The World Cup is now in full flow and has already provided plenty of stories and decent games for us all to enjoy with our halloumi burgers this summer.
As usual there are plenty of the Premier League’s finest on display. So let’s take a punt at the best XI in Russia who earn their crust in the heady world of England’s top flight. We’re going with a 4-3-3 formation, so let’s get cracking.
David De Gea – United and Spain
It couldn’t really have been anyone else could it? The Spanish stopper has been the one consistent world class player at Old Trafford since Sir Alex retired in 2013. De Gea is capable of stunning reflex saves and is a commanding presence behind his defensive lines. He is now Spain’s fully fledged number one and despite his howler against Portugal, is one of the best in the world. Spain are in safe hands with him between the sticks in Russia.
Cedric – Southampton and Portugal
A bit of a surprise one, but the Portuguese right back is part of a solid defensive units for his country and perhaps proof that not all is lost for Southampton fans. Decent on the ball and strong in the tackle, he could join the rest of his national team mates as surprise packages this year. He played an important part in the 2016 success for his country; that experience could prove vital.
John Stones – Manchester City and England
It’s hard to believe the Stones is still only twenty-four years old. He seems to have been around for a lot longer and plays with real maturity and quality. The Manchester City defender is composed and neat on the ball, whilst also a towering influence in the back four. His two goals against Panama were his first for England and he looks a lot more at ease in the limelight these days. A top player with an exciting future ahead of him, Stones could well pinch the armband of Harry Kane as some point.
Jan Vertonghen – Spurs and Belgium
A crucial player for club and country, the big Belgian is a real quality piece of work at the back. His reading of the game and positional play are some of the best in Europe and he is a true leader. A timeless centre-half who has flourished everywhere he has been. He will be vital for Belgian hopes in Russia this year.
Cesar Azpilicueta – Chelsea and Spain
One of the most consistent defenders in the Premier League, it is perhaps a show of how strong Spain are, that he is not always a first pick for his country. When he does play he is a strong defender with real quality in the tackle and the capacity to confidently join the attacks. A real modern day full back who Chelsea may struggle to keep if the storm clouds continue to gather at The Bridge.
Defensive Midfielder –
N’golo Kante Chelsea and France
Since his Premier League debut in 2015 Kante has had the critics purring and fellow pros applauding. The diminutive holding midfielder has already grabbed a couple of league titles and an FA cup as well as being in two Premier League teams of the season.
He is now also a key cog in the French machine in Russia. He must cover every millimetre of the pitch in every game he plays and is deceptively skilful on the ball. A real asset to any team, Kante’s tackling and distribution will be key for the French campaign.
David Silva – Manchester City and Spain
The evergreen David Silva just has to be in this team. He’s a class act plain and simple. It’s hard not to admire his quality on the ball, his fantastic vision and eye for a killer pass. He has been crucial to every team he has played in and at thirty-two he is still as good as he was five years ago. The goals have gone in with more frequency too, perhaps as he has grown in confidence after stepping out of the shadows of Xavi and Iniesta. He could win a fourth major honour for his country if Spain succeeds in Russia. Show off.
Kevin De Bruyne – Manchester City and Belgium
The man from Gent has been one of the best players in the world for the past few seasons. He has that rare ability to think and see the game two or three paces faster than the average player and is now firmly established as a darling boy of the purists. His goals range from the spectacular to great and he is selfless attacker, happy to be a provider as well as a scorer. He wouldn’t be out of place in any side in the world and could just be the motor to take Belgium all the way.
Mo Salah – Liverpool and Egypt
Hard not to put the golden boot winner in wasn’t it. Salah has been on fire for the past two seasons. A few people were skeptical about whether his form with Roma would translate over to Liverpool. It did, and he was superb. A scorer of every type of goal, the Egyptian has received hero status in his country as he guided the African side to a World Cup Finals for the first time in almost three decades. Egypt may have fallen at the first hurdle but there is no doubt that Mo is one of the Premier League’s best players active in Russia this summer.
Harry Kane – Spurs and England
Again, hard to ignore the Spurs forward who keeps growing and growing. Every side with ambition to win the top honours needs someone like Kane. A born and bred goal scorer, like Salah, he is capable of poacher’s goals and top class strikes that leave the opposition shell shocked. He is growing in stature by the day and looks a real leader; his goals could take England very far this year. Wrap in cotton wool please Mr Southgate.
Sadio Mane – Liverpool and Senegal
The popular Senegalese winger has gone from a wildcard signing by Jurgen Klopp to one of Europe’s top forwards. Exceptionally hard working and with real ability to dribble and finish at pace, Mane is a player for the very best sides in the world. He is understated in his role and very rarely do you see an anonymous shift put in from the wide man. If the African nation can get some momentum behind them, then he will be pivotal to their success.