Each week two presenters from the panel will go head-to-head in naming the best XI they can think of, with a twist. In the first instalment of our brand-spanking new feature, Jamie “Loving Carlisle” Connor has pipped for “Beard” whereas Harry “Don’t like Photos” (in-joke, there folks) Barker has chosen “Bald” and that’s where we start; let battle commence!
The Gaffer – Gianluca Vialli:
Italians pride themselves on their grooming ability, as well demonstrated in Jamie’s Bearded XI. The same however, cannot be said for former Chelsea boss and fellow Italian Vialli who has very little to groom.
Goalkeeper – Brad Friedel:
Friedel made an appearance in the Premier League recently at the age of 42. He hasn’t made an appearance in a Barber shop for the last ten years.
Right Back – Lillian Thuram:
Probably the best right-back of our generation and similarly to Leboeuf was in the World Cup and Euro winning tournaments. Also similarly to Leboeuf, bald.
Centre Back – Jaap Stam:
Memorable for his penalty miss in Euro 2000 that recently landed in my back garden, but also for his remarkably bald head. I’m being harsh on him; he was a mammoth for the Red Devils’, enough to give him the nod ahead of the likes of Martin Skrtel.
Centre Back – Frank Leboeuf:
This man has done it all. A World Cup, European Championship, two FA Cup’s and a League Cup to reel of Lebouef’s honours list. A career that shine’s as bright as his noggin!
Left Back – Roberto Carlos:
The most consistently bald man in the entire team. Fillipo Inzaghi was born to the sight of midwives waving off-side flags and hasn’t been on-side since; Carlos was born without hair and that’s how it’s remained since.
Right Midfield – Arjen Robben:
This man was balding when he joined Chelsea at the age of 20. I’m not sure he’s had a full head of hair in his life. Though there may be concerns over his ability to grow hair and maybe his attitude too, his ability as a winger could not be overlooked in my side.
Centre Midfield – Wesley Sneijder:
Sneijder’s hair problem may have improved mysteriously over the last few years but make no mistake, the Dutchman has hair-loss problems. There was no doubting these problems as he guided the Netherlands to a World Cup Final and Inter Milan to a Champions League title.
Centre Midfield – Temuri Ketsbaia:
I had to include a Newcastle man in this XI, and who better than the mad-man himself. More memorable for his OTT celebrations, one where he memorably kicked seven shades of sh*t out of an innocent advertising board, rumour has it the advertisement was for hair dye. The Georgian took offence.
Left Midfield – Zinedine Zidane:
No bald XI would ever be complete without this man. My chrome-domed captain, “Zizou”. Arguably the best player of his generation which thankfully meant his baldness took a backseat.
Striker – Jan Koller:
Would also be at home in a “Giants” XI. It was hard to miss Jan Koller and just as hard to miss his impressively bald head.
Striker – Carsten Jancker:
We remember him well because he scored the early goal that made the Germans think they were going to thump us back in 2001. The rest is history, and so is his hairless head.
And the opposition
The Gaffer – Pep Guardiola
Arguably the most trendy manager there has ever been. (Mourinho and AVB dont even come close in my book.) Guardiola now blesses Bayern Munich with his presence and that fine beard is seen on a regular basis in Munich. If people think that Xavi, Iniesta or Messi were the catalysts to Barca’s success, they should think again. Of course it wasn’t them, it was Guardiola’s beard. Don’t ever shave Pep.
Goalkeeper – Tim Howard
Where did that majestic beard come from? It grew over night it seems. After saving a Christian Benteke penalty in October, he told The Metro “I think I’ve gained most of my strength from the beard.” Easily the greatest beard ever owned by a professional goalkeeper. Fair play Tim Howard.
Right Back – Abel Xavier
Renowned for his bleach blonde beard and hair, Xavier is an easily identifiable man. With a style like no one else, Xavier made a career out of looking cool. I was never his biggest fan as a player but how could he not be named in a bearded XI? Top beard lad!
Centre Back – Gerard Pique
When Pique was at Manchester United, he was clean shaven and only played 12 times. Since growing a beard Pique has won four La Liga titles, two Champions Leagues, one World Cup and a European Championship, (to name a few). Is it a coincidence that all his success came while owning a beard? No Chance!
Centre Back – Olof Mellberg
Quite reminiscent of a tramp, Mellberg has always had a beard. The former Aston Villa man came out of the womb sporting a mask of facial hair. An original beard trend setter, he is the heart beat of my bearded XI.
Left Back – Gianluca Zambrotta
I struggled finding a worthy left back with a quality beard so I had to settle for Zambrotta. Not a bad thing. This Italian footballing icon has sported a beard for years. Legend has it, if Zambrotta hadn’t had his beard during the 2006 World Cup, Italy would have lost. I rest my case. Gianluca, congratulations, you’ve made the bearded XI.
Defensive Midfield – Gennaro Gattuso
This fearless and ferocious midfielder protected Milan’s back four for 13 years. An original trend setter, Gattuso has sported his beard ever since he put on a Milan jersey. Crunching into a tackle with Gattuso is made all the more terrifying when you take his beard into account.
Right Midfield – David Beckham
I don’t really admire Beckham as much as most but I have to say that he knows how to handle a beard. Yes, David Beckham has embraced the beard in a whole new way. For years people have imitated Becks and his style and now many are attempting to copy his immaculate facial hair. I tried my hardest to think of another winger who has had a beard but couldn’t so hey, Becks, you’re up!
Centre Midfield – Andrea Pirlo
Easily the best beard I have ever seen in my entire life, Andrea Pirlo sports a fantastic beard. I first noticed it during Euro 2012 and since then it has continued to evolve. Adored by football hipsters for his playing style and of course his beard, Pirlo has become somewhat of a cult hero. For a reason unknown to me, Pirlo has only been recently seen as one the world’s best midfielders. I’m putting it down to the emergence of that outstanding beard. Congratulations Pirlo, you win at life!
Centre Midfield – Xabi Alonso
The Real Madrid playmaker rocks that ginger beard like no other could. Not only is Alonso a wonderful footballer and the fulcrum of one of the world’s most famous clubs, he has a phenomenal beard that has to be respected. Thanks to Xabi Alonso, it is now deemed acceptable to have some ginger fuzz on your face. Congratulations gingers. (Mawky will be pleased)
Left Midfield – Robert Pires
Although there wasn’t much hair on his face, Pires and his tiny hair strip on his chin was just as impressive as a full grown beard. Imagine the effort and time he put into maintaining that strip every morning. Granted, it does look ridiculous but so does wearing a hair band when you’re a man so fair play to him for that. Pires is only included in my team because of the amount of effort he made with his facial hair. More a sympathy vote than anything.
Striker – Djibril Cisse
Cisse is the owner of arguably the most outrageous fashion sense of any professional footballer. He will always be remembered for having crazy looking bleach blonde hair and beard. Not many people could pull it off but because it’s Djibril, we will let him away with it. Cisse has a lot of work to do being the lone striker in my team, but the power of his beard will help him through.
and of course…
The Chairmen – Harry Barker & Jamie Connor