Shay Given: Perfect XI
One of the best goalkeepers of all time and a keeper I really looked up to when I was coming through. Did everything brilliantly, but above all had great presence.
His energy was unbelievable, the way he would just run up and down the flank all match – and great credit to him for doing it for so long, winning everything in the game. What an athlete.
An idol for a lot of Irish people of my generation. Read the game so well and was so quick that he hardly ever needed to go to ground. Didn’t train much towards the end because of his knees, but when you were as good as he was, you didn’t need to.
I played against him a lot for Newcastle and even though he wasn’t the quickest, he was very difficult for a striker to get past. Not just a great defender, but a great organiser. As a keeper, it gives you confidence to have somebody pointing and organising.
I’ve got two attacking full-backs so it’s an attack-minded team. Great going forward and he lined up those banana free-kicks. He lined up a few against me, but I don’t think he scored many after that one against France.
His goal record is phenomenal for somebody who doesn’t always play right up the field and he won a lot of tight games single-handedly for Man United with a free-kick or a solo goal. I’ve picked a few of his free-kicks out of the net, but there’s not much you can do once he’s hit it, as the ball moves in several different directions!
He’d break up play and keep things ticking over. Great energy, and another great leader, always commanding. People respected him, and he’d give you a rollocking if you weren’t doing your job properly, but it was always to help the team. He could play a bit, too.
A special player. When we look back, he’ll be up there with Maradona and Pele as one of the world’s greats. He’s in that bracket. When you play against a player like that, you have to concentrate all the time because he’s got such great feet around the box, but after the game, you just think, “Wow, what a great player." It was a privilege to play against him.
What else is there to say about him? Burst onto the scene when he was 17 but he’s still right on top of his game. He’s been written off a few times but the cream always rises to the top, and he’s a true great.
His touch, his skill and his awareness were a level above other players, something you can’t teach. I was in goal when he scored an incredible goal against Newcastle, by knocking it round Nikos Dabizas. We just stood there looking at each other, amazed. He’s probably the only player who could have pulled it off.
He was just a goal machine. If you look at his stats, they’re just phenomenal. He stung my fingers a couple of times in training, though not too many, I might add.
He brought me to Blackburn from Celtic, and to Newcastle from Blackburn. An all-round top manager, a players’ manager. I’m amazed he’s not still a manager but I think he enjoys his golf too much.
A top, top keeper. Very commanding, very agile, has done it at the top level, year in, year out.
Great right foot, great dribbling, great goals, great player.
Fat Ronaldo, you might call him now, but at his best he was almost unplayable. Could score a goal from nothing, and any type of goal.
He could cover any of the back four. Sensational player, elegant on the ball, would get stuck in as well.
Nice player to come off the bench for the last 20 when the defenders are starting to tire. If he can stay fit, he could become one of the best players of all time.
Interview: Louis Massarella. From the May 2010 issue of FourFourTwo. Subscribe!