A Combined XI of players playing in European capitals
It is accepted the world over that of all the countries to play football in, the ones in Europe are the most prestigious. With some of the world's most historic and successful clubs being based in Europe, as well as the immense popularity the sport enjoys there, it is no wonder that playing in a top European league is a massive pull for players from around the world.
In this article, we will attempt to create a team using players who play for the capital-based clubs in Europe's top 5 leagues. The capitals we have available to us are London (England), Madrid (Spain), Rome (Italy), Paris (France) and Berlin (Germany). By extension, the clubs for us to choose from are Arsenal, Chelsea, Tottenham Hotspur, West Ham United and Crystal Palace (London), Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid (Madrid), Roma and Lazio (Rome), Paris Saint-Germain (Paris) and Hertha Berlin and Union Berlin (Berlin).
Since we have a total of 12 clubs, we have decided to limit ourselves to just one player per team, as well as a 12th man. Without any further ado, let's get into it.
12th man: Sebastian Andersson (Union Berlin)
To start off, we have our benchwarmer, Sweden and Union Berlin centre-forward Sebastian Andersson. Given that this is Union's first-ever season in Germany's top flight, their players are not quite of the standard of the rest of our team and hence, Andersson will have to settle for a place on the bench.
A physical presence, Andersson is a striker in the old mould, relying on his strength and superb aerial ability to make the most of chances, and look to score himself or set up team-mates. If Union are to stay up this season, he will have a big part to play in it.
Goalkeeper: Jan Oblak (Atletico Madrid)
In between the sticks for our capitals side is none other than Atletico Madrid and Slovenia keeper Jan Oblak. Already considered one of the top custodians in world football, Oblak has been more than a worthy successor to the likes of David de Gea and Thibaut Courtois at club level and Samir Handanovic on the international stage.
Still only 26, Oblak is relatively young for a goalkeeper and could easily still have a decade left at the very top level of the game. Blessed with cat-like reflexes, he is able to pull off several saves that other keepers cannot, from long range, medium range and most impressively he is excellent close in and in one-on-one situations. His tall frame, combined with his agility and quickness of feet make him a daunting obstacle for any striker in the game.
Right Back: Alessandro Florenzi (Roma)
Our first representative from the Italian capital of Rome is Roma right-back Alessandro Florenzi, who started his senior career with the club in 2011 and has been with them ever since, taking over the captaincy this season following the departure of club legend Daniele de Rossi.
Used as a shuttling, box-to-box midfielder in his early days at Roma, Florenzi has a wide range of skills that enable him to play multiple positions. While he is excellent technically, he is also an extremely hard worker, which has led to managers using him not only in midfield but as a winger in a 4-4-2, a wing-back in 3 at the back systems and more recently, as a full-back who poses a goalscoring threat. Bombing up and down the flank, Florenzi provides both solid defensive cover as well as being a credible attacking influence.
Centre Back: Sergio Ramos (Real Madrid)
Where to start with Sergio Ramos? The Seville native came through the ranks at his local club, Sevilla, before making the move to Real Madrid at the age of 19, in 2005. A serial winner, Ramos has been a mainstay in Los Blancos' backline for nearly 15 years now and is one of the greatest defenders of his generation.
A no-nonsense, hard as nails tackler, Ramos has received widespread criticism for his uncompromising nature at times, but more often than not receives plaudits for the way he goes about his work. Though brash at times, he has an excellent footballing brain and a competitive streak which can do him more harm than good. His goalscoring record is also exceptionally good, with an average of 1 every 7 games for Madrid, an extremely commendable ratio for a defender.
Centre Back: Toby Alderweireld (Tottenham Hotspur)
Over the last 20 years or so, football has seen a dramatic shift in many aspects of the game; not least concerning the role of the centre-back. In days bygone, they were expected to simply clear the ball out of danger, but with the emphasis on passing football nowadays, they are expected to be confident in possession and calm under pressure. One player who exemplifies these traits is Tottenham Hotspur and Belgium centre back Toby Alderweireld.
Across his career, Alderweireld has always been a calming influence for his teammates, whether in possession or out of it. Just as good at 'proper' defending as he is at often knitting play together from deep, he has some of the best mental attributes of any player in world football. Alderweireld is out of contract in the summer, and may not be at Tottenham next season, but wherever he ends up, he is sure to be a valuable asset.
Left Back: Patrick van Aanholt (Crystal Palace)
Given that Patrick van Aanholt is not an 'elite' full-back, it may, at first glance, seem surprising that he has been included in this team. But, given our self-imposed restrictions, it is easier to see that he certainly deserves his place in our squad.
Van Aanholt has always been an extremely capable two-way full-back, contributing heavily to both attacking and defensive phases of play with equal effectiveness. His pace makes him extremely dangerous going forwards and his uncanny ability to strike the ball sweetly has led to him scoring more than his fair share of goals.
He is also an effective set-piece provider, which makes him an extremely well-rounded player to have in the team. van Aanholt has also played 9 times for the Dutch national team and will be hoping to make manager Ronald Koeman's squad for the 2020 European Championships.
Defensive Midfielder: Declan Rice (West Ham United)
At the base of our midfield, playing the screening role is London native and West Ham United academy graduate Declan Rice. Rice started his career in Chelsea's youth academy but switched over to the Hammers and has become a key player for manager Manuel Pellegrini.
Also capable of playing at centre-back and further forward in midfield, Rice's best position is as the holding midfielder, looking to break up opposition play and get his team on the front foot with his sharp, accurate passing.
So far this season, he has formed a superb partnership with club captain Mark Noble and even made his England debut earlier this year. Linked with the likes of Manchester United and Manchester City in the summer, Rice could leave West Ham sooner rather than later.
Central Midfielder: Sergej Milinkovic-Savic (Lazio)
Our second Roman representative is Serbian international Sergej Milinkovic-Savic, who represents the other half of the Italian capital, Lazio. Starting his career in his homeland with FK Vojvodina before moving to Belgian side Genk, subsequently transferring to Italy in 2015.
Dubbed 'the Serbian Paul Pogba', Milinkovic-Savic is a complete midfielder in every sense of the word. Standing at 6 feet 3 inches tall, Sergej, as he is more commonly known, has the height as well as the strength to dominate opponents in the middle of the park.
He also has the energy to constantly get up and down the pitch and is technically adept as well, thus enabling him to blend the best traits of a defensive, box-to-box and attacking midfielder all into one player.
Central Midfielder: N'Golo Kante (Chelsea)
Partnering Rice and Milinkovic-Savic in midfield for our capitals team is a man who never stops smiling off the pitch and never stops running on it. N'Golo Kante is perhaps the best defensive midfielder in the world today and his development as an attacking force as well spells danger for opposition teams.
One of the driving forces behind Leicester City's fairytale triumph in 2016, Kante has excelled even after moving on, showcasing his extraordinary skillset at Chelsea and for France, with whom he lifted the World Cup in 2018.
Kante is a machine, as his exceptional stamina and reading of the game, combined with an exceptional reading of the game make him almost impossible to bypass and as a result, his opponents are often suffocated in the middle of the park.
Right Winger: Dodi Lukebakio (Hertha Berlin)
The first of our three forwards is Hertha Berlin winger Dodi Lukebakio. A Belgian national, Lukebakio came through the ranks of the famed RSC Anderlecht academy, spending time out on loan before securing a move to English side Watford in 2018.
He spent last season on loan at Bundesliga side Fortuna Dusseldorf and was purchased by Hertha this summer after scoring 10 league goals in his solitary Bundesliga season till date. Uncharacteristically tall for a winger, Lukebakio measures in at 6 foot 2 and profiles somewhat similarly to Manchester City winger Leroy Sane.
He is quick and direct and is capable of playing on either flank, although his preferred position is the right-wing, from where he can cut inside onto his favoured left foot.
Left Winger: Kylian Mbappe (Paris Saint-Germain)
At this stage, there isn't much to say about Kylian Mbappe that most people don't know already. Graduating from the Monaco academy, going on to represent the first-team at the age of just 16, Mbappe is quite possibly one of the top 3 players in the world at the moment. Already a World Cup winner, Mbappe is still just 20 but has a goalscoring record many strikers would be happy to retire with.
101 goals in 172 club appearances, plus 13 in 33 for the French national team makes for extremely impressive reading. His blistering pace and brilliant close control of the ball make him nearly impossible to stop.
Add to that his unerring ability to find the net and you have a player who is capable of breaking record after record, no matter how out of reach it seems. The winner of the inaugural Kopa Trophy, Mbappe is set to become a legend of the game for years to come.
Striker: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Arsenal)
To round off our team, we have our Arsenal player, and the second player based in North London. Gabonese hitman Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is one of the deadliest strikers in the world and has been for a while now. Perhaps the most prolific forward since Thierry Henry to pull on the red and white for Arsenal (although Robin van Persie might have something to say about that), 'Auba' has been a sensation.
With the rest of the team (especially the defence) crashing and burning around him, his focus has been laser-sharp. His job is to score goals, and it is solely thanks to the former Borussia Dortmund man that Arsenal are not lower down in the table than they already are, given their patchy form.
Blessed with fantastic speed, he can burn anyone in a footrace, and can finish unerringly even at full tilt, an attribute several strikers would kill for.