David Alaba: The most complete footballer in the world
Some people have it all, and in a footballing sense, those people are very good to have around. The complete player is able to play pretty much anywhere on the pitch, be it in attack or defense. A sharp shooter, capable of using both feet, heading, passing, tackling, intercepting and inspiring those around him, the skill set of a complete player, who could be worth millions to his side.
For once there is going to be a discussion about the best in the world, albeit Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi. Simply put, they both have been the best players of our generation and their records and achievements will stand tall forever. However, there is no denying the fact that they are not the most complete players in the world currently.
CR7 is a more complete attacking player than Messi, Messi is more creative than Ronaldo, and still it doesn't qualify them to be a complete player as they both come up miles short in their defensive duties and capabilities. Also with the attacking players/strikers taking all the plaudits for a long time, for once we are trying to give credit to the Engine room players who work their socks off and give it all on the football field at both ends of the pitch.
It is difficult to draw parallels between cricket and football, but for a better idea of any complete player one can easily look at the achievements of the great Sir Garfield Sobers. He is the perfect example of a complete player. He could do everything on a cricket field. He batted like a dream averaging 56 in that era, bowled left arm fast, swung it both ways; bowled left-arm wrist spin, orthodox spin, and on top of that was a great fielder too.
He could bat both aggressively and resolutely as and how the situation demanded, for he was the first person to score 6 sixes in an over in First class cricket. He is the greatest and most complete cricketer there ever was. Likewise, we are looking at the possible footballing equivalent of Gary Sobers.
Over the years, Duncan Edwards, the shining light of the generation of the Busby Babes, became the subject of British folklore for his ability to play in every outfield position on the pitch and still be the best player of the game (he actually started a game for Manchester United as a striker, but ended it playing as a central defender in place of an injured teammate). He was the Ballon d’Or 2nd runner-up at the age of 20 and if not for that tragic Munich disaster, he might have ended up in the same pedestal as Pele, Alfredo di Stefano etc.
Franz Beckenbauer is another player whose name springs to mind when we think of a complete footballer. "Der Kaiser" is arguably the greatest ball playing centre-back to have ever played the game. He gave the position sweeper-defender a new meaning and till date what he has accomplished in that position is unmatched.
He started his career as a midfielder, in fact, in the 1966 World Cup he scored 4 goals playing as a defensive midfielder. He was an inspirational captain who led his country to a World Cup and Euro victory. With the ridiculous amounts being paid to modern day footballers, Der Kaiser would easily be had he been playing in this day and age.
There are so many other players in the vast history of football who were authoritative in the game everywhere on the pitch. Honorable mentions include Johan Cruyff, Pele, Di Stéfano, Michel Platini, Zinedine Zidane, Diego Maradona, etc. However, like Ronaldo and Messi their defensive attributes are not something they are well-known for.
Philipp Lahm (Germany, Bayern Munich)
Over the last decade or so, there have been few reliable players like Philipp Lahm. Solid as a defender, creative as a midfielder. The diminutive German has been at his absolute best wherever he has played on the pitch. Considering the plethora of midfielders at Germany’s disposal, that Lahm managed to start as a midfielder in the group stages of the 2014 World Cup – is the true testament of his abilities.
"Philipp Lahm is perhaps the most intelligent player I have ever trained in my career. He is at another level", Guardiola told reporters, high praise coming from a man who has coached the likes of Messi, Andres Iniesta and Xavi.
For a defender who has played over 600 games, his disciplinary record of 0 red cards is something that has to be lauded. Over the last 3 years, he played as a defensive midfielder, right-back, left-back and central defender as part of a 3 man false centre-back system employed by Guardiola. He is comfortable playing in any position on the field and is one of the faces of German football since the turn of the century; there are few players more deserving of lifting the World Cup as a captain.
Paul Pogba (France, Juventus)
OK, probably a bit too early to be considered for this, but such has been his development that every big club in the world is in the queue to sign him for any price. There is absolutely no team in the world that he cannot improve, be it the Tiki-Taka of Barca/Bayern, counter-attacking style of Real Madrid/Borussia Dortmund, fast-paced English football and the tactically astute Italian league. In 4 years time, he has gone from a player who couldn't break through into Manchester United midfield to the most sought after footballers in the world.
Pogba is a complete midfielder who is special because he provides goals, two-footed play, precision passing, strong and elegant tackling (both standing challenges and slide tackles), rock solid shielding of the ball, guile and trickery on the ball, and tireless running. Pogba scores volleys from distance with both feet. He plays soft chips that meet their target in stride. He plays one-touch soccer, and he recovers the ball almost as soon as he or his teammates have lost possession.
With the ongoing Euros in France, the entire world will be keenly watching if he can take France to the summit of the continental championship like a certain Zidane did.