Keano made the cut.

Revisiting Steven Gerrard’s weird and wonderful ‘Best Ever XI’ named during lockdown

Lionel Messi, Roy Keane and Kylian Mbappe all featured in Liverpool legend Steven Gerrard’s all-time best XI – albeit one with a twist, compiled back during the coronavirus lockdown in the spring of 2020.

Whether you passed the time completing Grand Theft Auto V or were one of those annoying people who did something useful like learning a new language, if you’re anything like us lockdown will feel like a fever dream.

The media landscape was particularly weird, with no live football on and broadcasters desperately scrambling around looking for ways to fill airtime while the entire country was stuck inside.

You might recall those social media trends, particularly on Football Twitter, like that one of compiling a greatest football XI with a twist – without using any two players from the same club or country, and from his lifetime.

Take a stab at it yourself and you’ll find it’s surprisingly difficult.

Back then Steven Gerrard was still Rangers manager, with his fledgeling coaching reputation still intact, having led them to an unbeaten title-winning season, prior to things going a bit wrong at Aston Villa.

He gave it a stab and came up with a pretty decent, albeit eclectic, team.

“It took me more than a couple of hours, I was stewing on this for a couple of nights,” Gerrard said, speaking on Sky Sports’ The Football Show.

“I felt like I had a team and I was happy with it, I had Zidane in it, I had [Roberto] Carlos, Baresi in it. Then you get a text of Carra saying, ‘No, no, no that’s wrong – they played together’.

“It’s actually more challenging than what you think. But we got there in the end and I’m really pleased with the team I picked.”

Here’s the full XI he went with in the end:

GK: Jan Oblak

Starting clever.

Having represented Slovenia, Benfica and Atletico Madrid, the spot between the sticks wasn’t going to block too many world-class options when it came to outfielders.

There are more legendary ‘keepers that he might have picked – Gianluigi Buffon, Iker Casillas, Peter Schmeichel and Manuel Neuer to name a few from Gerrard’s time – but those would’ve forced some very difficult decisions elsewhere.

Oblak’s undoubtedly been among the best ‘keepers in the world over the past decade, on his day capable of producing otherworldly saves.

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RB: Cafu

Now we’re onto a classic. Bound by restrictions or not, Cafu is one of those names – like Maldini or Zidane – that’s a shoo-in for best XIs from those of a certain generation for good reason.

Considered the greatest right-back of all time by many, Cafu won everything there was to win for club and country.

He’s beaten some almighty Brazilian competition to make it onto this teamsheet but the major clubs represented (Sao Paolo, Roma, AC Milan) allow for plenty of wiggle room elsewhere.

Another very canny pick by the rules of this challenge.

CB: Vincent Kompany

The first direct opponent that features in Gerrard’s XI, Kompany’s starring role for Manchester City as they pipped Liverpool to the Premier League title in 2013-14 will still sting – but credit’s where credit’s due.

Gerrard was retired by the time that Kompany continued to be a thorn in his beloved boyhood club’s side later in the 2010s, with that screamer against Leicester proving pivotal in beating Jurgen Klopp’s side to another title in 2018-19.

“Vincent Kompany is a world-class defender and the effect he has on this Manchester City team is huge,” Gerrard said back in 2017, speaking as a pundit on BT Sport.

“Leaders bring the best out of other people. They demand more from the people around them and the team inevitably make less mistakes.”

CB: Kalidou Koulibaly

Koulibaly made an ill-fated move to Chelsea after this, which might’ve scuppered his No.9 pick, but it was a valid choice back in 2020.

Arguably the first real left-field choice, Koulibaly was rated as one of the finest defenders in Europe at the time, having shone at Napoli before his stock fell following that ill-fated move to Stamford Bridge.

He did captain Senegal to their first and only AFCON title in 2021, however.

Nowadays Koulibaly is earning his corn alongside Gerrard out in the Saudi Pro League.

LB: Andrew Robertson

Gerrard was spoilt for choice when it comes to Liverpool team-mates – Fernando Torres, Xabi Alonso and Luis Suarez are three that spring to mind – but he didn’t go for any players he played alongside.

Instead, at left-back he went for Robertson, who was signed under Klopp long after Gerrard had departed the club.

Surprisingly enough, he didn’t name any English players, so he might’ve picked himself as the Liverpool representative here.

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RW: Kylian Mbappe

Thierry Henry would surely have factored into Gerrard’s thinking, but the Arsenal legend’s spell at Barcelona would’ve ruled out a certain Argentinian No.10 (no, not Diego Maradona – although come to think of it he too would’ve been considered).

There are no shortage of other outstanding Frenchmen that he could’ve picked, but we can have no qualms with Mbappe – even four years ago he was already one of the very best players in world football and his reputation has only inflated since then.

Surprisingly enough, like every other name in this XI, Mbappe’s career actually – just about – overlaps with Gerrard’s.

He made his debut for Monaco as a 16-year-old in December 2015, while Gerrard eventually hung up his boots at LA Galaxy in December 2016.

CM: Toni Kroos

Three massive dominoes falling with Bayern Munich, Real Madrid and Germany falling here – but he’s used it wisely.

Kroos has gone on to add a personal fifth and sixth Champions League since Gerrard named him in this XI. We’re loving his retirement tour right now, with the Ballon d’Or hype train picking up steam.

He’s overdue one as a lifetime achievement award.

CM: Roy Keane

“He was a cert going in and is somebody I was a big fan of, and growing up I studied his game a lot,” Gerrard said of Keane.

“I really enjoyed a lot of battles against him, he was a top player. I don’t think you appreciated how good he was until you were directly up against him, to see how fit and strong he was, a box-to-box midfielder.”

No arguments here.

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LW: Lionel Messi

Messi would’ve been ineligible for this XI had Gerrard picked it in 2024, but back during lockdown he was still at Barcelona, having not yet moved to play alongside Kylian Mbappe at PSG.

You’d imagine he’d have trumped Mbappe, let alone everyone else, as the kind of selection you choose first and work backwards from.

Interestingly enough, Messi makes the cut here, but his eternal rival Cristiano Ronaldo doesn’t. Yet back in November, Gerrard named Ronaldo ‘The Goat’ in an interview with a Saudi outlet. Money talks, eh?

ST: Alessandro Del Piero

“I had to go back to my old Channel 4 years when you could watch Serie A. I met Del Piero a few years ago and he was an absolute gentleman,” said Gerrard.

The connoisseur’s choice.

ST: Didier Drogba

Liverpool and Chelsea’s clashes during the Mourinho-Benitez era were legendary, with some particularly spicy clashes as they kept getting drawn against one another in the Champions League.

Both Gerrard and Drogba were at the peak of their powers during that time; game evidently recognises game.

The Liverpool captain had so much admiration for Drogba that he gifted him an errant backpass for a decisive goal back in 2010. One that played a big part in Manchester United failing to win the title. A coincidence, we’re sure.

Steven Gerrard Best XI 2020 Lockdown Didier Drogba