For most players, creating an XI of former teammates is an incredibly difficult task.
How do you compare teammates from different clubs at different stages of your career? It can also get very political and you have to be careful to mention all of your former clubs or else risk upsetting one set of fans.
But one-club man Jamie Carragher didn’t have such problems when he was to name his ultimate XI on Jan Aage Fjörtoft’s ‘PodSaveTheBall’ podcast.
However, Fjortoft gave Carragher something to think about by allowing him to pick any players he played alongside for England.
The defender played with some world-class stars for club and country so he had plenty of tough decisions to make.
So tough, in fact, that the likes of Rio Ferdinand, John Terry, Paul Scholes, Frank Lampard, Wayne Rooney and Fernando Torres failed to make the cut.
“The best Liverpool goalkeeper I played with was Pepe Reina. And I would say, England wise, I did play with David Seaman on my debut.”
“I’ll have to go for Neville, won’t I? How can I pick a team and not put Gary Neville in? Hopefully, we can take that partnership that we’ve got on tv onto the pitch. Don’t tell him that.”
“He was fantastic, he really was.”
Fjortoft appeared to insist Carragher put himself in the XI, rather than the Liverpool legend being egotisical.
“I played with Rio and John Terry who are great players. But I played that long with Sami and he was my best partner as a player.”
“I think he’s a very underrated player. He was a great player. I think in his prime at Manchester United from 1998-2001 before he left for Real Madrid, he and Luis Figo were the top right-sided players in European football. I think his celebrity status makes people forgot how good he actually was.”
“We didn’t really have a left-sided player at England – we didn’t have one at Liverpool, to be honest. I might be cheating a little bit but I played with John Barnes for one game – in my second game for Liverpool. He’s remembered for being one of the best left wingers there’s ever been in British football and one of the greatest players to have ever played for Liverpool.”
“His biggest strength was that he had no weakness. There was nothing he couldn’t do. He could play in any position. The greatest English player of my generation.”
“He can sit in there spraying the passes, Stevie can get forward. It didn’t work in the first half of Istanbul but we’ll forget about that. I cannot not put Alonso in there for what he’s done in his career – World Cups, Euros obviously the Champions League at Liverpool and played for Real Madrid and Bayern Munich. People always talk about Stevie being Liverpool manager one day, and I’m sure that’ll happen, but I think there’s a chance Xabi Alonso will be a really top manager as well. With the managers he’s had and his football brain so I think that will be something to look for in the future.”
“Not just what he did at Liverpool but his whole career and what he did at Barcelona and for Uruguay as well. He’s a special player.”
“Because of the goals he got in the FA Cup Final for us in 2001. He won the Ballon d’Or in 2001 and he played a huge part in a really successful season for us in 2001 under Gerard Houllier. He was the best striker in that team and all the goals he got for England. I think he’s a player you forget how good he was when he was in his prime.”
Not a bad XI, is it?
Unsurprisingly, Carragher favoured his former Liverpool teammates over England with seven of the XI playing at Anfield with only Seaman, Neville, Cole and Beckham coming from his international career.
A lot will be made of his decision to leave out Terry and Ferdinand in favour of Hyypia. But was he ever going to make any other decision considering he played alongside the Finn for many years and Terry and Ferdinand playing for Liverpool’s Premier League rivals?
Scholes and Lampard are left out for Alonso with Carragher, again, showing his Liverpool bias.
But the toughest decision came when he had to pick his two strikers. Rooney, Robbie Fowler and Fernando Torres were all ignored for Suarez and Owen. Controversial.