When creating a line-up of the best players world football currently has to offer, international squads and club sides just can’t cut it. Greg Johnson takes a look at the possibility of a multi-national football hypothetical XI…
National squads have always represented a “best of” selection of club football, yet the teams at the top of the game’s elite domestic leagues can also be considered as greatest hits line-ups made up of international stars. Clubs and countries cherry pick players from limited groups, narrowed down either by nationality or availability, contract or price.
It’s the top-level equivalent of comparing the over-lapping but exclusive player pools of your school side against who’s available for the local youth club.
While Joe Bloggs from across town can turn out for Blandchester Colts on a Saturday morning, your after-school Year 9 side has got Dave and Colin who don’t even bother with kick-a-bouts at the weekend, but are some of the best you’ve played with. Both options have their shortcomings, and due to the difference in training, time spent together and fixtures, it’s difficult to compare their respective strengths directly anyhow.
In this age of commercialism and image rights, there is a third option: multi-national football – teams of players brought together by the sponsorship deals of major brands and multi-national corporations. After all, household names and marketing execs only want to be associated with the very best, regardless of country or club allegiances.
All-star teams of mercenary sell-outs aren’t anything new. Many of our most memorable yet phoney teams have come from adverts such as Nike’s banned football ninja video (below) or Eric Cantona’s long-running Joga Bonito series.
When it comes to more personal PR piece, who can also forget such classic tie-ins as Pele’s little blue pills, Bobby Moore’s boosting of the local boozer in the 60’s and Kevin Keegan promoting Brut and the Green Cross Code.
Adverts have even been responsible for altering history: according to Nike’s advert for the 2010 World Cup, Ronaldinho was Brazil’s star player regardless of the fact he wasn’t selected and didn’t travel to South Africa.
In an attempt to push on from Brazil’s departure lounge jam and the heinous crimes against acting committed by Manchester United of late (Wayne Rooney’s turn for Casillero del Diablo is particularly poor), below is a hypothetical XI of players endorsed by multi-nationals and sponsors. Only one player per country or brand is allowed in the starting line-up. The formation is 4-3-3 and many of the tie-ins, while real, are frankly ridiculous.
International football is dead. Long live multi-national football!
After having faced down fellow veteran Clarence Seedorf in a theatrical advert for Heineken, and on the back of his continuing excellence as perhaps the world’s greatest keeper, Buffon is the first name on our team sheet. The shot stopper is also the face of Subbuteo in Italy, exemplifying his exceptional reading of the game and tactical knowledge. His age-defying agility, match awareness and leadership offers a near impenetrable foundation for the multi-national XI.
LB: Gareth Bale – (BT)
Yes, Gareth Bale. While the Welshman may be flourishing on Tottenham’s left wing, the BT ambassador and player-pundit has the athleticism, intelligence and attacking might to give this multi-national team the width it requires from deep.
CB: Rio Ferdinand – (Snickers)
Whether it’s through promotional tweets, photos of the defender chomping down on brand name chocolate bars or the plugging of products through his club’s advertisements, Ferdinand is a diligent footballing ad man. A smart defender the Manchester United centre back leads and oragnises the team’s backline in front of Buffon.
Varane may not be the face of any global ad campaigns just yet but the exquisitely skilled French prodigy has quickly been assimilated into the Real Madrid marketing machine – an example of how early young players are tied into commercial activities. Adding pace alongside a slowing Rio Ferdinand, Varane is arguably the star of this multi-national back four.
RB: Dani Alves – (Adidas)
One of the faces of Adidas’ miCoach campaign, Alves switched allegiances from his former sponsor Nike in 2009. The tireless attacking right-back hasn’t just limited his PR work to some hammy acting, posting up his match stats from El Clasico matches to show off the miCoach technology in action.
With Alves and Bale flying forwards, the multinational midfield needs a steely, strong and smart player to plug gaps and knit the team together. Schweinsteiger is the ideal multi-purpose player for the centre of the team, qualifying for selection through his somewhat stereotypical endorsements. Powered by German sausage, and with an engine worthy of the high-end car company he represents, he is the midfield general of this multinational XI.
CM: Yaya Toure – (Puma)
Toure’s sponsorship with Puma features a unique clause whereby the sports gear manufacturer ships large quantities of kit to his native Ivory Coast to be distributed to underprivileged youngsters. As well as supporting good causes back home, Toure will be needed to surge from box-to-box and put his wide set of skills both destroying, creating and scoring through the middle.
CM: Andres Iniesta – (Kalise ice cream)
As well as acting as the team’s chief playmaker and attacking link-man from midfield, Iniesta is also the face of Spanish ice cream manufacturers Kalise. For the multinationals, the Spaniard adds the flake, sauce and sprinkles to a tough yet technical midfield, delivering scoops of delicious, perfectly formed passes to the hungry forwards ahead of him.
Possibly the most specialised scoring machine in football, Cristiano Ronaldo is a production line of attack prowess. He’s also no slouch when it comes to promotion, representing a huge range of brands and products including cars, video games, designer clothes, TV and banking. Roaming in from the left, Ronaldo is free to wreck havoc on any who dare stand in the way of the multinationals. Watch out for Bale bursting in on the over-lap too!
Towering both in terms of his physique and technique, Zlatan is the high-class target man of the multinational team. As well as appearing in adverts for Nike and Italian TV providers MediaSat, Ibrahimovic can also be considered as a major asset in the marketing strategy of Qatari owned PSG, in their quest for European dominance both on the pitch and off it.
Cutting inside, dropping deep, ghosting into the midfield and stretching the play out wide, Messi is the free-roaming creator of the multi-national’s front-line. With Ronaldo’s weaponised runs, Ibrahimovic’s imposing physique and on-runners from the defense and midfield, the Argentine will have plenty of options as well as going for goal himself. Much like his marketing profile: who doesn’t want to be associated with the world’s best player? From obvious staples such as EA Sports, to emerging yet rich brands such as Herbalife and the plain bizarre with Japanese face wash brand Ansfa, Messi has all his bases covered.
GK: Joe Hart (Head & Shoulders) – Head & Shoulders certainly got creative with their match injury inspired TV spot with the English goalkeeper.
DF: Rafael da Silva (Turkish Airlines) – alongside his brother Fabio, Rafael has taken part in a number of Manchester United PR assignments, most notably for Turkish Airlines. Is he a cuddly mascot or a right-back menace?
DF: Giorgio Chiellini (M&M’s) – the Italian is the ideal man to offer something different defensively when rotated in or brought on from the bench. Versatile and reliable, his appearance in a viral ad for M&M’s also showed the Juventus defender has a sweet tooth.
MF: Xavi Hernandez (ATO Natura milk) – Xaviesta are taking over the world of dairy product promotions. When the multinationals need ball retention another skilful hand in midfield, they call for Spain’s game dominating playmaker.
MF: Marouanne Fellaini (Warrior) – whether he’s sitting deep as the team’s anchor, marauding through the midfield as a combative box-to-box presence, or bullying defenders with his awkward, aerial ability and sharp elbows Fellaini is an excellent multinational all-rounder. Having recently appeared in a brooding and surreal advert for Warrior sports wear, the Belgian is the squad’s problem solver and master of the dark arts.
FW: Thomas Muller (Muller milk) – Bayern’s space investigator is also something of a screen stealer, having appeared on German TV alongside his legendary namesake Gurd to hawk Muller rice puddings and yoghurts.
FW: Nicklas Bendtner (Paddy Power) – The self-proclaimed best player in the world, took a gamble that didn’t pay off when revealing his Paddy Power branded boxers at the 2012 European Championships.
The Special One boasts a magical touch on and off the football pitch, with an impressive portfolio of endorsements and brands seeking association with the Portugese manager. With his title winning record and advertising clout, who else could lead this XI to the top of world football?
Assistant: Terry Venables (Sony, The Sun, Nivea for Men)
Coaches: David Beckham (H&M, Samsung, Burger King amongst others), Roberto Carlos (Pepsi, Garanty Bank Turkey), Luis Figo (Just For Men)
Director of Football: Eric Cantona (Kronenbourg 1664)
The multinational XI’s backroom staff is made up of highly experienced veterans of football endorsements.
Having done some outstanding promotion work in the worlds of print, video and music – as well as managerial career spanning the England team, Premier League and La Liga – Venables seemed like the obvious choice to assist the Special One on his multinational quest for glory.
Sporting his designer beard, hair and suit, Beckham is the sideline cheerleader and go-between, returning to a similar role he fulfilled in Fabio Capello’s coaching team in 2010. Roberto Carlos and Luis Figo add some South American and Continental nous to the coaching team, putting their invaluable experience of performing front of the camera and the world’s largest stadiums to good use.
Cantona’s genre-defining Nike adverts, Joga Bonito campaign and more recent Kronenbourg TV spot in many ways shaped the way modern sports adverts are designed, filmed and marketed. The Frenchman, who currently works as Director of Football for New York Cosmos, takes on the same role for the multinationals.