Lucas Neill's ultimate monster
Socceroos skipper Lucas Neill dons the lab coat and tells Daniel Lane how he would build the perfect Frankenstein footballer.
Socceroos skipper Lucas Neill might be a great defender but Australia's iceman was rattled upon hearing The Sun-Herald's challenge to picture a nightmare scenario.
The clock has ticked down to the final seconds of the World Cup final. The tournament's surprise packets, Australia, are clinging to a 1-0 lead but the 34-year-old from Manly is the last defender between his goalkeeper and what he considers the world's ultimate footballer - a collaboration of the body, skills and spirit of the greatest foreign players he's either opposed or played alongside during his career.
Neill had plenty of faces and reputations to call on as he assembled his ultimate player. As well as representing the Socceroos 83 times, he has spent most of his 17-year club career in the English Premier League, followed by stints in Turkey and the United Arab Emirates.
After leading the 10-man Socceroos side to a courageous 1-1 draw with Asian champions Japan in Brisbane on Tuesday night, Neill said the heart and the grit he had helped instil in the national squad would be crucial elements in creating his ultimate footballer.
"I'm going to add qualities like bravery, brains and charisma because I think they're an important part of the overall package," he said. "I'm also going to include sledging for Aussie fans."
Here are the 12 elements Neill would stitch together to create the perfect footballer.
1. LEFT FOOT
Ryan Giggs (Wales)
"Giggs was not a showman, he simply did his job and did it well. He was such a reliable and consistent passer, crosser and shooter of the ball you always viewed him as a personal challenge. I enjoyed playing against him because he'd make you lift. No player ever relaxed against Giggs because he'd embarrass you if given the slightest sniff of a chance. The key to stifling Giggs was to get up and close."
2. RIGHT FOOT
David Beckham (England)
"His ability to pass [and] his range of passing is sensational. He had a freakish kick and the saying 'bend it like Beckham' sums it up. His accuracy was incredible and it made him a dangerous player … A player the public loves to watch, and one players enjoy taking on."
3. POWER AND FLAIR
Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal)
"He has the power of the shot and the power of the mind. Ronaldo knows people love to hate him but, because he also knows they're there to watch him play, he delivers. That's the power of the mind and it is a great strength. I have so much respect for Ronaldo. If it wasn't for him, I believe Lionel Messi would be football's standout player. Their rivalry has pushed them to great heights, but I think Ronaldo has edged ahead of Messi from an achievement point of view this year. When he dribbles the ball, it's like watching someone compete in a foot race … He also jumps a lot higher than people might think."
Brad Friedel (US)
"Brad's razor-sharp reflexes edge out all other contenders for keeping goal. I watched him from close quarters at Blackburn and saw him do some incredible things. His work ethic enhanced his natural gifts because he was the first out on the training paddock and the last in. He'd do things like dive to the ground, climb to his feet and try and make a save before he had time to set his feet. It helped when the pressure was on."
Lionel Messi (Argentina)
"Messi has amazing pace and, not only can he run flat-chat with the ball, but he can change from his left foot to his right so effortlessly. While he tends to favour his left, he uses both feet well. That makes it incredibly hard to defend against … His low centre of gravity adds to his threat because, after he drops his shoulder, he can nick half a metre on you before you realise which way he's gone and be on his way. A defender's nightmare."
6. AERIAL ABILITY
Alan Shearer (England)
"Far from the tallest man to have played football, Shearer had great timing and you knew if there was a cross on, he'd go all out to get it. What's more, you knew he could do it with great accuracy. His power in the air, and that ability to jump high, was special."
Aaron Lennon (England)
"Lennon possessed lightning speed off the mark and he could maintain it at any distance. It was a God-given gift that made him very hard to mark."
8. CREATIVITY AND CRAFT
Diego Maradona (Argentina)
"I'm taking a liberty here because, while I didn't play against him, I played against a team coached by Maradona. The passion he played the game with, and how much winning meant to him, entitles Diego to sneak in on a technicality. I loved that he wanted to beat his opposing players and that his approach to football was to put on a skills show. A great example of what can occur when mental toughness and rare skill combine."
Dennis Bergkamp (Netherlands)
"I played him at the peak of his powers and he is the brain of my ultimate footballer. He knew when to play one touch or when to play another. Bergkamp had a great awareness of the play and would picture things long before they happened. He was torture to play against, but a joy to watch."
Craig Short (England)
"He had a William Wallace Braveheart-type approach and would run through walls for the good of his team. I saw him start games with broken ribs and was one guy who needed to be pulled out of the starting line-up kicking and screaming … Craig also had the courage to stand up and speak up for his fellow players and professionals on issues when it would've been safe to stay quiet. I view that as a form of bravery."
Thierry Henry (France)
"He had your respect because of both his legendary status and his being such a great ambassador for football. He played with a smile on his face and people responded, they'd turn out in their droves to watch him."
Craig Bellamy (Wales)
"Man of the match in this department is Bellamy. He loved to win and wasn't scared to use his mouth - non-stop - to unsettle his opponents, although I should add he'd chuckle to himself whenever he dished it out. A winner. He'd even sledge his teammates at training in the lead-up to the game because that's what made him tick."