From Premier League to Champions League: Coral’s best European XI
Debate rages about which top European league has the best players. Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger is of the opinion the Premier League has the best attackers, and those recent comments got Coral’s football boffins thinking.
Who would make the best XI of former English top-flight names plying their trade for other teams around Europe in this season’s Champions League? Here’s what we came up with:
Goalkeeper: Pepe Reina
He’s almost certainly been signed as backup to Bayern Munich and Germany number one Manuel Neuer, but Spain and former Liverpool stopper Reina won’t want to be at the Allianz to make up the numbers. During his eight seasons at Anfield, before joining Napoli on loan, he won the FA Cup and League Cup, as well as the Community Shield and UEFA Super Cup, not to mention playing in the 2007 Champions League final.
Right back: Alvaro Arbeloa
Capped over 50 times for Spain, former Liverpool full back Arbeloa has flourished after two-and-a-half seasons on Merseyside. Like compatriot Reina, he won consecutive European Championships and the 2010 World Cup with La Roja. Arbeloa has also lifted the La Liga and the Champions League trophies with Real Madrid.
Centre back: Gerard Pique
The Spanish theme in defence continues with Barcelona’s Pique, who began his senior career at Manchester United. Like many of his fellow countrymen, he has gone on to great things from this Premier League beginning. Pique has won 10 major club honours, including three Champions League medals.
Centre back: David Luiz
PSG spent big this past summer to land Brazil and ex-Chelsea defender Luiz, who has an eye for the spectacular. He spent three-and-a-half seasons at Stamford Bridge, collecting winners’ medals for the FA Cup, Europa League and Champions League. Luiz, whose Parisian side host Barcelona, is 7/1 to score anytime against them.
Left back: Ashley Cole
Another Chelsea connection is ex-England centurion Cole. When his contract was up in west London in June, he opted to experience football abroad and should turn out for Roma against Manchester City. Starting out at Arsenal, Cole lifted 13 major honours at the Gunners and Blues. As he prepares to visit the Etihad, Roma are sensational value at 6/1 to keep a clean sheet.
Defensive midfield: Javier Mascherano
Argentina scrapper Mascherano is often dropped further back and plays as a centre half for Barcelona, but enhanced his reputation as a tough-tackling midfield anchor at Liverpool. Key for club and country, his aggression will be necessary as the Catalan giants, with who he won the Champions League in 2011, travel to Paris.
Central midfield: Xabi Alonso
This might be one of Pep Guardiola’s shrewdest signings. Ex-Liverpool pass-master Alonso, who scored in the Reds’ 2005 Champions League final triumph, went on to win the competition again with Real Madrid last term. He is now at Bayern Munich, covering for injured compatriot Javi Martinez, and it’s 4/1 that Alonso wins this competition for a third time.
Central midfield: Luka Modric
Former Spurs playmaker Luka Modric was an unsung hero in Real Madrid’s successful European campaign last season. Formerly partnered by Alonso, he now has two World Cup winners from Germany, Sami Khedira or Toni Kroos; to partner him in the Bernabeu engine room. Modric is a 6/1 shot to score as Real travel to Bulgarian upstarts Ludogorets Razgrad.
Right wing: Gareth Bale
Like Modric, Wales winger Bale followed the Croatian from White Hart Lane to the Bernabeu. He netted 22 times in all competitions last term as Real Madrid lifted ‘La Decima’; a 10th European Cup. Bale has already scored in this season’s Champions League, and is 4/1 to grab the last goal against Ludogorets.
Striker: Carlos Tevez
Argentine bad boy Tevez counts West Ham, Manchester United and Manchester City among his former clubs but, despite his exploits at Italian champions Juventus, he is out of favour for his national team. During his time in Manchester, he won the Premier League with both clubs, and the Champions League at Old Trafford. Tevez has since added Serie A to his honours, and is 9/1 to score two goals or more against Atletico Madrid, as he did on his last outing in this competition.
Left wing: Cristiano Ronaldo
No all-star XI would be complete without a Ballon d’Or winner. Ronaldo is a phenomenon, enough said. The Portugal icon has been consistently linked with leaving Real Madrid to return to Manchester United in recent weeks. Who among us wouldn’t like to see a Golden Boot winner with 11 major club honours on his CV come back to England? Ronaldo is 9/4 to score first for Madrid in Bulgaria.