Mash up XI – Hardest footballers of all time

From the outside, football is often seen as a game played by ‘tarts and fairies’ as players roll around the floor because of the smallest touch. It’s not all players though and this mash up XI of the hardest footballers of all time prove exactly that.

Formation wise we’re going with a 4-3-3.

GK – Bert Trautmann

They say you’ve got to be mad to be a keeper. There are plenty of names you could throw into this discussion to be honest. For us, Man City’s German stopper Trautmann is nailed on number one. The evidence is as follows; a) he was a prisoner of war; b) he broke his neck in the 1956 FA Cup final and continued playing. He was also a damn good goalkeeper.

RB – Michel Salgado

BT Sport co-commentator and pundit Steve McManaman once labelled his former Real Madrid teammate Salgado a “genuine psychopath”. We’re not in the position to verify that claim but we know what we’ve seen on the pitch. Sure, he wasn’t one of the best right backs ever to play the game but he was a defender who wouldn’t dream of shirking a tackle. He played regularly in the Galacticos side behind David Beckham and gleefully did the dirty work in a team full of stars. 

RCB – Andoni Goikoetxea

You’ve all heard it said that Maradona should have been at scythed down during that magical run when he broke England hearts in 1986. Well, whilst a Barcelona player he received exactly that treatment. Goikoetxea snapped his leg with absolutely no intent for the ball. It wasn’t a one off though and ‘the Butcher of Bilbao’ has gone down as one of the true monsters of the game. 

LCB – Terry Butcher

The sight of Terry Butcher bloodied and bandaged in his crimson stained England strip is one of the most iconic images in Three Lions history. Butcher was as tough as they come. As a kid, Butcher was actually right footed but an injury meant he couldn’t play anymore. His love of the game saw him train using only his left peg and it became better than his right. Throw into the mix that he once played three games with a broken leg and it’s impossible to argue against his inclusion in our hardest footballers of all time XI.

LB – Stuart Pearce

When your nickname is Psycho the fact you’re a bit of a tough man probably doesn’t come as a surprise. Former Nottingham Forest full back Pearce isn’t in our XI because of a blind rage (like some selections) but more for the fact he was as a tough tackler, a fierce leader and just generally as hard as nails. Roy Keane played with him at Forest and said the England skipper stood out as a man against a group of boys. Many people rank him as one of the best left backs ever as well; although he doesn’t make our list.

CM – Roy Keane

Keane is best known for his time at Man United where he struck fear into most of the Premier League. Those who played with him at United say they felt untouchable just lining up in the tunnel with Keane by their side with plenty of sides losing games before they even entered the pitch. Keane’s will to win often boiled over though and his deliberate assault on Alf Inge-Haaland is perhaps his most infamous moment. There have been a few as well!

CM – Marco Tardelli

1982 World Cup winning midfielder Tardelli might have oozed elegance and class on the ball but he wouldn’t think twice about eating through his opponents when the opportunity presented itself. The Italian could play on the wing but his tireless energy, which would see him constantly win possession before getting his team going again, meant his presence was missed in the middle too much. It’s hardly a surprise he retired with a host of honours to his name.

CM – Genaro Gattuso

If the midfield of this team hasn’t got enough tenacity in it already then welcome Gattuso. The Italy and AC Milan legend was undoubtedly a quality player. Make no mistake though, he took very little nonsense on the pitch. His ability on the ball combined with his positional sense, physicality and aggressive streak, which earned him the nickname ‘Snarl’, meant he was a match for pretty much anyone. That fire is something that still burns brightly in his role of manager.

ST – Eric Cantona

For all of his genius, few things stick in the mind like that Cantona kung-fu kick at Selhurst Park. The Frenchman was blessed with ability but he was frequently a man on the edge. Ridiculous as the incident was, it was hardly out of character for the confrontational front man. He’s since claimed he didn’t kick the guy hard enough. You’d rather have him on your team than be against him though. 

ST – Hristo Stoichkov

You have to wonder whether Stoichkov would have lasted long in the game if it wasn’t for the fact he was one of the best strikers of all time. His behaviour was sometimes animalistic with several high profile clashes over his career. Those clashes vary from leg breaking tackles in friendly matches to fights that led to a lifetime ban. All that attitude and still he’s a Barcelona legend.

ST – Zlatan Ibrahimovic 

Completing our hardest footballers of all time XI is Zlatan. If Cantona wants to learn how to kick harder then perhaps Ibra can help; he has a black belt in taekwondo after all. Despite being highly skilled in self-defence it’s normally his technical ability, fiery arrogance and brute physicality that sees him past opposition defences and he’s not afraid of over stepping the line on occasion. The fact he’s still ripping up Serie A at age 39 just goes to show what a specimen he is.

There you have it, the hardest footballers of all time. We’ll let you speculate over the manager.

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