Radio Five Live’s ‘Monday Night Club’ is the best sports programme on the airwaves, enchanced whenever John Motson and Jimmy Armfield are on the show.
The evergreen duo were this week part of the panel given the uneviable yet enjoyable task of selecting the greatest World Cup XI of all time.
As soon as I tuned in and before the debate raged, I quickly jotted down my greatest XI – unsurprisingly it did not mirror what the panel, which also included football experts from South America and Europe, came to a consensus on.
I could only select from memory of the players I have seen in action so my XI did not include any of the ‘monochrome’ figures of the past.
Unlike the panel, I did not have restrictions on which players fitted into which categories.
So, in goal I had England’s Gordon Banks, protected by a back four of Brazil’s Cafu, Italy’s Franco Baresi, German Franz Beckenbauer and Italian Paolo Maldini.
Unlike the panel, who had to select a 4-4-2 formation, I chose a midfield trio of Spain’s Andres Iniesta, Germany’s Lothar Matthäus and Zinedine Zidane, of France.
They were followed by a not so shabby front three of Holland’s Johan Cruyff, Argentina’s Diego Maradona and Brazil’s Edson Arantes do Nascimento, or Pele to you and me.
The panel, armed with statistics and, in former Leeds United manager Armfield’s case, memories of opponents he had faced in his days as England full-back, begged to differ in several positions.
Banks was replaced in goal by Italy’s Dino Zoff and, after much discussion, England’s 1966 captain Bobby Moore usurped Italian Baresi to play alongside ‘kaiser’ Beckenbauer.
Iniesta also had to make way for the Brazilian right-winger of the late 50s and early 60s, ‘little bird’ Garrincha, who, remarkably as David Coleman would say, had one leg six inches shorter than the other.
Zico also came into central midfield alongside Matthäus with Zidane out wide.
That left the panel with little leeway up front and Cruyff was the fall guy as they paired the two greatest players in the history of the game, Pele and Maradona.
Either side would take some beating but just look at some of the names who missed out...
In goal, for instance, what about Germany’s Sepp Maier or Spain’s Iker Casillas or Brazilian duo Castilho and Taffarel?
Full-backs in contention would surely include George Cohen, Paul Breitner, Roberto Carlos and Philipp Lahm.
Take you pick in midfield but those who would surely rate a mention would be Brazil captain Socrates – he of Garforth Town fame! –, French play-maker Michel Platini, Holland’s Johan Neeskens and Argentinian hard man Daniel Passarella.
Then let’s not forget renowed strikers such as Portugal’s Eusebio, Brazil’s Ronaldo, England’s hat-trick hero Geoff Hurst, France’s Just Fontaine and Germany’s Gerd Muller.
This time around, the stage is set for Argentina striker Lionel Messi, Portugal’s Ronaldo and Brazil’s Neymar to provide evidence they are ready to take their place among the pantheon of World Cup greats.