Neymar, Pogba & Ronaldo: The Worst Best Starting XI We Could Imagine

Talent doesn't guarantee success. It doesn't take a genius or Ph.D. in history to know this. 

In the 2003-04 season, for example, Real Madrid boasted a ridiculous lineup including David Beckham, Ronaldo, Zinedine Zidane, and Luis Figo. Halfway through the season, it looked as if they were going to steamroll everybody: They won their group in the Champions League and they topped the La Liga table. Los Blancos were humming. 

Then everything fell apart. 

After losing the Copa del Rey final in March, the team was ousted from European play by Monaco in the quarterfinals, and in Spain they lost their last five games (!) — and seven of their final 10 — to finish the season in fourth place. 

It happens in other sports too, of course. There's the bronze-medal Dream Team of 2004 and many editions of the Los Angeles Lakers and New York Yankees. 

So on a vaguely related note I decided to think of 11 top players in the world and put them on the same team in the worst possible combination. Here are the rules:

  1. Each player must be the only representative of his team (i.e., can't choose two Barcelona players, much as we may wish to).
  2. The player has to be considered one of the better or best at his position in the world (I may have cheated a little bit here, but I tried relatively hard to abide by the rule).

That's pretty much it. So here's the worst best starting 11:

4-2-3-1

Manager: Antonio Conte 

Luis Suarez

Cristiano Ronaldo | Neymar | Raheem Sterling

Paul Pogba | Sergej Milinkovic-Savic

Marcelo | Harry Maguire | David Luiz | Kieran Trippier

Manuel Neuer

First of all, I should acknowledge that, yeah, this is obviously a very good team and is probably going to do some serious damage no matter what. But I think otherwise I've selected a pretty dysfunctional group of players, both as individuals and in tandem interactions, both in the "explosive personality" department and in terrible tactical combinations.

What's more, I added Antonio Conte to the mix as manager with a formation he doesn't really like but which, with this group of players, he essentially has to run. (I suppose he could also try a 4-2-4, but let's leave it like this for now). 

Let's get to the issues. Some are inherent (Neymar is a walking issue), some are caused by smaller combinations in a unit or flank, and some are caused by the fact that Conte is steering the ship. 

First, with the insanely intense and pressing Conte as manager, this is a team filled with guys who aren't really committed to defensive intensity. Even Max Allegri last year at Juventus could only get Ronaldo to retreat to the final third in the waning moments of a close game. Try telling Ronaldo, Neymar, and Suarez that they've got to be pressing for 90 minutes. Not going to end well! 

The next thing that jumps out to me is the absolutely shreddable left side of this team. This is probably the weakest link. Sure, in theory a Marcelo-Pogba-Ronaldo connection sounds like a walk in goal-scoring dreamland, but if the opponent has any pace on the right side — hell, even if they have one great right winger — my confidence level in the defensive abilities and commitment on that side is not very high. 

Looking at the attackers, I just can't imagine a Ronaldo-Neymar-Suarez trio getting along very well, and if they are getting along, I can't see them ever passing to poor Sterling on the right wing, who's a fantastic player probably going to be starved of touches in this scenario. This is going to cause a ripple effect of mood swings, really deflating Sterling and discouraging him from helping out Trippier in the fullback position. 

Speaking of the defense — how Maguire is going to sell for €75 million or whatever the price is now is beyond me, but the market says he's one of the best center backs in the world so I put him in here. The main liability under the pressing and Conte situation is his lack of pace; he's going to get burned one-on-one in counter-attacks with this outfit, since 90 percent of the team is going to be idling about in the attacking third; Luiz is just kind of shrimpy. 

The midfield is a thing that may happen — actually, we could wind up seeing Milinkovic-Savic and Maguire join Pogba at United; wouldn't that be something? — and again on paper it sounds very good. Offensively speaking, it'd be dynamite. Both Pogba and SMS are silky smooth, creative, and can whip the ball around the field. Neither, though, is what you'd call a defensive stalwart; nobody is going to mistake one of those guys for Casemiro.

Finally, Neuer isn't very good anymore; it's science. 

So there it is: the definitive worst best 11 in soccer. Let us know on Twitter if you've got an alternative worst best 11.

First Half Own Goal Gives D.C. United Huge Victory Over Portland Timbers

In 90 minutes of rain, D.C. United emerged victorious in the Pacific Northwest, benefitting from an own goal in a 1-0 win against the Portland Timbers. Bill Tuiloma knocked in Ulises Segura's cross in the 25th minute, giving United their second consecutive win, both of which came away from the friendly confines at Audi Field. The win elevated the Black-and-Red to fourth place in the Eastern Conference, a position that could change depending on other results on Sunday.

D.C. United In Position To Solidify Playoff Position With PDX Trip

After two weeks off for the international break, D.C. United are back in action on Sunday afternoon as they travel cross-country to take on the Portland Timbers. A win could see the Black-and-Red vault back into fourth place in the Eastern Conference after they were surpassed midweek by Toronto FC, who moved into fourth on the goal differential tiebreaker. Both teams currently occupy a playoff spot at the moment but need a win to cement their standing.

4 Notes From The Opening Rounds Of The Concacaf Nations League

The opening two rounds of the Concacaf Nations League are in the books, and we now have a clearer picture of which nations might punch their tickets to bigger and better things or tumble down into a lower league. 

Final 4 Weeks Of MLS Season Should Provide Plenty Of Drama

With the new schedule this year, Major League Soccer has a couple more sprints before the finish of the 2019 season. With the new playoff schedule, the second season is much shorter this year, after having to deal with the November international window smack dab in the middle of the playoffs. This year the playoffs are sandwiched between the October and November FIFA windows, which will help produce an MLS Cup winner in a whirlwind of a playoff schedule.

The Gap Between US & Mexico Is Widening On The International Stage

Rewind the tape to last September, when the USA and Mexico faced off in a friendly in Nashville. Tyler Adams helped the USMNT grab a 1-0 victory under the guidance of interim manager Dave Sarachan. What might be most memorable from that game, though, was the towering center back Matt Miazga reminding Mexican youngster Diego Lainez just how much shorter the then 18-year-old was than Miazga.

Trinidad & Tobago Struggle In Opening Rounds Of Concacaf Nations League

Though it may have been just a consolation prize considering their last-place finish in the Hex, Trinidad & Tobago’s shocking win over the United States at the tail end of 2017 was ample reason for the small nation to celebrate. 

4 Games Left To Decide D.C. United's MLS Playoff Standing

The last time D.C. United took the field in a competitive MLS game, they did their playoff chances a world of good. In a crucial showdown against the Montreal Impact on August 31, the Black-and-Red repeatedly punched their opponents in the mouth over the first 45 minutes of the game, picking up a 3-0 win that massively helped ease the pressure on a playoff race that was rapidly tightening up.

Concaclusions, Ep. 1: Nations League Matchday 1 & Mexico Dominate USA

null

From clutch finishes to a surprise resignation, the last week of Concacaf action featured just about everything imaginable as the inaugural Nations League is now underway. Away from the opening round of the tournament, Mexico were busy flexing their muscles in front of a rain-soaked crowd at MetLife Stadium. 

The Favorites Roll, Curaçao Narrowly Beats Haiti & More From Days 2 & 3

null

The past two days of the Concacaf Nations League has provided plenty of drama, decisive results, and world-class goals for everyone to enjoy. With games across all three leagues in the competition, some storylines are already beginning to play out throughout the competition, as we move on to the second match day, beginning on Monday.

Unexpected Concacaf Twist: Gustavo Matosas Stepping Down Because Of Boredom

The Concacaf Nations League began play this week and is sure to provide plenty of drama on the field over the next couple of months. Countries are vying to move to the semifinal round, or avoid relegation, or even jump up a league through promotion. There's always some element of unpredictability in these games, leading to shock results and standout performances from unheralded players.