Danny Mills: Greatest XI of former teammates

Danny Mills made more than 200 appearances in the Premier League during a long career at the top level, one that saw the combative right-back shine in a Leeds team that overachieved in Europe.

After winning promotion to the Premier League at Charlton, he reached the Champions League semi-finals during a memorable era at Leeds, before forming part of the Middlesbrough team that won the club’s first silverware with League Cup success in 2004.

The defender represented England on 19 occasions, including all five games at the 2002 World Cup, and this week we sat down with Mills to discuss his career, at an event hosted by 888sport.

Given the depth of talent he played alongside for club and country, we asked who Mills would select in his best XI of former teammates.

Goalkeeper: Nigel Martyn

An experienced figure in a youthful Leeds side across the turn of the millennium, Martyn remains one of the most under-appreciated goalkeepers of the Premier League era outside of his clubs. He was named in the PFA Team of the Season three times during his six seasons at Elland Road, after twice leading the league for clean sheets.

He made 846 appearances during a club career that took in spells at Bristol Rovers, Crystal Palace, Leeds and Everton and earned 23 caps for England. That latter haul would have significantly swelled, had it not been for the presence of David Seaman.

Right-back: Danny Mills

He has to start in his own side, doesn’t he?

Centre-back: Rio Ferdinand

A teammate for club and country, Ferdinand joined Leeds in an £18m British transfer record deal from West Ham, becoming the most expensive defender in world football in the process. Two seasons later, after helping Leeds to the last four of the Champions League, he broke both records again with a move to Manchester United.

Six titles and the Champions League are counted among his winner’s medals at Old Trafford, alongside 81 caps for England.

Centre-back: John Terry

The steel to the silk of Ferdinand with the national team, John Terry is recognised as one of the great defenders in Premier League history.

He played 717 times for Chelsea and captained the club during their most decorated era, lifting five Premier League titles as captain of the West London side. The first of those saw Terry named PFA Players’ Player of the Year as Chelsea conceded a record low of 15 goals all season. He remains one of just three defenders to win the award in the Premier League era.

Left-back: Ashley Cole

So often a shoo-in for this sort of XI, Ashley Cole was as complete a full-back as we’ve seen in English football.

Three Premier League titles, a record seven FA Cups, the Champions League and 107 caps for England tell the late of the left-back. Mills, when discussing England’s 2002 World Cup campaign, said Cole was ‘on par’ with Brazil’s Roberto Carlos as the best in the world.

Midfield: Olivier Dacourt

Dacourt became Leeds’ record signing when arriving from Lens in a £7.2m deal in 2000, with the arrival of the ex-Everton enforcer adding bite to David O’Leary’s midfield. His first season saw him become a fans’ favourite as Leeds reached the Champions League semi-finals, breaking into the French national side as a result.

He made 80 appearances across three seasons before departing for Roma after a fall-out with O’Leary’s successor, Terry Venables.

‘Great man, great loss’ – Tributes paid to Terry Venables

Midfield: David Batty

Dacourt’s partner in crime in the Leeds midfield, a combination of combative energy in the engine room.

Batty made 373 appearances across two spells at Leeds, first coming through the ranks and starring as the club won the top-flight title in 1992. He won a second league winner’s medal after joining Blackburn Rovers, before returning to Leeds via a spell at Newcastle.

Midfield: Gaizka Mendieta

Gaizka Mendieta’s move to Middlesbrough was one few saw coming, as the North East side secured the signing of the Spanish schemer. Mendieta had become one of world football’s most expensive players when joining Lazio in a €47.7m deal in 2001, before joining Middlesbrough on an initial loan deal two seasons later.

Mills also signed on loan for ‘Boro ahead of the 2003/04 campaign and together the two led the club to a first-ever major trophy, beating Bolton to win the League Cup in Cardiff.

Right-wing: Boudewijn Zenden

Another member of Middlesbrough’s cup-winning team, Boudewijn Zenden signed for Middlesbrough from Chelsea after struggling for status at Stamford Bridge.

He became a firm fans’ favourite at the Riverside and scored the decisive goal in the League Cup final win over Middlesbrough, but spent just two seasons with the club before signing for Liverpool on a free transfer. The Dutchman had earlier won titles with PSV and Barcelona and earned 54 caps for the Netherlands national team.

Left-wing: Harry Kewell

Harry Kewell was often cited as the jewel in Leeds’ crown of emerging talent, with the Australian winger one of the most watchable players in the league at Elland Road.

Boasting a sublime left foot and goal threat, Kewell scored 63 goals in 242 games for Leeds and was named the club’s Player of the Year and the PFA Young Player of the Year in 1999/2000.

Kewell signed for Liverpool in 2003, in the wake of Leeds’ financial meltdown, and won the FA Cup and Champions League with the Reds. However, fitness issues plagued his time at Anfield and prevented him from reaching his full potential.

Wing Wizards: Harry Kewell – The Wizard of Oz

Forward: Mark Viduka

“Mark Viduka on his day was unplayable. Didn’t move, didn’t run, but didn’t need to,” Mills said on the Australian forward.

Signed from Celtic after impressing north of the border, Viduka made a major impact a Leeds, scoring 72 goals in just 166 appearances in all competitions at Elland Road.

A real handful with a deceptively nimble footwork and a delightful first touch, he memorably scored all four goals in a 4-3 win over Liverpool.

Read – Iconic Performances: Four-midable Viduka downs Liverpool

See more – Remembering the Leeds team that reached the 2001 Champions League semi-finals

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