With the soccer calendar on hold, ChampsArea’s editors took the opportunity to go back in history. Gordon Brunt, Michael Chandler, Anthony Lopopolo, Gianluca Nesci, and Daniel Rouse participated in a standard fantasy mock draft with just one stipulation: active players can’t be selected. The term “legend,” like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder.
Other mock drafts: Current players | Young stars (April 27)
Analysis: No surprises here. After Diego Maradona and Pele went first and second overall, respectively, there were myriad ways the rest of this could’ve unfolded, but it was virtually impossible to make a bad pick in the opening round with so many legendary players available.
|9||Alfredo Di Stefano||Lopopolo|
Analysis: The mind games began early. Brunt, knowing that Arsenal icon Thierry Henry was coveted by another participant, takes full advantage of the snake format and snaps him up. The Frenchman’s probably gone higher than he should have, but that’s the leap you have to make when dealing with back-to-back picks followed by lengthy waits.
Analysis: The differing strategies are coming to light. Lopopolo’s gone all-in on firepower through the opening three rounds – that attacking trio is spectacular – while everyone else has selected at least one defender. There are a million different ways you could go here.
Analysis: In one fell swoop, Brunt changes the dynamic of the draft and solidifies his full-back positions by taking Brazilian icons Roberto Carlos and Cafu with consecutive selections. In response, two more full-backs are taken in the round. Considering how thin, relatively speaking, the right- and left-back positions are compared to other areas on the field, it’s a solid approach.
Analysis: In scooping up prolific German striker Gerd Muller, Rouse continues with his balanced approach. “Der Bomber” getting on the end of service from the likes of Johan Cruyff and Xavi is a tantalizing prospect. Elsewhere, Rivaldo’s selection ensures that Brazil continues to be well-represented. There’s a reason the Selecao have won more World Cups than anybody else.
Analysis: Outside of Romario – another Brazilian, by the way – this round is all about the defenders. Ashley Cole may raise a few eyebrows at first glance, but for many years left-back was the position where clubs tried to hide their weakest link, which created a relative dearth of stars over time.
Analysis: We’re at the point where everyone is starting to fill very specific needs. There are undoubtedly more talented players still available, but in the hopes of creating a lineup that could, in theory, actually function, positions like full-back and defensive midfield are addressed here by multiple participants.
Analysis: Arjen Robben’s recent retirement puts him in contention, and this endeavor is better off because of it. Had the Dutch winger played in an era without Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, he’d be regarded as one of the greatest attackers ever. In Edgar Davids and Paul Scholes, meanwhile, we get a pair of combative legends who were feisty as they were talented.
Analysis: Goalkeeper alert! Nesci gets the ball rolling between the sticks by grabbing Lev Yashin, widely regarded as the greatest netminder in the history of the sport; the “Black Spider” remains the only shot-stopper to ever win the Ballon d’Or, taking home the honor in 1963. The Russian is sandwiched by a pair of silky Brazilian midfielders.
Analysis: Brunt grabbing Portuguese legend Eusebio in the 10th round represents the best value of the draft by some margin; the late Benfica star scored 473 goals in 440 competitive matches at the club. The prototypical modern striker, the Mozambique-born Eusebio won the Golden Boot in his only World Cup appearance in 1966. How was he still on the board?
|53||Alessandro Del Piero||Nesci|
Analysis: Who the heck is William “Fatty” Foulke? Many tall tales have been told about the portly goalkeeper, who, despite weighing nearly 300 pounds by the end of his career in 1907, was known for being nimble and aggressive. We warned you off the top that “legend” is a subjective term, and Rouse certainly proves that with one of the final picks of the draft.
Bonus Round: Coaches
Analysis: Quite the collection of tacticians. A pair of Scottish titans, the Dutch mastermind credited with the invention of “Total Football,” a decorated Italian icon, and the innovative Hungarian who, in addition to boasting a remarkable life story, is responsible for one of the sport’s most legendary curses. If you’re not familiar with Bela Guttmann, you’re missing out.
Naturally, some of the greatest-ever players were going to miss out here. If we were to repeat this exercise, it’s entirely possible that some of those not selected would go in the opening few rounds. The likes of Ferenc Puskas, Marco van Basten, Raymond Kopa, George Best, Johan Neeskens, Jairzinho, Rivellino, and many, many more deserve a shoutout despite missing the cut.
Who was the most egregious snub? Have your say in the comments.
Guided by the pioneering, aggressive philosophy of Bela Guttmann on the touchline, it’s no surprise that this side is easily the most attacking of the bunch. Maradona and Platini in tandem behind Dennis Bergkamp is so exciting it’s almost absurd, while the wingers and full-backs will offer even more impetus going forward. Patrick Vieira will have to do the job of three people in midfield if Team Chandler loses the ball, but it’ll be so fun to watch.
Pairing Pele with Alfredo Di Stefano up front should be illegal; we’re talking about two of the purest scoring threats the game has ever seen. And then you add the creativity of Roberto Baggio behind them. Spectacular stuff. There’s balance elsewhere in the squad, with a wonderful midfield blend of artful dribbling, drive, and suave playmaking ability. Great hair, too. Arrigo Sacchi dominated European football with his legendary AC Milan teams of the late 1980s. Imagine what he could accomplish with this XI.
Sir Alex wouldn’t have to break out his infamous hairdryer treatment with this team. The Brazilian trio of Ronaldo, Ronaldinho, and Garrincha makes you swoon. The latter pair would bamboozle defenders with their brilliant dribbling skills, teeing up “O Fenomeno,” who, at his peak, was literally unstoppable. Edgar Davids and Lothar Matthaus offer bite and balance in midfield, while the left-footed pair of Paolo Maldini and legendary Argentina captain Daniel Passarella form a classy, formidable duo at the heart of the backline.
It’s only right that the squad featuring Cruyff is overseen by Rinus Michels. The revolutionary Dutchmen are the perfect headliners for a fluid team that would move freely and swiftly across the pitch. There’s a wonderful Brazilian connection on the right side – Carlos Alberto would have plenty of chances to replicate his epic goal from the 1970 World Cup final – while Franz Beckenbauer would be encouraged to gallop confidently out of the back with the ball at his feet, doing stepovers all the while.
Jock Stein dominated Scottish football with Celtic, winning nine successive league titles from 1966-1974. He could dominate world football with this XI. Given the nature of this exercise, inevitably every team would be loaded up front. And yet, even in that context, there’s something particularly special about the five players lining up in attacking positions for Team Brunt. My word, what a quintet. And that’s to say nothing of the explosive Brazilian full-back duo on offer. Goals galore. You’d need a superhuman to cover for them defensively, which is exactly what Claude Makelele was in his prime.
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