Absa Premiership

From the PSL to Ronaldo ... my all-time best 'LIVE XI'

2020-04-20 08:34
Ricardo Carvalho of Portugal lines up for the nati
Ricardo Carvalho of Portugal lines up for the national anthems prior to the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa Group G match between Ivory Coast and Portugal at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium on June 15, 2010 in Port Elizabeth, South Africa.

As world football seeks a way back onto the pitch as the global coronavirus crisis continues, football fans are longing for the game to return to their screens. 

When leagues around the world do resume, they will almost certainly see matches played behind closed doors with no spectators in attendance at stadiums. 

The live experience is something we perhaps took for granted, and with that in mind we thought this an opportunity to look back and appreciate the players we have watched in years past. 

Only those players that I have seen LIVE are eligible for selection in this team.

Because South Africa was fortunate enough to host the 2010 Soccer World Cup, we saw some of the world’s best players.

Formation: 4-4-2

Goalkeeper: Anssi Jaakkola

The Finnish goalkeeper who signed for Ajax Cape Town in 2013 is by some distance the best goalkeeper I’ve seen in the Absa Premiership. A commanding presence in the box and an excellent shot-stopper, Jaakkola’s best attribute was his remarkable ability in one-on-one situations and in his final season with Ajax, I lost count at the numerous times he came out on top against an advancing attacker. His excellent performances saw him later secure a move to English Championship side, Reading, in 2016.

Right-back: Nazeer Allie

I’ve always had a soft spot for the reliable defender who never seems to have a bad game. He definitely deserved more international caps throughout his career and sometimes doesn’t receive the necessary acclaim. May not be the best ability-wise but is hard to beat in naming the most consistent performer in the Absa Premiership.

Centre-back: Ricardo Carvalho

The best player I've seen live.

I was fortunate enough to watch Portugal live at the newly-built Cape Town Stadium during the 2010 World Cup. Even though Cristiano Ronaldo was playing I couldn’t keep my eyes off of Carvalho who seemed to be playing a different game to what I’d witnessed before. Carvalho’s display that day consisted of taking the ball out the air with a Berbatov-like first touch, then coolly playing it out from the back. There were no last-ditch tackles or frantic defending, just football intelligence and elegance. I think about his display that day admittedly more than I should and it pops into my head occasionally every few months.

Centre-back: Rivaldo Coetzee

Since making his debut as a 17-year-old Rivaldo Coetzee has been very good. I even would say he hasn’t improved since then because he was already just that good. I struggle to think of too many players in the Absa Premiership who make the right decision every single time and it’s even rarer to see it in a teenager. I rated him as the best SA defender since Lucas Radebe and predicted him to become Bafana Bafana’s all-time most capped player. Injuries have curtailed his career but, hopefully, he can get back to his best. His performance that sticks out was for Ajax CT against Sundowns where he had Percy Tau in his pocket.

Left-back: Fabio Coentrao

Also a member of the Portuguese 2010 World Cup squad, the defender's performances during the tournament saw him secure a move to Spanish giants, Real Madrid. He had everything a modern fullback needs. Boasted energy to get up the flanks, solid in defence and excellent delivery in the final third.

Right-wing: Jason Puncheon

In 2015 Crystal Palace toured South Africa to take part in the Cape Town Cup pre-season tournament. It included SuperSport United, Ajax Cape Town and Portugal’s Sporting. This was the first time I witnessed an inverted winger of real quality with the left-footed Puncheon playing on the right. The only way I can describe his performance was that our local players were playing the game in 3D and Puncheon playing it in 4D. SuperSport United had no answer for the winger, who instead of facing towards goal looking to attack down the flank, would constantly cut inside facing infield and either lay it off or play a defence-splitting ball. It was like a knife through butter in a 4-0 win for the English side.

Centre-midfielder: Granwald Scott

Ajax had an amazing team when they should have won the Absa Prem title in 2010. Even though Thulani Serero deservedly took all the personal accolades, head coach Foppe de Haan pointed to Scott as the driving force in that team during that season. A performance that sticks out that season was the 4-0 win over Orlando Pirates when they played the Buccaneers off the park. Injuries hampered several chances to play in Europe. Not many know this, but he secured a move to Ajax Amsterdam as a teenager only to get injured just before signing. Several European clubs, including Bundesliga teams, also had agreements to sign him fall through due to ill-timed injuries.

Centre-midfielder: Raul Meireles

The midfielder possessed every pass in the book and put on a passing clinic against North Korea in the 2010 World Cup. Dictated the game and showed how a world-class midfielder controls the tempo of a game.

Left-wing: Percy Tau

I don’t need to say much about Percy Tau as it was obvious that he was destined for greater things. I hope that he achieves even more than he already has and represents SA football in one of Europe’s top leagues soon.

Striker: Lebo Manyama

Manyama became a one-man wrecking machine for Cape Town City during the 2016/2017 season. He contributed 30% (13 goals from 47) of CT City’s goals scored that campaign. He had an incredible knack for either scoring all his team’s goals or the winner for the Cape side in games. His goals directly contributed to an incredible 17 points for his side who finished third in the league standings.

Striker: Cristiano Ronaldo

I’m a huge Ronaldo fan and it was unforgettable to see him in person during the World Cup. What struck me most is that he is surprisingly even more muscular in person and is built like a tank! He had moments of brilliance and was prancing around like a peacock for the majority of the game. I remember too it absolutely showered down during the game and I never left my seat or even moved an inch as I wasn’t going to miss a second of watching Ronaldo in action.

Which players make up the 'Best XI' you've been fortunate enough to watch playing LIVE?

Drop Sport24 an email at mysport@sport24.co.za with your line-ups ...


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