We all enjoy making fantasy five-a-side teams. But that’s too easy. Or too hard, depending on how you look at it. But what about if you could only pick players with the same first name? Now you’re talking…
Reason #847 why football is great: players’ names.
Paul Dickov, Bas Dost, Rod Fanni, Quim, Stefan Kuntz…frankly, if you haven’t attempted to make an awful pun using at least one of these players we’re really not sure what you’re doing here reading this ridiculous article.
As well as that lot there’s also Christ Bongo, a bunch of Jesuses, even Pikachu and John Lennon. But my favourite? Mahatma Gandhi, a 25-year-old Brazilian defender who picked up nine yellow cards and one red in 994 minutes of senior club football, which would be totally confusing if only his Wikipedia page didn’t mention that Gandhi ‘should not be confused with the famous nonviolence practitioner’.
Sadly, however, most footballers have pretty boring names, which means that you can put together an entire team of Wills, Matthews, or Craigs.
That’s exactly what we’re gonna do here today. Expect, no one would be excited to land a team which features Will Buckley, Will Grigg and Will Keane. So we are going to set the bar a little bit higher and try to answer one simple question: what’s the best five-a-side team you could make if you only used players with the same first name?
I kept four rules in mind throughout the screening process:
1) We can’t put Michaels (Michael Carrick, Michael Owen, etc) and Michels (Michel Platini, Michel Warm, etc) in the same team even though it’s basically the same name. Simply because no one in their right mind would ever call Michael Owen ‘Michel’.
However, it’s totally acceptable to assign Franck Ribery to the Franks team and Marc Bartra to the Marks team. Why? Because I think it’s fine. And I’m the one who’ve created these rules.
2) We can’t put Luis Suarez and Filipe Luis on the same team because it’s cheating. And no one like cheaters.
3) A truly great five-a-side team must have at least one goalkeeper, one defender, one midfielder and one striker (or, at least, someone who can double as one). Otherwise, it has no chance in the real world. And we’re all about real here.
4) Since I don’t want to go insane over this, I’ll use all the possible ‘Top-100/300/500 players ever’ lists as a base for picking footballers’ names. In other words, I see Alan Hansen in one of these lists, it reminds me of Alan Shearer, and I build a team from there. Otherwise, I’ll be stuck with this column for the next 60 years. And we don’t want that.
There are some brilliant sides that didn’t make the final cut only because they lack one or two quality players for certain positions.
For instance, there is the Javiers team (Javier Zanetti, Javier Mascherano, Javier Saviola and Javier Hernandez) which would have pretty much everything to succeed – a rock-solid defence as well as a frightening cocktail of South American flair, speed, and experience – if only they had managed to get one average goalkeeper.
For some reason, though, goalkeepers’ parents are totally fine with naming their kids Norman Conquest and Fabian Assman but not Javier.
Then there’s the great Michaels team (Michael Reiziger, Michael Laudrup, Michael Ballack and Michael Owen… plus Michael Carrick and Michael Essien on the bench) which has three FIFA 100 members in its squad and seems like it would be absolutely lethal at counter-attacking.
Sadly, their best option in goal is Michael McGovern. And I’m not ready to compromise that much just yet.
But my favourite ‘Almost Made It’ team is the ridiculously unbalanced Marios with four high-profile strikers (Mario Balotelli, Mario Mandzukic, Mario Kempes, and Mario Gomez), one attacking midfielder (Mario Gotze), one attacking right-back (Mario Melchiot) and literally zero centre-backs and goalkeepers.
A few more honourable mentions:
– Incredibly talented Pauls (Paul Robinson, Paul Pogba, Paul Scholes, Paul Ince, Paul Gascoigne) who seem strong enough to crush pretty much anyone but lack both defenders and strikers…
– Highly disciplined and hardworking Marks/Marcs (Mark Schwarzer, Marc Bartra, Mark Noble, Mark Overmars, Mark Viduka)…
– Always reliable Johns (John Lukic, John Terry, John Arne Riise, John Barnes, John Charles)…
– Wonderfully gifted Robertos (Roberto Abbondanzieri, Roberto Carlos, Roberto Di Matteo, Roberto Baggio, Roberto Firmino) …
– The Cult Heroes team of Steve/Stevens (Steve Mandanda, Steve Bould, Steven Gerrard, Steve McManaman, Steven Pienaar)…
– The All-British Garys (Gary Bailey, Gary Neville, Gary McAllister, Gary Speed, Gary Lineker)…
– And last but not least, a carnival team of Carloses (Carlos Kameni, Carlos Alberto Torres, Carlos Dunga, Carlos Valderrama, Carlos Tevez).
If we’re looking for truly great squads, though, we have to dig a little bit deeper. So, without further ado, here are the top five greatest same-name five-a-side teams from football history.
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5) The Sergios: Sergio Goycochea, Sergio Ramos, Sergio Busquets, Sergio Gonzalez, Sergio Aguero
A very interesting team with brilliant defensive power (Ramos and Busquets) and one of the world’s most prolific and reliable strikers (Aguero).
Goycochea, an Argentinian goalkeeper who has been known as the Ultimate Penalty King, is a pretty good bet, too: Back in 1991, he even made it into FIFA World’s XI after winning Copa America and *almost* saving the game-winning penalty kick in the 1990 World Cup final.
Unfortunately, though, the Sergios lack a quality attacking midfielder, so it’s hard to imagine this team creating enough chances for Aguero. And speaking of Aguero, we all know what happens when you yank him out of Man City and put him in some sort of ‘national’ team, right?
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4) The Davids: David De Gea, David Alaba, David Silva, David Beckham, David Villa
An amazingly strong team which would definitely do well in the modern world since all of these guys peaked somewhere between 1999 and 2017 (BIG plus).
The Davids get one of the best goalkeepers on the planet, an extremely versatile defender who could also play as a central midfielder or even an attacking winger, a highly-likeable superduperstar, a perfect No.10 with one of the highest football IQs ever recorded, plus a striker who smells blood like very few players do.
3) The Luises: Luis Arconada, Luis Perea, Luis Suarez, Luis Figo, Luis Suarez
Firstly, the Luises have so many attacking options to choose from that you’d feel like Piers Morgan locked in a confessional box trying to figure out what to start with.
Luis Garcia could offer tremendous pace and width in attack, and Luis Fabiano could be your go-to guy in the last 10-15 minutes against parking-the-bus teams with low defensive lines. But up front has to be Luis Suarez, one of the greatest strikers of his generation who would produce tons of goals and assists, and make everyone around him better …
The midfield is loaded with talent, too. There’s Luis Enrique, who could play in three or four different positions and double as a player-coach, plus Luis Monti, a legendary midfielder who shined at Inter Milan in the 1930s and cruised to the World Cup final not once but twice in four years with two different teams (Argentina in 1930, and Italy in 1934).
But taking the two slots are the original Luis Suarez, who remains Spain’s only Ballon d’Or winner, and Luis Figo, who has one of the greatest footballing minds of all time. Easy.
Yes, the Luises would have just one good defender. But it’s Luis Perea, and he spent eight years at Atletico, so trust me, they’d be just fine.
Finally, their goalkeeper is Luis Arconada, one of Spain’s greatest goalies of the last century, who won two La Liga titles with Real Sociedad and had a really cool nickname: El Pulpo, the Octopus.
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2) The Franks: Frank Swift, Frank De Boer, Frank Rijkaard, Frank Lampard, Franck Ribery
You want one of the most celebrated defensive midfielders in history who could stop anyone and easily drop back when facing especially tough opposition? Well, Rijkaard would do just that.
You want a strong, decorated and insanely experienced defender? Someone who could lead the team by example, play the captain character and brilliantly link up with your defensive midfielder? Please welcome De Boer.
You want a legendary box-to-box midfielder who’s equally good at creating chances for partners and scoring himself? Say no more. Lamps is ready to do all of that.
You want someone fast, tricky, and technical who can play a winger or false nine? You’ve got Ribery for that. Plus, every good team needs a decent dressing room joker. And the Frenchman would SHINE at this role.
Finally, The Franks get the iconic England and Man City stopper Frank Swift, who is widely regarded as one the nation’s finest goalkeepers as well as the charismatic and proven Chelsea and France defender Frank Leboeuf as a sub.
This team will go a long way, my friends.
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1) The Diegos: Diego Alves, Diego Godin, Diego Maradona, Diego Forlan, Diego Costa
I know what you’re thinking: “Diego Alves? Seriously?” But hey, do you even need a top goalkeeper when you’ve got Diego Godin in your team? Probably not.
Plus, there are no Cristianos, Lionels or Peles in our weird same-name world which means that Maradona is the absolute best we can get while building a team.
Throw in not one but two unbelievably talented strikers as well as one of the strongest five-a-side benches you could ever imagine: Diego Simeone (a guy we could play whenever the team face the Davids); Diego Milito (a perfect replacement for Costa whenever he gets suspended); Diego Ribas da Cunha, who could wear the No.10 shirt every time Maradona has to go to rehab; even Diego Perez, a former Monaco and Uruguay centre-back, who could easily pair up with Godin.
These guys are so good even the Jesuses would have no chance against them.