- Top Tens
The expensive England XI (not in current squad)Ben Blackmore March 22, 2013
England are expected to hammer a San Marino side on Friday who don't even get paid to represent their national team. A far cry from the six-figure weekly packet picked up by Messrs Rooney, Gerrard and Co, the reward for San Marino's stars is the honour of sharing the same pitch.
Such is the gulf between the two nations that Roy Hodgson can overlook an England XI - shown below - that (based on transfer fees alone) is worth close to £200 million. We're cheating by turning our Top Tens into an Expensive Eleven this week, but here's our alternative England team...
Bought by Gerard Houllier for £6 million, it is often forgotten that Chris Kirkland went on to play in four of six group games in Liverpool's memorable Champions League run of 2004-05. However, the fact Jerzy Dudek went down in Liverpool folklore as a hero for his wonder saves in the final tells much about Kirkland's time at Anfield. "Mr Glass" was constantly injured, he appeared to take up a starting position too far from his line, and by the time he departed he was even behind the equally over-billed Scott Carson in the pecking order.
Still, not all was lost for Kirkland, whose father had combined with a group of friends to place £100 each at 100/1 on his 11-year-old to play for England by the age of 30. Having left Liverpool, Kirkland earned his one and only international cap in 2006 against Greece.
Purchased for a fee in the region of £7 million by Chelsea and then £10 million by Manchester City, you might expect Wayne Bridge to boast a slightly better resume. Yes he has won a Premier League title, an FA Cup and a League Cup. Yes he has 36 England caps, yielding one goal. But arguably his most defining moment on a football pitch came when he refused to shake John Terry's hand after his international team-mate had reportedly had an affair with Bridge's ex-girlfriend.
Nowadays Bridge finds himself on loan at Brighton, looking forward to his Saturdays... or one in particular.
"Rio hasn't become unpatriotic overnight." That was the assessment of Frank Lampard after Ferdinand rejected Hodgson's recent invite to the England fold - citing his special fitness schedule at Manchester United as the reason. Of course, Rio is the brother of Anton, who was involved in a case of racial abuse with John Terry - a charge of which the Chelsea man was eventually cleared. Rio was was left out of Euro 2012 by Hodgson for "footballing reasons", which at the time unofficially translated to: It's you or Terry.
Still the most expensive English defender in football history, Ferdinand joined Manchester United in 2002 for £29.1 million. He has 81 caps to his name as well as five league titles and one Champions League, yet still got pipped for the Euro 2012 squad by the likes of Joleon Lescott. We await official clarification on the meaning of "footballing reasons".
Leeds, Newcastle, Real Madrid and Tottenham... Jonathan Woodgate's CV lists some impressive clubs. And at his peak he commanded a fee of £13.4 million when he made the switch to El Santiago Bernabeu. However, his trophy cabinet is rather less substantial, currently showcasing the odd alice band, a League Cup and - after a catalogue injuries - probably a degree in surgery.
Woodgate won eight caps for England, using his speed and reading of a game to outwit rival attackers. Currently at Middlesbrough, he is one of a select group to play on both Tyneside and Teesside, but his crowning career moment had to be his Madrid debut, when he scored a blinding own goal (with a header) before getting sent off.
At right-back we have £16.5 million Phil Jones, whose brief career has fluctuated as often as his availability. Signed by Manchester United as a centre-back "in the Nemanja Vidic mould", he suddenly became dubbed "the new Bryan Robson" after a couple of barnstorming runs into opposing penalty areas. Of course, such a knee-jerk reaction overlooked the fact Jones lacks an ability to spray the ball around, and he was perhaps as exposed as anybody in United's shock 2011 Champions League exit to Basel, when he started in midfield.
At his best, Jones is a dogged defender who sticks to his task and provides lung-busting runs forward, and he showed his best side in the first leg of United's recent clash with Real Madrid, when he made a goal-saving block to deny Cristiano Ronaldo. Ruled out of the return leg by injury, he was robbed of the chance to prove he may be "the new Gary Neville".
Operating at the base of our diamond in midfield is the rich man's Xabi Alonso (according to Rafael Benitez). Yes it is well known that Benitez wanted to offload Alonso to bring Barry to Liverpool - eventually sparking the end of the Spaniard's career at Anfield. Liverpool have never been the same since.
Instead it was Manchester City who snapped up Barry for a cheeky £12 million, clearly viewing him as a preferable option to the forgettable Ousmane Dabo. To be fair to Barry he's picked up a Premier League crown, an FA Cup and 53 England caps, yet it's difficult to shift that image of him wading through treacle as Germany knocked England out of the 2010 World Cup.
"The next David Beckham", which would have been true had the lesser-known DB had the same talent, work ethic or underwear deal. For a while it did look like David Bentley might be an England star, boasting a lovely set-piece, a cunning cross and an eye for the spectacular. It was enough to convince Spurs to part with over £15 million for his services, which ultimately proved a waste. Bentley, now on loan at Blackburn, won only seven England caps and can count the Vodacom Challenge trophy among his biggest achievements.
A Kenny Dalglish panic buy? Stewart Downing was bought by Liverpool for between £16-£20 million and did not contribute an assist or goal in the Premier League in an entire season - as a winger. Bought from Aston Villa where, to be fair, Downing had been one of the stand-out players, he nevertheless always looked overprice compared to Chelsea's capture of Juan Mata the same summer. An impartial observer would have to say that has proved the case since, although Brendan Rodgers has at least found some semblance of form from Downing (nothing ground-breaking). Roy Hodgson's decision not to pick Downing in a squad lacking any left-footed wingers does tell its own story though.
Completing our diamond is little Shaun Wright-Phillips, the £21 million misjudgement of Jose Mourinho. To be fair to Mourinho and Chelsea, Wright-Phillips had pace to burn, could score from range, beat players for fun and was voted Young Player of the Year four years in succession. However, when you've got stars such as Salomon Kalou in front of you it is difficult to make an impact, and such was his fall from grace that SWP missed out on the 2006 World Cup squad. In fairness, he does have a Premier League title, two FA Cups and one League Cup to his name, but the current QPR man may have expected to win more than the 36 England caps to his name.
Darren Bent has won 13 caps for England and scored four goals. But given that he has commanded separate fees of £16.5 million and £24 million in his career, you might expect better. The Aston Villa man cannot currently force himself into a team that is struggling just to stay in the Premier League. Having started the season as club skipper, he has been stripped of the honour and parked on the bench. Undoubtedly a prolific goal-poacher, Bent offers little outside of the penalty area and his career appears to be on the nosedive at the age of 29.
What to say about Andy Carroll? Since making a £35 million switch to Liverpool he has scored nine league goals in over two years, and three of them weren't for the Reds. Seemingly lacking in the ball control department, it was first claimed that Liverpool didn't play to his strengths despite the fact they threw crosses into the box throughout the time he was there. Now he's on loan at West Ham (Liverpool rating him so lowly that they'd rather lend a £35m asset to another club) and he still can't score despite the Hammers piling in the high balls under Sam Allardyce. A ratio of two goals in nine England games looks unlikely to improve in the near future, and neither does the return Liverpool will get on their investment.