Time to play Dream Team’s favourite game: Things That Will Never Happen But Are Fun To Talk About.
How many members of Pep Guardiola’s current Man City squad would get into Barcelona’s treble-winning side of 2008/09?
You know the one. Victor Valdes in goal. Dani Alves, Gerard Pique, Carles Puyol and Eric Abidal at the back. Andres Iniesta, Xavi and Sergio Busquets loading the bullets for Thierry Henry, Samuel Eto’o and Lionel Messi.
We’ve got to set out some parameters before diving in.
Firstly, Barcelona will be judged as they were back in 08/09, so whatever they went on to achieve after that imperious season won’t be taken into consideration.
The same rules apply to City, meaning potential is futile. We all know that Phil Foden will eventually be a better player than Xavi and Iniesta combined, but for now he’s not in the conversation.
So, without further Freddy Adu, let’s get going.
Goalkeeper: Ederson (Man City) beats Victor Valdes (Barcelona)
For years Valdes had us all fooled. The Spaniard, together with Paul Konchesky, conspired to make us all think he was bald, only to grow luscious locks towards the end of his career.
A fine keeper, he nonetheless loses out to Ederson’s ability to transform into Xaboi Alonso and Paul Scholes’ lovechild when it comes to taking a goal kick.
Right-back: Dani Alves (Barcelona) beats Kyle Walker (Man City)
The Steel City Cafu versus the Juazeiro Garry Neville. Sheffield versus Bahia. England versus Brazil.
Walker can count himself unlucky to come up against a ‘defender’ who redefined defending. A man responsible for thousands of Sunday League right-backs up and down the country ignoring their defensive duties every weekend.
Centre-back: Carles Puyol (Barcelona) beats Aymeric Laporte/Vincent Kompany (Man City)
It couldn’t really be anyone but Puyol, could it? Laporte has better technique, while Kompnay has a similar sized heart and understanding of what it means to play for the badge.
But Puyol was Puyol. That’s all the justification you need.
Centre-back: Gerard Pique (Barcelona) beats John Stones/Nicolas Otamendi (Man City)
Pique is (was?) what we all hope Stones becomes after a few seasons under the tutelage of Guardiola.
Do you think the red half of Manchester regret the decision to let Pique leave in favour of developing Jonny Evans? Nah, probably not.
Left-back: Eric Abidal (Barcelona) beats Benjamin Mendy (Man City)
We ummed and ahed about this one. Mendy is a better outlet than Abidal was. Abidal was a better defender than Mendy is. Think about it too much and your head starts to hurt.
In the end, Mendy’s lack of minutes, through no fault of his own, cost him. The 24-year-old can console himself by looking at the honours section of his Wikipedia page.
Defensive midfield: Sergio Busquets (Barcelona) beats Fernandinho/Ilkay Gungogan (Man City)
Pep introduced Busquets to the Barcelona first-team squad at the start of the 08/09 season. By the end of it tea and Busquets had a La Liga, Copa del Rey and Champions League medal hanging around his neck.
Fernandinho is the axis around which Pep’s current side is built, but he’s just not got the guile and intelligence of Busquets. To be fair, not many do.
Central midfield: Xavi (Barcelona) beats David Silva (Man City)
Self-explanatory. Sorry, David.
Central midfield: Andres Iniesta (Barcelona) beats Kevin De Bruyne (Man City)
Right winger: Lionel Messi (Barcelona) beats Raheem Sterling/Bernardo Silva (Man City)
Left winger: Thierry Henry (Barcelona) beats Leroy Sane/Riyad Mahrez (Man City)
That Sane was regularly compared to Henry during his second season in England tells you all you need to know about his gazelle-like qualities with and without the ball.
But Leroy’s still got some way to go before he can rival the most devastating dribbler the Premier League has ever seen.
Striker: Sergio Aguero (Man City) beats Samuel Eto’o (Barcelona)
Aguero is still going strong at City, despite appearing on borrowed time at the start of Pep’s reign.
The same can’t be said for Eto’o, whose card was marked the second Pep walked through the door.
Thirty-six goals in all competitions during the 08/09 weren’t enough to save Eto’o’s Barcelona career, although he didn’t do too badly at Inter Milan the following season.
Oh, you want to see that team on a shiny graphic? You should have asked earlier…
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- Which current players have a decent chance of becoming their country’s all-time top scorer?
- Football is a game of opinions but if you don’t rate Sergio Busquets you’re just plain wrong