forward – though less so these days. At his best, he had great speed, was an excellent passer and even weighed in with his share of goals. The man has played at the top level for Milan for 24 years – you’ve got to admire that! And he’s always solved problems on the field through his footballing skills, never by being dirty.

Left-back: Roberto Carlos

His left leg seems to be made of iron. He had a fantastic shot, but thankfully I have never stood in the wall when he took a free-kick as I was always covering another player. If one of Carlos’s shots hit you on the head it could quite easily cause physical damage. He makes it difficult for the right-winger to play; neutralising them very effectively by his constant raids forward.

Right-wing: Luis Figo

Figo was very difficult to stop in full flow, combining pace, trickery and magnificent crosses into the box. He occasionally fell short defensively, but was scintillating going forward.

Central midfield: Roy Keane

Every team needs a player like Keane, someone who can control the game and dominate the tempo. Tactically and positionally he always got it right and is very good in one-on-one duels.

Who'd partner Keano?

Central midfield: Zinedine Zidane

In my opinion, he is one of the best footballers ever. When he played, everything he did looked so simple, because technically he was a genius. The way he received the ball was fantastic and even though he wasn’t the quickest player, he could still beat his man most of the time. As a defender, you always had to focus 100% and not give him any space.

Left-wing: Alessandro Del Piero

Somebody who not only scores goals but makes them for others too, and still going strong at 34 for club and country. Technically, Del Piero is very gifted but he’s also very strong and always up for the battle.

Striker: Dennis Bergkamp      

One of the best players ever produced by the Netherlands. Had a marvellous technique and goalscoring ability, but above all great situational awareness; he always knew where his team-mates were and how to bring them into the game. Dennis wasn’t always a prolific goalscorer, but some of the goals he scored were incomparable. He was very clever at finding space and making himself available. He never stood still when he received the ball and that made it very difficult playing against him.

Striker: Romario

Unstoppable at his best; truly one of a kind. Even during the Club World Cup in 2000, when he was playing for Flamengo against Manchester United, you could still see what a marvellous technique and eye for goal he had, even though he was past his best.

Manager: Sir Alex Ferguson

Has a great feeling for situation on-field and is always capable of building yet another winning team.

And on the bench...


Edwin van der Sar

A great keeper and the first to be really great with both feet. Coming out of the box he is always very decisive.

Tony Adams

An organiser and a leader with great reading of the game. If you have that cleverness, you don’t have to be quick.


The Brazilian has got talent and intelligence in abundance. He is very strong in one-on-one situations and has proved himself at the highest level. Once he’s moving at speed, Kaka is very difficult to stop.


What goes for Romario goes for him also; one of a kind on his day. He was unstoppable, especially at Barcelona and during his early days at Inter.


Very dynamic with an incredible overview and superb passing. Brings great vision and continuity to the midfield.

From the May 2009 issue ofFourFourTwo. Subscribe (opens in new tab)

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