SAMRIDH SINHA | 18th October 2021

The general theme that I chose while picking my favorite XI was to have players who aren’t just top tier footballers, but even better leaders.

From leaders that scream, waive their arms and give team talks that would make you run into a brick wall for them to the quiet, understated ones that lead by example.

And since I am the manager- of course, this team works!

Goalkeeper: David De Gea

“David De Gea can save the Titanic!”

This was one of the standout quotables from the Spanish shotstopper’s record 14 saves at the Emirates. And to say that this was one of the most memorable performances I have ever seen is underplaying a display that seems beyond belief to this day.

The 3-time Manchester United Player’s Player of the Year has found his way into a soft corner of every Red Devils supporter by single handedly winning games for fun, season after season.

What must’ve been fun for De Gea was torturous for those with an affinity to Manchester United, considering danger would never pass, but the ball wouldn’t either with the former Atleti No.1 either between the sticks.

While a dip in form in the last two seasons had even me convinced that De Gea is done for at Old Trafford, this season is a call back to my favorite ‘keeper being well on his way back to greatness.

It’s 2021 but I have to say it again- Thank God for that fax machine!

Right-back: Trent Alexander-Arnold

Of all the football I have seen over the last 12 years, Trent Alexander-Arnold is the right-back I’ve fallen most in love with. Just a reminder, he’s this good at only 23 years of age.

A marksman first and then, a footballer, the free-kick specialist has every single pass in his book.

From his first Liverpool goal through a belting free-kick against Hoffenheim to the cheekiest corner to complete a historic comeback against Barcelona, the Scouser has already stamped his authority in the Champions League and there’s a question I have.

Isn’t it scary how much better he is going to get?

Centre-back: Virgil van Dijk

His nonchalant, ice-cold persona is why van Dijk wins even before stepping onto the field. In my humble opinion, the Dutchman is the best central defender in the Premier League at the moment and has been for a while.

Big Virg is blessed with the ability of scanning a defensive situation to such aplomb that the threat is averted even before it begins, considering the Champions League winner’s sublime positioning.

Add to that his impeccable diagonals and a frame that towers over any “tough guy” No.9 and you have a perfect centre-half.

Even after a torn ACL, that is the best £75 million Liverpool could have ever spent.

Centre-back: Sergio Ramos

The Ramos I fell in love with was the general of Los Blancos

One of PSG’s many incredible acquisitions, the enigmatic defender is the human embodiment of the word “clutch”.  While monstrously covering the left-hand side when Marcelo made his signature forward runs to scoring goals that history will never forget, Sergio Ramos did it all.

92:48 is one of the most iconic moments for an entire generation of football fans. I’m certain that even at 36, the Spanish international is going to be a bargain for Paris Saint-Germain.

The word “legend” doesn’t even cut it when we’re talking about Spain’s 8th highest ever goalscorer. Yes, that’s a real stat.

Left-back: Patrice Evra

“I Love This Game!”

And oh, we love you, Patrice. Tactically versatile, supremely athletic and someone who outworks anyone and everyone on the pitch, the Frenchman is my favorite ever left-back for reasons beyond football. Long before players in the Premier League took the knee, Patrice took a stand.

A stand against tolerating racial discrimination. Friendly or not, some words are unacceptable due to the circumstances in which these slurs were used historically.

By taking a stand and sticking by it, Evra only inspired a new generation of football fans to do their research about black athletes and their struggles and has always articulated on racial injustice with such class and eloquence.

More than being a special footballer, the man is a gem of a human being.

Defensive-midfielder: Sergio Busquets

“You watch the game, you don’t see Busquets. You watch Busquets, you see the whole game.”

If the legendary Vicente del Bosque has this to say about a footballer, he must be an undisputed great. And Sergio Busquets truly is.

If there was a standardized objective examination to measure footballing IQ, ‘Busi’ would top it year in, year out.

Jamming passing lanes with his inch-perfect interceptive abilities, complemented by impeccable technique and always finding the right pass forward, Sergio is a cheat guide to all young defensive midfielders.

Mr. Right Place Right Time, always and forever.

Central midfielder: Luka Modric

Luka Modric’s outside the boot, defense-splitting pass is undoubtedly my favorite skill maneuver of all time.

A connoisseur of the trivela like none other, Modric’s manipulation of the ball in the most obscure positions and then subsequently finding teammates is ridiculous.

The soul of the greatest modern-day team in Champions League history as well as leading the Croatian team to an unexpected World Cup Final, there is no chance I could leave out the former Ballon D’or winner from my list of favorites.

No.10: Bruno Fernandes

“He goes left, he goes right he makes defences look sh**e, he is our Portuguese magnifico!”

While the inclusion of 3 (Spoiler alert) Liverpool players in my list may suggest otherwise, I am a Manchester United fan. And considering I support the Red Devils, I had to give a special mention to the magisterial Bruno Fernandes.

With 50 goal involvements in 58 league games, Bruno is the best midfielder in the Premier League at the minute for me.

With Ronaldo’s arrival, a drop in goal involvements is foreseeable but what will never drop is his individual brilliance in making something out of nothing even when Manchester United look bang average.

If anyone gives this team direction, it’s the unreal No. 18.

Right-winger: Mohamed Salah

101 goals in 152 Premier League games whilst being the fastest to 100 goals in Liverpool history is remarkable considering the long list of legends who have adorned the same shirt.

Fortunately, and at times unfortunately, I have been able to witness the brilliance of the Egyptian King.

A perfect blend of a center forward’s predatory instincts and a winger’s fleet-footedness, Mo Salah is box office. The Egyptian captain’s 32-goal season may well be the best individual campaign I have ever witnessed in Premier League history.

But beyond the bag of goals, assists and accolades, his failure at Chelsea and subsequent legendary status at Liverpool gives his English top-flight career a movie-esque feeling.

Not to forget his iconic Afro that has inspired me to grow one out!

Striker: Robert Lewandowski

5 goals in 9 minutes?! LewanGOALski knows a thing or two about scoring goals. Just as much as Thomas Müller does about horrific puns.

With over 500 goals for club and country, the Polish skipper’s positioning, technique, built and proficiency with both feet make him the perfect traditional No. 9.

A fan favourite (and certainly my favourite), Lewa’s philanthropic work, especially over the COVID-19 pandemic is an inspiration to people across the globe.

There is hope that a previous Ballon d’Or snub is replaced by an actual Ballon d’Or to add to his already boastful resume.

One of the greatest to ever play up front.

Left-winger: Cristiano Ronaldo

For me, the greatest of all time is one man and one man only

Cristiano Ronaldo has been one of, if not the best player in the world since I began watching football. My Manchester United allegiance will not allow my heart to pick Lionel Messi on this one.

Since ‘06/07, CR7 has been the main man for every team he has played in. Individual and team accolades galore, Cristiano has racked them up to the ceiling.

And the incredible reinventions from being a tricky dribbler to a goalscoring behemoth and eventually becoming a target man has left me running out of expletives at this point.

Even at 36 years of age, the highest goalscorer in Champions League history has so much left in his tank.

4 Ballon d’Or’s, 5 Champions League winners medals and 1 European Championship medal stacked alongside innumerable domestic trophies, Ronaldo is arguably the greatest to ever grace the game.

The Best of The Rest

Goalkeeper: Jan Oblak

The Player of the Season in La Liga last year, leading Atletico Madrid to a league winners medal with an 80% save rate for the season, Jan has been one of my favorite footballers for a number of years.

Defender: Diego Godin

The no-nonsense defender was the core part of one of the most resolute defences football has seen in the modern era. Diego Godin scored the iconic goal in the 2013/14 campaign to clinch Atletico Madrid’s first title in 18 years. A legend of the game.

No.10: Kevin De Bruyne

KDB is a complete footballer. Chef KDB feeds players like no one else and has been central to Manchester City’s unprecedented domestic domination under Pep Guardiola. How can you not love him?

Striker: Zlatan Ibrahimovic

A header? A long-range strike? A 360-degree Karate kick in the air to score a goal that would even seem unrealistic in a movie? Zlatan is your man, scoring screamers at will.

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